I receive a lot of feedback—while most of it is positive, some of it is negative. Negative feedback isn’t inherently bad—in fact, it can be extraordinarily valuable—so I’m happy to receive it; however, not all of it is equal: there’s constructive criticism and destructive criticism.
Just guessing, about 70% of the negative feedback could be classified as destructive criticism, which is simply a put-down. It’s negativity for the sake of negativity. It’s meant to make the person saying it feel better about themselves by way of making someone else (me in this case) feel worse about themselves. People are mean sometimes, and that’s just the way it is. The world needs less destructive criticism and more kindness—the antidote is to be the kindness that the world desperately needs.
Constructive criticism is negative feedback that is meant well and is given with the intention of being helpful. Roughly 30% of negative feedback is constructive criticism. Within this, there are two sources: those who you should listen to and those who you shouldn’t. Just because someone has a complaint about something and they mean well doesn’t mean that you should listen to them. Do you trust them? Are they an authority or have some specific experience that makes them particularly qualified to offer quality advice? I would estimate that it is fifty-fifty on whether the constructive criticism is something valuable or not. That 15% of negative feedback that is constructive and from a trustworthy source is pure gold and much appreciated—well worth weeding through the 85% that isn’t.
Sometimes there are grey areas. Sometimes it’s not clear if the criticism is constructive or destructive, or whether the source is someone I should listen to or not. I tend to spend a lot of energy on these criticisms because I’m trying to figure out if there is value in it. So I have to process it. One such “grey area” criticism that I recently received is this: the pictures in one of my articles were not good enough for the words and subject—the article demanded better pictures to illustrate the point, and because the pictures weren’t good enough, I shouldn’t have published the article. Ouch!
One thing that I’ve always struggled with is curation. Advice that I’ve received over and over and over again is that I should only show the best of the best photographs. If you only show the absolute cream-of-the-crop pictures, people will think you’re a better photographer. Perception is reality, right? People will think you’re a great photographer if all of the photographs of yours that they view are great. But if they start seeing mediocre images, they’ll think you are a mediocre photographer. The truth is that everyone—even the greatest photographers—captures “lesser” pictures sometimes, but some people don’t share those pictures, so nobody knows.
I think sometimes showing these mediocre pictures is more authentic and honest. I’m not sure where the line should drawn when trying to balance perception with vulnerability. Obviously you want people to think the best of you; however, if what you let them see is too carefully curated then you’ll come across as fake, or you’ll leave people disappointed if they do ever find out the truth. I find this to be a tough balancing act. I share more of my frames than most people do, and perhaps I do show too many “lesser” pictures, and that might not be good.
Because I share some of my mediocre pictures with you on this website, I’m able to publish more content. If I waited until I had 12 or more great photographs before publishing a Film Simulation Recipe, I’d have far, far fewer recipes. That’s always a struggle: quality vs. quantity. I have a large quantity of material, but have I not focused enough on quality? Have I sacrificed quality too often for the sake of quantity? Does the quality make the content relatable? These are questions that I ask myself, but I don’t have good answers to them. I hope that I can continuously review and refine what I do, and hopefully this website becomes better and better with time.
Am I not curating enough? I’m I publishing too much content too quickly? What is the right balance? I have to really consider these things. Perhaps these are questions you, too, are pondering. I’d love to hear what you think, especially if this is something you are working through yourself or have had to work through in the past. If you have criticisms, please try to make them constructive and not destructive, but I definitely want to hear your feedback, so leave me a note in the comments!