So I spend a fair amount of time perusing photography groups online, checking out other peoples images, sharing my own work, and searching for interesting techniques and subject matter. Generally when I post my own work, it's because I'm asking for CC (constructive criticism) on that image, hoping there's something I can do to make it better, and make myself better as a photographer.
There's a phrase I come across in a lot of groups though that I just can't stand. Every time I see it I shake my head in near disbelief and wonder at it. The phrase?
“Gentle CC please”
I know, I know, people on the internet are mean, you don't want to get your feelings hurt, blah, blah, blah. But what about your art? Doesn't the thought of your art, your craft, the product of all your knowledge and skill, the reflection of your soul not living up to it's potential hurt more than a bunch of people you don't know tearing apart your work – all to make it, and you better??? We should all be begging each other as compassionate fellow artists to be as harsh as possible in our critique. Only by picking apart every, tiny, seemingly insignificant fault can we ever hope to arrive at a state of mastery of our craft.
When you ask for gentle cc, you've already sent out the message that the only thing you're interested in are small tweaks. Small adjustments that don't mean it's time to head back to the drawing board, to reevaluate you skill set, to realize you're not quite as far along as you thought you were in your artists journey. When you ask for gentle cc, you are not going to get the advice that your image needs, that you need to progress to the next stage. People will hold back the criticism that you are most in need of hearing, because you've already told them that you can't handle it.
I know it's hard. People can be jerks. Every time I put out an image of my own, asking for feedback, I feel a jolt of fear run through me. And when I see that notification icon light up, the fear returns. I have to steel myself before viewing what another photographer has written about my work, and why wouldn't I?
When we share our art, we put a piece of our deepest selves on display to the world, and to ask for others to judge, critique, and maybe even tear that apart seems unnatural. This is the part of ourselves that we most want to keep whole, intact, unharmed. But the truth is, we need this part of our soul to get beaten up and knocked down every once in a while if we can ever hope to build it up to something stronger, wiser, and more refined.
If you're posting your work in photographic communities and asked for feedback of any kind, you've already taken a leap, and put yourself out there. Don't turn your back at the gates of the Emerald City out of fear for your feelings. Your art demands to be granted access. Your craft begs for it. Your soul desires nothing more than to be shown in, knowing full well what the consequences may be.
So walk through the gates with your head held high, and don't settle for gentle, or cautious, or reserved. Demand that those you share your work with hold it to a standard as high as you do. Demand that they show no mercy for your art for fear of hurting your feelings. Demand that they are honest, open and frank with their feedback, laying out everything that is wrong, as well as everything that is right with your work. This is the only way we can ever hope to achieve mastery of our craft, and despite the fear, the unknown, and the certain pain we will endure, we all have to swallow our pride and pull back the curtain on our work.
Does asking for CC scare you? Does it make you a better photographer and artist? What's the worst thing that you think could happen through asking for brutal CC? Do you think that's likely? I'd love to hear your thoughts on asking for and receiving criticism, so let me know in the comments what your experience is.
If you found this article useful, entertaining, or inspiring I would love it if you would consider signing up for my weekly newsletter so I can keep you up to date with more great content! If you know someone else who might enjoy this, or any other article I've published, please consider sharing it through any of the social buttons below, or via email. If you have any questions, comments, or want to talk about photography, travel, storytelling, or anything else, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!