Get yourself critiqued.

Ah, the nasty word, critique. Actually it is not nasty at all. In fact, critiques are vital to our growth. It is easy to become complacent and lose desire to improve on the many aspects of what we do. Don’t fall into this ditch. If you are in the ditch already, why not start the climb with a critique from a trusted friend or colleague.

Recently I asked for some critiques from a few trusted sources that have lit a fire under my but and have ignited my “passion & skill flames” to grow, grow, grow. One critique from the Photography Side of things and the other from the Business Side of things.

Some topics of our discussions (in no specific order):

  • Photographic Style
  • Portfolio
  • Blogging, Twitter, FB and Social Media as a whole
  • Products
  • Market Position
  • Equipment
  • Presentation
  • Marketing
  • Education
  • Inspiration
  • Branding

Each topic (and more) all come together for the big picture of what I am trying to accomplish. I cannot tell you the value that these critiques have added to me, but more importantly my clients and future clients I serve.

Things to keep in mind when receiving a critique:
1. Do you trust this person?
2. Does this person understand your vision?
3. Take heart and be prepared to eat some humble pie. If you are a know it all, then you will probably not benefit from a critique (actually you will, but you will probably become angry :-)). You must be willing to see outside of your bubble and understand what the person is telling you. If you do not understand, ask for clarification. Sometimes the truth hurts. I think this is very valuable to growth.
4. Set an action plan to put things in place.
5. Ask for a follow up critique to track progress.

From a photography standpoint, I do not think the person critiquing needs to have the same vision as you or even like your style. It is key that they understand what it is YOUR vision is. This will enable them to make good decisions to help you.
Here is a made up scenario where a critique may help:
Seymour is a photographer. He photographs weddings, children and fashion. His website is a combination of all three. Seymour has a twitter, facebook and blog. Seymour wants to appear “high end” but his portfolio is a mish mash of these three items. By viewing we are not sure what his specialty is, because he “specializes” in weddings, children and fashion. He loves weddings most of all and says he is a photojournalist. His wedding portfolio does not display that he is a photojournalist, it looks more like a collection of portraits with many special effects applied to the images. He is disappointed from the quality of inquiries he is getting. He starts pushing other types of photography, because he needs money to pay the bills. He lacks heart and passion for the other types of photography and it is apparent in his portfolio. Random specials pop up about his other types of services that are really hurting his wedding business (though he is unaware). His fashion photography does not really look very fashionable. Some of it is a bit on the risque side. He regularly posts to his facebook and twitter accounts however most posts are very negative and fowl language is used frequently.

Critique from a trusted colleague:
OK, what kind of photographer are you? Wedding, Children, Fashion? – Specialize
What do you LOVE? – FOCUS
What style do you love? – Grow and improve upon this style, again comes down to passion, skill and focus
Who is your target audience? – Figure this out
How will you reach them?
If you want to focus on Children’s photography, be cautious about what you say on twitter and facebook. If I was a parent interested in your work, and read some of the things you say, I would definitely not hire you to photograph my child.
If you are a photojournalist, I would not hire you based on your portfolio. I would probably recommend you though, to another potential client that loves wedding portraiture and effects.
You are mixing Risque Fashion Porfolio images with Children Photography Images. Again, I would probably not hire you to photograph my child.
I respect that you need to make a living and may need money to pay your bills. I think it is a great idea to use your skills to do this. You should create a separate portfolio and business segment in order to achieve this effectively.
I would love to see you dial in your portfolio and cut the fat. YOUR BEST should be in there. Nothing less.
Figure out what it is you want to do and who you want to reach and pursue this relentlessly. You will be taking risks, but you will not achieve success without risk.

This scenario and critique is totally random however this is how they work. I guarantee it will help you. It will be hard work and may be a bit painful, but you can do it! I want to see you succeed. If you do not know anyone that can give you constructive critique, please let me know. I would be more than happy to provide a critique for you. I may be slow to get to it, but I will. I promise.

Comments 3

  1. I love constructive criticism! I often think, “what am I doing?” in my head, but it helps to write things out. I need to take action now that we got some Army news and I can finally start booking soon! Good post, David!

  2. Great write up David- you are right ,critique is something we just don’t look forward to but it it is essential to our own individual growth. I have always been a huge believer that the more specialized you become in your field, the greater rewards you can reap. This of course goes for any field. My own personal challenge has been finding my own style, the message that I want to convey through pictures. That in itself is an on going journey that has led me to many wonderful discoveries and failures. Thank you for sharing this wake up call.

  3. I’m always up for a critique if you have the time! I’m really trying to make my business an extension of myself. I’m not the most serious person in conversation – I like to have fun! But when it does come time to get to work, I’m all about it and definitely a go-getter and efficient. I’m trying to convey both of those things in my work – the fun and the passion. It’s hard cause I don’t want to come across as too “young” or anything. Especially when you’re newer and young it’s hard to get a brand that’s “fresh and fun” while also being taken seriously. I’m interested if my work conveys this vision of my business. I’m also down for any other feedback!! -Lee

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