Feedback

To get better at any creative pursuit, you have to keep pushing your own boundaries and pre-conceived notions of what you can do artistically. Since creativity comes from within, it’s very difficult to evaluate your own work and make an honest assessment on what you are doing, much less if it’s interesting and worthwhile.

An important part of learning and growing, is getting feedback on your work. Good feedback makes you think about how to make your images stronger, technically and artistically. It asks you to challenge your assumptions…you may not agree with every comment or thought, but that will force you to think about what you are doing.

“Keep your mind open. You may very well learn something new about yourself and your pictures.” – Jay Maisel

We all want feedback and it explains the popularity of web photo sites like Facebook or Flickr as they are easy to post images on and comments come relatively quickly and easily. While a lot of likes and comments may make you feel good and positive about your photography, this kind of simplistic feedback isn’t going to push your creativity or challenge you to be better.

The web isn’t necessarily the best place to seek constructive feedback about what you are doing. In order to get critical feedback, you have to open yourself up to receiving it, and for that you need an audience that is un-judgmental, honest and supportive of what you are trying to do. Your feedback group can be a circle of trusted friends, a photography club, or an artist collective. Even better is to have your foot in several doors as you will get a more diverse range of feedback to learn from.

I have several good friends who are railroad photographers that I trust and are a good soundboard for my thoughts and ideas. In addition to this, I have joined a local artist group that has a separate photography crit group. This group is comprised of 15 photographers with differing skills, objectives and visions, but with the common goal of growing artistically. Interestingly enough, this group doesn’t look at my railroad photography as being part of a niche, but sees it as fine-art photography and provides me with feedback that I would never get from my railroad photographer friends.

Another source of growth and feedback can come in the form of attending a workshop. These can be found at many places where photography is taught such as colleges and art museums. They differ from a class in that they usually are of a short duration, say a day or weekend and feature an expert on a specific subject. They cover everything from basic technical skills such as lighting and Photoshop, to creativity topics such as developing your vision.

Presenting my work to fine art photographer Todd Hido at the Aperture Workshop.

Presenting my work to fine art photographer Todd Hido at an Aperture Foundation workshop on Sources and Influences.

A web search will turn up photography clubs, artist groups and workshops no matter where you live and what your interests are. Showing your work to others with the intent on getting honest and sincere feedback will help push your skills and vision beyond what you could do by yourself. I encourage you to give it a try!

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