I have always been a super sensitive person. If someone says something to me that is even just slightly critical, I'm chewing it for days before I can let it go. This is how I am. So, in the last few years, since I consider myself a fully-gown person with the responsibility of all aspects of an adult life, I learned how to use this to make things and myself better.
There's no magic trick, or downloadable chart for this. Just me analysing why the other person would say that, and if there's anything I would agree with in the critique is it wasn't about me or my work. Before you ask, it's not always photography related. We are the generation with the right to say anything we want. And that's a HUGE responsibility to have. As long as we say 'I think' or 'in my opinion' we can get away with anything. Also, we talk a lot! Or at least I do! We have social media to spam the world with our thoughts, our opinion or our judgements. Some people are the master of words (I'm certainly not) and others express themselves through images.
But it always takes confidence to share anything with the public. It's a bitter-sweet moment, as when you press that share button, you know that your's exposing yourself for good and bad. There's always going to be someone that doesn't agree with you. Or simply don't like the content. Or you. This is natural. I don't like a lot of things what I see on my timeline. I don't agree with a lot of things I see around myself.
And I talk A LOT. Sometimes without filtering what I'm saying. And I know that sometimes I hurt people with my comments even thought it's not my intention. It has taken me a long time to realise that it's totally something that I need to 'work on' and improve to be a better person. My motto is
BE KIND OR FUCK OFF. (sorry for swearing. but this is what it is)
The other thing is WHEN to share your thoughts with someone. Give advice if you're asked to do so. I am part of a lot of photography groups. There are millions of questions about how people shoot certain subjects or how to answer to an upset bride or what gear to choose for this and that. If I have valuable experience on the questioned matter, I'd comment, hoping to help the other, but giving advice for someone who didn't ask for it doesn't help.
We're not always ready for help. It's a stage of the process, when you're stable enough to accept help.
But let's jump back to the moment when I press the share button. For that moment, I'm happy with the work I share. I'm confident enough to take the good and bad. But ideally, I only want to hear good or nothing. But social media (or my real-life social network) doesn't work this way. I'm surrounded with many many creatives who have there own saga with there worth and because we are humans we don't always consider how the other feels.
Running a photography business makes it even trickier. We are part of the product. We are part of the brand. The brand needs to be consistent. But what if I'm not consistent? What if I'm not consistent only because I want to pretend that I'm someone else? What if I'm not consistent because I only share content that my audience expects from me? What if the fear of clicking on the share button is only there because I feel I'm not as good as x y z.
Talking about photography is one of my favourite hobbies. (I like cooking good food for friends, taking photos of it, THEN talking about photography) I'm surrounded with other creatives, who have their own style, own vision, own goals and I find it fascinating to hear how they do things. If someone is ten times better or more experienced, that makes me even more excited to listen to. It makes me want to learn more. If I could ask ANYTHING I would ask to be able to learn faster. It takes time. And a lot of work. But I can see the change, I can feel how I get over the challenges and it makes me confident. Every image I share represents me as a creator at that very moment.
It's a bit like in the Lion King when Rafiki holds up Simba over the edge of the cliff to introduce him to the others. Ha! There's my work and me, though. These things are not separate. Yes, it's a product, a product that I have to sell to be able to make a living but all my knowledge, heart and soul is in it. I never start a session or a wedding with 'well, I'm not in the mood today, I'll only give half effort into this one'. If it's not as good as the last one, I'm crossed with myself. I analyse what went wrong, what could I have done better. I make notes. Notes like: you need to be more confident when chasing people for group shots. (I struggle shouting over church bells or loud music and sometimes I feel very little when having to gather 100 guests) But it's a journey. For me, a very personal one too.
So, what's the conclusion?!
Be kind or fuck off. But more like... be kind. And please, ask if you value the other's opinion! It's a good feeling to the other, and it's not cool pretending that we know everything. Also, when dealing with small businesses online, always remind yourself that there's a real person (often just one) behind that website or social media account. And that person takes great proud of what she/he does. It's not a nine-to-five job, we take everything home with us, good or bad.
Photo of a coffee and sunshine - two things that I wouldn't want to live without.