Constructive Criticism and Growth

Gerry van der Walt All Authors, Penny 1 Comment

It has taken me quite a long time to not react to and be affected by people’s comments on my images. I am of course referring to the comments that we don’t want to hear… the comments that say ‘there could be more’, ‘it’s ok, but…’, ‘it’s average…’.

That used to be about all that I would hear before my mind would shut off and I would feel quite crushed.

“Well who do you think you are!” I would  think as I threw an internal tantrum due to the’unjustified’ comment.

As with all art, some people may like a certain image, others not.

And that’s ok!

But i’m pretty sure that when Vincent Van Gogh was studying art, he didn’t have multiple tantrums when he was given constructive criticism.

But the importance of the word ‘constructive criticism’ is negated as many people only focus on the last part. CONSTRUCTIVE criticism is not negative at all. Many photographer’s, especially budding ones, hear the word ‘criticism’ and immediately they are diving under the desk in order to hide from this devilish word. I was one of those. I didn’t throw myself under a desk, but I did grumble unpleasant words under my breath as  I drew the duvet covers over my head when I returned home.

In all seriousness though, I did hit me pretty hard when I was given a comment that was opposite from what I thought I would get, or what I wanted to hear.

Instead of becoming more despondent with my photography, I pulled myself together and changed my attitude. The people who I have asked for their opinions are legitimately wanting to see me grow and see my photographic vision and images flourish. Why not take their advice and apply it where I can?

I stopped seeing the imagined negativity in their statements and instead, I saw the immense value that these professional and passionate photographers were offering me. For most images I now take, I ask the above mentioned people their opinion on it.

This is not because I am looking for a boast or a pat on the back, but because all tips, advice, suggestions I can get can only help me grow, improve and become the photographer I want to be.

A really great thing about asking questions and seeking constructive criticism? It doesn’t stop with that one image. What I have learnt, what I have been given are all store away and brought into awareness and use when I next pick up my camera and press the shutter.

What’s even better? I now have more confidence in my images and processing of them. I feel like my wildlife photographic vision is becoming more crisp and I am on my way to further exploring it and achieving it.

I couldn’t be more excited 🙂

Intent - © Penny Robartes

Constructive criticism is advice and suggestions, given in order to help the person think of new, different, and even better ways to compose and take their image.

But it is just that; advice and suggestions. You do not have to implement everything that people mention. It is still your photography, your vision. Pick and chose what you agree with and maybe keep the other comments stored away for another day and image.

If you feel that your image is exactly how you wanted it, envisioned it, and you are proud of it, then stand up for it. Just dont let stubbornness or inflated confidence get in the way of your growth and potential progression. Many of your images may be great and you may have people pour over them and whisper sweet nothings to you, but you will take a photo that is just ‘average’ and it could be the one you didn’t expect to be.

Be humble about your images and your ability. You will grow faster than any other photographer out there who stands by his guns and will not listen to the constructive criticism that has been offered.

Granted, some criticism from people is not worth the time pondering over, but from other photographers that you admire and respect?

No brainer there.

Our ethos at Wild Eye is to change the way you see the world. If you would like constructive criticism, share your image on our Facebook page with the title ‘Constructive Criticism’ and we will be more than happy to help change the way you see photography. Or drop me an email at and I will be more than happy to take a look at your image.

Keep shooting. Keep passionate. Keep enjoying your growth in your photographic journey.

Penny Robartes

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