Everyone experienced it at some point and with a growing online presence it becomes even more difficult: negative comments or being criticised and discouraged. Sometimes even by your own family.
The problem with being a photographer is that nowadays everyone has a camera or at least a smartphone and occasionally takes pictures. Everyone on the internet thinks they know better. Who hasn’t experienced it? You post your work that you are proud of or you at least associate positive feelings with and someone finds something to complain about or attacks you personally. These few words haunt you all day long and these negative comments still bother you when you are lying in bed at night. You’re still unsure for days and next time you’ll think twice about posting at all. And what are you doing now? Do you delete the comment? Are you answering? Are you deleting the whole post? You are ashamed, you are hurt and angry, you criticise yourself and your work, you compare yourself to others, you lose joy.
In this blog we want to offer a perspective on how to deal with criticism, especially on the internet.
We know how big the hurdle for a photog is to appear as a person with a face on the Internet. Your online presence is extremely important though because you don’t want to be a faceless company. However, nobody wants to upload embarrassing reels or videos on TikTok either – even if they aren’t, most of the time they feel that way.
Don’t let it spoil your fun because a 15 year old was bored and decided to give you a bad day. Many critics don’t even think much and have no idea what impact their comment will have. They don’t even think about it after 5 minutes, so neither do you. One way to set a boundary and protect yourself is to have a business phone and a personal one, or a business account and a personal one. If you are active as a photographer on Instagram, the line between private and business quickly blurs. Find a healthy balance between private and public photographer and create a personal brand.
When people criticize something, they rarely mean it personally. They start from their own beliefs about you and your business. But that’s not you! Draw that line in your head and don’t take it personally.
Criticism hits harder when it comes from loved ones like friends and family. This can be very hurtful and we have also lived through this experience. Sometimes you just have to prove them wrong, especially if it’s your parents for example – or older people in general. While there is a lot to be learned from older generations, in most cases they don’t know how you run a business nowadays and what is possible today. They remember how it was when they were starting out, full of dreams and aspirations, they remember a friend or someone they’ve known who failed miserably at trying to be a photog because back then it was a lot harder. In a nutshell: think about the personal background – maybe you’ll understand their point better but that doesn’t mean it is a valid one.
Ask yourself if the criticism is justified. Get feedback from people who are experts and mean well by you (unfortunately there can even be jealousy and envy among fellow photogs). You can also exchange ideas with other photographers in our Facebook group and get honest but respectful criticism that will drive you forward. We want to see you grow!
When it comes to criticism, it is important to differentiate. We recommend ignoring some things and not reacting to them. You should not reply to fake accounts in particular. Everyone is a sound on the internet, so choose carefully who to listen to. Constructive criticism, on the other hand, is important for learning. Especially at the beginning, even if at this point it is difficult not to lose the joy because there is a lot of room for improvement at the start. But hey, no one got off to a perfect start. Therefore our tip: get as much feedback as possible at the beginning and keep an attitude towards learning.
If you dismiss criticism as unjustified at first but comments are repeated, you should reconsider whether there is maybe something right about the criticism. You can also respond politely in public. This shows everyone your professionalism and a dialogue may also help you to understand what the core of the criticism is or what you can do better next time.
It gets more tricky with negative reviews in your Google Business profile. Good ratings are essential and can attract potential customers, while deterring negative ones. In this case, we recommend talking to the customer and finding a compromise.
Can you offer them compensation? Can you re-edit something? A dissatisfied customer can destroy your business. The customer may be willing to remove or rephrase the review after compensation. If the customer does not respond to your suggestions, then respond directly and publicly to the review. Describe the facts neutrally, avoid blaming or justifications and remain polite. Show your professionalism even in difficult situations. If there is no hope with the customer, then get in the habit of asking for reviews on the next shoots that went well to improve your overall rating a bit.
Not only a dissatisfied customer, but also a rumor can damage your business. Even with private messages on instagram some people are looking for scatters. When people provoke you, remain polite. Screenshots of chat histories can also ruin your business. Avoid interacting with such people at all.
The good thing about it all: every comment, whether positive or negative, is good for your insta game. Embrace the attention despite negative comments. Nothing is worse than not being seen. So keep your head up. Your energy is definitely better spent elsewhere than arguing with trolls.
Best Alex & Maja I Bitesandtickles