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The Enemies of Your Photography Have Familiar Faces
The greatest enemies of your photography are Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. Knowing that is the easy part. The problem is that fear, uncertainty and doubt can creep inside your mind.
You need to learn the signs and identify the carriers.
In this episode, we talk about the kind of people who will introduce chaos into your photography. Some don’t even mean to do it. They’re well intentioned, but may not be aware of the consequences they put upon others.
We break down the enemies of your photography into three different types of characters.
1: The Ignorant
Don’t let the word “ignorant” throw you. These aren’t stupid people. They are simply ignorant of how photography works. So they make comments that may irk you, such as “That’s a nice camera. It must take great photos.”
To photographers, that’s kind of insulting. It means that you don’t have anything to do with the outcome of your photos. Just buy good gear and let it do all the work.
While it may seem insulting, the Ignorant typically aren’t trying to hurt your feelings. They’re actually trying to be nice and perhaps make some conversation.
Don’t let them put thoughts in your head about your skill or progress. These folks don’t really know any better.
2: The Know-it-All
On the opposite end of the spectrum are the Know it All people. More often than not, these are folks who are deeply interested in photography and need to make sure you know just how smart they are.
You know the kind. These are the folks who give unsolicited critiques or have condescending comments about someone else’s photography.
You know, jerks.
I’ve run into this type of enemy more times than I care to remember. They’re particularly awful when you’re getting started and sharing photos, but haven’t quite mastered everything yet. That’s when these trolls like to pounce.
Years ago, some of these Know it All folks made me feel awful. Now, I’m actually a bit amused by them. That’s because I’ve improved my photography, grown more confident, and realized that these jerks typically don’t know as much as they think.
I actually know some true photographers who seem to know it all, but they aren’t trolling the Internet or other places to provide unsolicited critiques or make condescending comments. Instead, they’re cranking out astounding photos and leading by example.
The fake Know it All is one of the biggest purveyors of doubt. Don’t let them get inside your head.
3: The Non-Believers
The Non-Believers are folks who project their own uncertainty to others. Maybe it’s a lack of skill, training or experience on their part. Since they can’t figure out how to solve a photography problem, they’re sure that you can’t do it, either.
Maybe it’s because of their own ego. Nobody wants to feel “less than” others, so they try to bring other people down to their level with uncertainty and casting doubt in your mind.
You have good reason to ignore those who don’t believe in your abilities. They don’t know what you can do, or how much you can achieve without them.
How to Deal with the Enemies of Your Photography
There are a lot of things you can do, but I subscribe to a simple maxim. Don’t feed the trolls. Whether they mean well or not, there isn’t much to gain by getting upset or feeling bad about your photography. So this is my advice.
Smile. Nod. Walk away.
Really, it’s that simple. I don’t want to engage with anyone who could bring me down, intentionally or not. There’s no upside to it. I have nothing to prove to these pagans, so I just exit the scene with a smile.
It works perfectly for me.
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THE PHOTO FLUNKY SHOW: Episode 77
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William: Welcome to the Photo Flunky Show, episode seventy-seven.
Today’s topic is going to be a little interesting. We’re talking about: Who are the enemies of your photography?
Thanks for joining us. My name is William Beem.
Lee: Hi! My name is Lee Beem.
William: And, before we start talking about your enemies, let’s just give you a bit of housekeeping. Show notes are going to be available at williambeem.com/episode77 and you can find a transcript of the show there for free.
Links to subscribe are on that page or you can go to photoflunky.com and find this and all of our other episodes.
Also I want to let you know I’ve got a free eBook for you. It is called Creative Portraits. It is about the emotional and creative side of photography rather than the technical issues that go on. You can get it at williambeem.com/freebook or you can text the phrase CPBOOK to the number 33444.
This is kind of a topic I guess you don’t hear very much. Why worry about enemies of photography? Really, what we’re getting down to are the people or sometimes the things – but mostly the people – who cause fear, uncertainty and doubt in your photography.
In other words, they are the ones that make you question yourself or the ones that kind of just get inside your head and can really mess with your photography. So these are the people and things that you just want to be aware of and know how to deal with them.
Lee: Yeah and often it is not people who are necessarily criticizing anything that you’ve done. They may never have said a bad word to you, but they have this kind of arrogance and air of superiority about them and they make you feel inferior. I know because I have lived in the shadow of some of those people when I started out with photography and then I thought, you know, I’m a big girl. I know what I want to do, it doesn’t involve you so I’ll see you later.
