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“Act as if your grandmother’s watching!”

It’s become one of my most favorite quotes, and I love the fact that it’s from a good buddy, Levi Sim. I first heard him use it at the TAP Conference several years ago. He was talking about how we all interact. Since then it’s come up dozens of times, and I’ve used it in other posts.

I follow a lot of discussions on different forums. One of the biggest challenges is any time somebody puts up an image for critique. There’s always one person who likes to dump all over an artist’s lack of expertise, or they just don’t like the image.

I hate sounding like an over-bearing parent giving a lecture, but there are two sides to this.

First, if you’re going to comment then go easy. You don’t need to sugar-coat it, but if somebody had the guts to post one of their images and ask for opinions, that alone is a sign of their passion. It takes courage to put your work out there. Be constructive if you can and contribute to their career growth. Just remember what your images were like when you first started.

Michele Celentano is one of the finest family photographers in the country. I was at a presentation many years ago where she stood up in front of a group of relatively new photographers and said, “Twenty years ago I was right where you are, wondering how long it would be before my work didn’t suck!” She then shared the first wedding she’d ever shot and a dozen of the worst images I’ve ever seen. Everybody had to start somewhere!

Second, if you’re going to post images for critique, then you’ve got to get a thicker skin. Not everybody is going to play nice, and you’ve got to learn to take the criticism. It doesn’t mean everybody is crushing your dream; they just don’t like the image. Take the criticism and consider how the image could have been stronger.

Most important of all, remember one of my other favorite quotes, also from a good buddy, Dean Collins. Dean used to remind us all with every image, it didn’t matter whether we liked it or not because,

“Beauty is in the eyes of the checkbook holder!”