The Internet has been a wonderful thing for photography because now more than ever we are able to show our photos to more than just the people who happen to be looking over our shoulder as we page through a photo album. Our images are often online via social networks like Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Twitter, etc… where friends and family from around the globe can see the images that have special meaning to us. However, the Internet has also been a curse to the self esteem of the developing photographer who has poured his/her soul into a photo that has special meaning to them. You know what I’m talking about – whether it be the insensitive friend or the Internet troll who pierced your heart with crushing comments about a photo you held dear, over time we begin to fear the reaction to clicking that upload or share button. As a result, photography starts to evolve from something we once thought of as fun to something where we start calling our photographs “our work”.
Isn’t it funny how when you started in photography it wasn’t work? You took lots of photos and began to see the world differently. Perhaps you bored your family to tears with hundreds of shots of things you found interesting on your vacation, but it was clear to everyone that you were as happy as a child to share with them the things that caused you to take pause.
Have you evolved into a photo hoarder where you take thousands and thousands of photos, yet you never share them with the world because of the work involve with getting them up to the standard you think is necessary to hopefully earn the like’s or +1’s that affirm your belief that something you shot was special?
I didn’t write this article today due to any recent personal experiences, but I have observed how many friends who once shared their photos with pride on social networks now hold back. Where I once saw casual shots of the meal they were enjoying, or the crooked cell phone shot of their toddler doing something that made them smile, I now only see shots that have obviously been carefully taken and edited in the hopes that they’ll withstand the scrutiny of the heartless (and often anonymous) Internet trolls. While I still believe your portfolio site should show your best work, don’t let the negativity of the world stop you from sharing that photo that made you stop and capture a moment in your life. After all, we wouldn’t push the button on our camera if there wasn’t something that moved us to capture that moment, so share it with pride.
For those who are building a career in photography you might worry that if the world sees anything but your best you reputation may somehow be diminished. While there’s probably some truth in that, there’s also two realities:
- No matter how great your work is, there’s always critics out there who will find fault in something that many might find faultless.
- The context and audience can dictate the appropriateness of what you share
For #1, one only needs to look at Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci and solicit comments from a younger generation to know that to some it’s a masterpiece, and to others it’s a painting of a woman who doesn’t fit today’s societies definition of beautiful and the color treatment doesn’t meet the standards by which modern photographers are held to. Accept the reality that there will always be someone out there who probably hates your photo, but don’t empower them by letting them stop you from expressing yourself. There’s people in the world who don’t like the way you dress or wear your hair, but you don’t walk naked through the streets with a bald head do you? (Well, that’d probably be criticized too – ha, ha.)
#2 is where I encourage YOU – the photographer reading this article – to find “safe” places again where you can share the photos that inspired you to pause long enough to push your button on your camera. Perhaps it’s creating a personal page on a social network that is restricted to an audience of just your TRUE friends and family. It could be going old school and just printing your photos like people once did at their local drugstore and sharing them with the people you love and trust the most. What’s more, be a kid again and not just show your photo but tell people what inspired you not only take that photo but what made you excited enough to want to share it with them. While a picture speaks a thousand words, no words are more precious than those from the mouth of the photographer who was inspired enough to share that moment in life with you.
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