William: This is something that I think a number of photographers, after a while, get past. But when you’re starting off you are still learning and you are still trying to understand concepts. These little enemies come up and really knock you back four steps. It’s not that they are – some of them aren’t even trying to and some of them are maybe trying to showboat themselves. It kind of gets in your head, well maybe I’m not good at this. Why can’t I do the same thing that someone else does? And we just wanted to bring some of these up to kind of put them in your head and give you some thoughts about how to deal with them.
As far as enemies, the first one – this is the most common one – it’s the ones I call The Ignorant. These are the people who say, “Hey, that’s a nice camera. It must take great pictures.”
Lee: It does.
William: Really, it does.
Lee: I’ll give it to you, mess up the settings, hand it over …
William: So there is a number of responses I’ve heard from this. I’ll get to our responses later on, but some of the people said, “Yeah, here it is. Hold it. See if you can take a picture after you’ve messed up the settings.”
Lee: I can tell you that my first DSLR when it arrived, I didn’t know how to use and the worst photos I ever took were with that camera. So yeah, it was a nice camera. It did nothing for me.
William: Or the other response I see people have is to put it down on the table and say, “Camera, go take a nice picture.”
Lee: Yes. Did it work?
William: What do you know? It needs me! Those are not the responses that we are recommending, but those are the ones that we’ve heard.
Ignorant people don’t mean you harm and I’m calling them ignorant, not that they are stupid. They are simply not experienced with photography and they are actually trying to be complimentary. You see someone with a nice DSLR, a nice camera or they look on the back and see you’ve taken a really nice photo, they think it’s the camera that did it because it varies from experience. They don’t understand the rules of composition, they don’t understand how color works or a number of other things that really go into making a nice photograph. So they think it’s the camera and I’ve seen this happen before.
People say, “Nice camera.” Well what about me? I almost hate to use the word enemy with people who don’t know any better. We are going to put it in there anyways because these are people who get inside of your head. Try not to get too flustered by it. We’ll save that for the next one.
And that is the Know It All.
Lee: That must be one of my favorites.
William: These are the people who will give you unsolicited critiques online or give you advice that you didn’t request.
Lee: Yes, like you go post a photo that you just snapped with your phone; a snapshot that you took with your family having fun or your beer and chips on a nice Saturday afternoon and then they want to go and critique the photo like it’s a photography critique thing. Really. Get over it.
William: Everything that you post online isn’t necessarily submitted for critique.
Lee: In fact I would say if you don’t ask for critique or post it in a spot that is dedicated to critique, it’s not.
William: No, unless you specifically requested a critique, this is advice I give to everybody. If you like the photo it’s fine to say so. If you don’t have anything nice to say about it, move along.
Lee: I don’t think I’ve ever gone and given critique to somebody’s photo that is not complimentary. I comment if I like the photo. If I don’t, I really do move on. I don’t see any point in spending time on something that doesn’t appeal to me.
William: I don’t either. I’ll look at it and I’ve got friends that take photos and some of them do really great work and some of them do work that is not to my taste. I’ll put it that way and you know what? It doesn’t mean it’s a bad photo. It means it’s not a photo that I would want to take and I don’t want to go out there and criticize a friend or even a stranger for something that maybe I didn’t get what they were doing.
Maybe I would have done it differently, but that doesn’t necessarily mean what they did was bad. Or maybe they just put up a really horrible photo. No one is going to feel better.
Lee: Yeah I mean it’s like anything. There are some extremely talented people who do things where I have no interest in what that person is doing now. If it’s a friend I’m going to be interested in the person. It’s not a personal thing if somebody doesn’t care for the style that you use.
William: The other enemies that we are talking about now are the Non-Believers. These are the ones that put doubt into your head. They doubt your abilities, they doubt your art, they doubt your equipment. They doubt everything or anything. They are the ones that make you question yourself. Am I really not good enough? Am I really that bad?
Lee: I think sometimes I want to say don’t fall for it. Just be aware that it does affect you initially. I think precious few of us are able to be completely immune to it. Experiencing it actually helps you to get over it and come out the other side with more confidence than if you just brush it off and move on.
William: And you’re going to go through some different emotions. If someone says it’s a nice camera and it must take great pictures, you could be a little bit irked or you might be a little amused, depending on where you are in your photography journey.
