Atlanta And BeyondAmanda
Atlanta & beyondest. 2009

Dealing with Criticism: Life of a Photographer

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Dealing with Criticism: Just Another Day in the Life of a Photographer

Growth means change and change involves risk, stepping from the known to the unknown. –Author Unknown

How do you react when someone criticizes you? What if they are not just pointing out your flaws, but insulting you a little bit too? Do your feelings get hurt? Do you want to hurt back a little? It’s ok if you said yes just then. You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t feel like that at first.

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There was a moment last week where one of my shoots was publicly criticized in a fairly undiplomatic way. My first reaction, like anyone, was WTH? It seemed to be more insult than criticism, and there were no specifics. It was just a blanket statement about an entire shoot.

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So, after the initial shock of it wore off, curiosity got the best of me, and I started asking questions. To my surprise, my critic was willing to respond and in doing so, made some valid points about the flaws in the shoot. We may even be collaborators eventually.

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Photographers have a responsibility when they are hired to bring a level of perfection and vision to the project. There’s not much time for experimenting with new ideas or equipment on a paid project, unless the client specifically requests. But it’s important to get the images that your client needs and expects.

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That’s why most portrait photographers will occasionally work with friends and models on side projects that are non-paid, or TFP (trade for portfolio). The model gets a ‘free’ session in exchange for being willing to pursue the photographer’s concept instead of their own.

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The thing about making art is that sometimes you soar, and sometimes you crash. If you do everything with an eye toward not making mistakes or failing, then you will have consistently mediocre work. You have to step outside your comfort zone and take risks in order to soar. That’s why you push the envelope, take risks, test the limits, and push against the limits of yourself, your experience, and your equipment.

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I am constantly asking myself what’s next. There is no satisfaction in doing the same thing the same way every time. Playing it safe is boring. Playing it safe is not making art.

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And, if you ask me, there is no such thing as failure as long as I am always reaching higher, because that means I am always learning.

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The real failure is in not trying.

Amanda Summerlin
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