Lee: I used to be irked. Now I find it funny.
William: I kind of smile and say it’s a wonderful camera. That’s why I spent whatever I spent on it. But that’s about the extent of it.
The Know It All – those are the ones that irk me.
Lee: Yeah, the Know It Alls are a lot of fun.
William: Trust me, there are people I know who actually do know it all and they are great people. They will help you but they will not give you unsolicited advice. They will not tell you what you could have done unless you ask them for it. Those are the Know It Alls I really appreciate.
Lee: Yes, but somebody who knows it all is not a Know It All. I think a Know It All is different; it’s the one who really doesn’t and wants to come across as though they do. It’s like you said. Right on the money there. The ones who really know everything aren’t just going to go and offer advice when it’s not requested.
William: We had an example of this. We used to be on a forum called The Disboards and there is a photography section in there and there was a woman who was the Know It All.
Lee: Oh yeah!
William: She never posted any photos and when I found some of her photos they were horrible. But she was going to photo school, she knew everything and technically she would talk about all these other things. Artistically she had no merit whatsoever.
Lee: She is by no means the first person where we’ve had a fall out individually and not even as a couple. I think the first fallout we were just friends. We weren’t even dating at the time. But we have subsequently met more people where we’ve made contact online and it’s turned out that these Know It Alls are usually people who have everything … they have a degree, they are technically perfect and their stuff is just flat. What is that?
William: You can pick up a camera, you can take a picture and have all the technicalities right, but there is no life to it. There is no image. There is nothing that really draws you into it.
Lee: But post a photo of your puppy chewing on a carrot and you’ll get all sorts of things. What ISO did you have? It’s blurry and it’s not sharp enough. Did you use lighting? No. I took it with my phone.
William: We don’t want to spend too much time on them but that’s what we mean by the Know It All. Someone who thinks they know it all, clearly doesn’t and needs to make sure that you know that they know it all because they are critiquing your work.
And the Non-Believers: these are the ones that I think kind of suck the soul out of you. And I don’t think it’s because they are trying to suck the soul out of you. I think it’s because they have their own doubts so clearly they don’t judge you as being good enough to believe in you.
Lee: That’s true. You know I think all these people play an important part of growing in – speaking photography here and this is by no means limited to photography – it does help you grow. I am affected very differently now from what I was when I started out. And I think a lot of that is just confidence in getting the joy and your own achievements out of what you are doing and not feeling like you have to meet some kind of standard.
You don’t feel like you need to measure up against some bar. It’s so much easier to step back and smile and enjoy. I welcome my Non-Believers now and my Ignorant people and the Know It Alls because they make things a little bit fun. And more importantly, they attract new fans for me because they get the attention. While they are busy out there criticizing, other people are having a look and saying, “I didn’t think it was that bad.”
They are actually a very important part of marketing for me.
William: I think you hit the nail on the head. These people are part of your growth and journey as a photographer. If you’re sharing things online you’re going to find all these people. Even if you’re not online, the people who say nice camera are usually the ones that are next to you out in public.
Lee: And they are paying you a compliment. They are being nice.
William: They really are trying to be nice. They don’t know any better to understand that it’s the photographer who really makes the difference rather than the gear.
Lee: And Non Believers are generally, I don’t think intending to be mean in any way either. Most of them at least.
William: I think those are people who have their own doubts and are projecting those doubts upon you. They haven’t seen you grow enough yet. And that’s OK. Not everybody is going to be at the same level. I have a lot of room to grow myself and I keep trying and pushing for it. I’m certainly not at the peak of my journey.
But as you go through your journey you gain some self confidence as you’ve done more and more work and you’ve dealt with some of these enemies.
You learn that they should not get inside your head and once you’ve got that self confidence like you said, you kind of laugh it off a little bit. That brings us to our last section. How do you deal with your enemies?
For the ignorant ones I have a simple solution. I just smile, nod and walk away.
Lee: That’s kind of what I do.
William: I don’t mean to be rude about it either. That’s why I’m smiling. And I’ll not and say thank you or something along those lines, but I don’t want to get into a big debate or discussion over it’s really me and not the camera because that’s kind of pretentious and it takes away the fact that even though they were ignorant, they were trying to be nice and pay you a compliment.
Lee: They really were and somebody who doesn’t know because they are not into photography, why get upset with somebody because they are not into photography? Why expect them to know everything. There are lots of things I don’t know anything about.
William: Yeah, so I just smile, nod, I may thank them for the compliment even if it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear. It’s OK. Thanks so much for your kind thought. Then move on.
Alright. Now I’m up to the Know It All. This is the one that is probably the most irksome to me.
Lee: I actually like the Know It Alls because they are so much fun. It’s such a quick instant hot button and you go from zero to 500 in 0.2 seconds. It’s wonderful and you can just sit there and watch.
William: The thing with the Know It All is since they know it all, they really get upset if they find out that they don’t know it all. But I don’t want to upset anybody so my advice is still the same. Smile, nod and walk away.
But Lee has a little bit of a different approach, but before I walk away I like to stand there and dance around a little bit – figuratively speaking. These are the people who garner my attention. If I want to draw more people to have a look at what I’ve done you are going to bring in some more fans. So I’m not going to beg somebody to like my stuff. You like it or you don’t. You like me or you don’t. If you’ve been listening to us for a while, you’ve realized I’m extremely opinionated, I have an opinion about everyone (meant to say everything) I’ve got a strong personality. The flip side is that I’m one of those personality types where lots of people love me and the ones who don’t like me really don’t like me and they say so.
That’s just part of the way I deal with people in life. You have to find some fun in it. And I’m going to make sure the fun is at their expense and not mine.
William: See I can’t imagine why anybody doesn’t like you. I love you.
But yes, the Know It All, I don’t think you’re going to convince any of the Know It Alls that they don’t know it all. And I don’t think you gain anything from trying to convince them that they don’t know it all.
You are using that as an opportunity to get attention and maybe you’ll find some other fans.
My personality is a bit different. I’m just not interested in a debate with someone who doesn’t understand what I did or is condescending to me about what I did. Smile, nod, walk away and that pretty much ends it right there.
I know where I am in my photography journey and I don’t need someone that I haven’t requested to tell me what is going on. So if I haven’t seen their work or I have seen their work …. I’ve had criticism from people who in my opinion, were not up to the level that I can do right now.
Lee: Yeah. It is a bit of a judgment call based on the situation. Sometimes there really are times that you just ignore it and don’t say anything. I’ve got to be in the mood to have some fun and engage. I know if I don’t have the time or inclination to get into it and play around and upset them, then basically I don’t have time for the game so I’m not going to start it.
William: No and that’s me. I’ve got other things to do. I’m a busy guy. And especially with my photography I am enjoying it and I want to have fun. I don’t want someone to break me down or get into a debate. It’s like the old thing –if you get into an argument with an idiot they bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.
Finally, the Non Believers. My advice is still the same. Smile, nod and walk away. I can’t make a believer out of everybody and if you look at my photographs, either you like them and you believe in them or you don’t. Either answer is really fine. Art is subjective. Not everybody is going to like the way I do things. A lot of people take much better photos than I do and I’ll continue to grow as I continue to take photos. I’m not trying to do the same thing as they are doing.
William: So maybe we are on a different path that is parallel rather than in the same line. So it’s fine to have a different track and I think some of the Non Believers are from a different track and they don’t realize that you are not trying to emulate them or maybe they are not up to the … maybe they’ve got a lack of confidence themselves but they are on a different journey. It’s OK.
Lee: Or they don’t realize that you can have more than one goal in the same direction and do it differently.
William: Again, I just say smile, nod and walk away.
Lee: I think the reason I am happy to leave them be is because they are not really excitable. They don’t get as excitable as the Know It Alls. You don’t really get to have any fun with them. So it’s not really worth my time. They don’t do much for me.
William: Actually all of these little enemies do something great for you and you mentioned it earlier. They help you build confidence. They help you evaluate the work that you’re doing and see where you are on your own journey and you look at something and say you know, my work is fine! Or I know where I can improve my work and then you keep on going.
Thank you so much for listening to the Photo Flunky Show. Show notes are going to be available at williambeem.com/episode77 And you get a transcript of the show there for free. We would really appreciate it if you would subscribe to the show. There will be links on the show notes page for iTunes, Google Play Music, Blubrry and Stitcher Radio. And of course, you can listen to all of our episodes at photofluky.com
Finally, don’t forget if you’d like to get a free ebook, Creative Portraits. Just go to williambeem.com/freebook or text the phrase CPBOOK to 33444.
Thank you so much. We’ll see you again next week.