How to Handle Internet Criticism as a Photographer or Videographer

The Internet is a strange place full of people who will tear you down whenever they can despite lacking the requisite qualifications and experience to do so and the tact to do it respectfully. Here's how to handle those who seem like they just want to ruin your day.

Coming to you from Sean Tucker, this great video essay examines the unfortunately common phenomenon of Internet trolls. Among the many insightful things he says, Tucker is particularly right about the lack of talented trolls out there. By and large, the vast majority of trolls are faceless or unaccomplished in their field, and when you call them on that, they'll offer you some sort of faux logic about how their identity and accomplishments don't matter to their critique, except they do. Just like you wouldn't and shouldn't listen to medical advice doled out by any faceless self-proclaimed expert, nor should you take that of a self-proclaimed photography expert. In fact, in all my time and involvement in this industry, I can only name one marginally talented troll I've come across, and his problem was more raging ego than insecurity. Really, the battle against trolls comes down to you: know who's worth listening to and don't waste time or energy on those who aren't.

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50 Comments

nope. sometimes the photos just suck.

Rafal Wegiel's picture

Nope.... photos don't suck...people who judge them without knowing the full story behind them... they suck!!!!

Ben Perrin's picture

I don't think you are right. Sometimes the photos do just suck. People choose out of focus, poorly composed photos and then over edit them. It's all subjective and people are often unnecessarily harsh but sometimes the photograph just isn't very good.

Ben Perrin's picture

You have some nice shots there btw Rafal!

Rafal Wegiel's picture

Thank You!

I almost never want to know the story behind a photo. A good photo shouldn't need an explanation.

Rafal Wegiel's picture

If a photo doesn't need an explanation You shouldn't have right to judge it ...

I'm not following your logic. If you don't want something judged, don't show it to people. If you believe in your work, it shouldn't matter if people judge it or not.

Rafal Wegiel's picture

You don't have to follow my logic ... what I am saying is every picture has much bigger story than people see... its easy to judge people work but is ignorant to me that these days people judge everything without even understanding the entire story... and what you are saying its total nonsense ... just because You want to share your work doesn't mean people have right to destroy your work without even understanding the entire picture and motivation behind it...

Sure they do. Art is a conversation.All opinions are valid. You just don't have to listen to them. You can't please everyone no matter what you do, so ignore the people that don't like your work. Not everyone thinks Beethoven is that great or think the Mona Lisa is overrated. That's life.

Rafal Wegiel's picture

You are missing my point... I agree with you when it comes to ignore people who don't like your work...and that is exact message from the video... my point was that people judge photos based on their own experience not based on the entire story behind of creating the image....and that what think is ignorance... again images don't sucks people who judge them they suck...

Michael Holst's picture

You two seem to agree but are arguing different topics as if they are mutually exclusive which they aren't.

Jeff Walsh's picture

Nope. Art is absolutely subjective, and photography in all its forms is art. What one person hates in a photograph 10 others will love. No such thing as a photo that sucks...just a photo that doesn't appeal to certain individuals.

That doesn't make sense. If everything is art, either nothing is art or "art" is meaningless. You can't have it both ways.

Jeff Walsh's picture

I didn't define what art is, instead what I said was, art is subjective. What some people will call art others will call meaningless. Subjectiveness means that the thing your "judging" is only applicable to you and no one else. Thus, art is meaningful and "good" or "bad" on a person by person basis. So no, there is no such thing as a photo that sucks...only a photo that an individual believes to suck.

So you want me to accept that art is subjective but your opinion regarding the entire issue is not!? Okay. :-/

Michael Holst's picture

You're almost there! Anything that takes feeling to judge will be subjective. Everyone feels differently about everything because we are all viewing the world from our own personal perspectives. Good and Bad are not measurable in an objective sense because no matter how many people agree with you it only takes one person to like a piece of art (or anything for the matter) to shatter the objectiveness we think exists.

He is not just stating an opinion. He's just describing a reality. You are free to have an opinion on that reality but that just helps prove his point.

Michael Holst's picture

Art it meaningless if it's meant to be just good or bad. That's just an opinion even if it seems like a community consensus. Art is expression and it doesn't need to serve any purpose other than to be created. Pretentious art snobs would like us to believe that there is such a thing as good and bad art because they usually have a stake in the game.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dw5kme5Q_Yo

I wasn't sure which comment to respond to so I chose the most recent. :-)
So, your definition of art is expression? I'm not trying to be a jerk...I really don't understand. If art is subjective to the audience, art could also be unintentional. Continuing, art could be something that wasn't even created but rather a hallucination. Do you see where I'm going with this? Maybe, rather than using "art" to describe an object, there should be a verb describing the act of reacting to something, real or imagined. Well, that last sentence was in jest. Personally, and I don't mean this to offend anyone, I think the term "art" was created by pretentious snobs. Kinda like the term 'je ne sais quoi' which doesn't really mean anything.

Michael Holst's picture

No offense taken. I think it's a great discussion.

That's pretty much sums it up while taking it even further. Art is created expression and IMO it's meant to be a form of expression and can be in many mediums like photography, paintings, drawings, sculptures, dances, food. Anything that was created with a meaning behind it is sound art (IMO again) but it's really up to whoever created the media to classify it as art because we can pass anything off as such. The art snobs of the world have hijacked what it's really about as a means to try inject some objective definition when it's like saying there's good and bad food. We all can make food. Some people love PB&J's (myself included) and I wouldn't say my opinion of good food is objective because if I made my best PB&J someone might call be pedestrian and snobbishly insist that it's bad. It's really just their opinion. They're just more opinionated about it than I am.

We're starting to come together. :-)
My only concern is the ability of the artist, for lack of a better word, to classify something as art. If that's the case, the word has no meaning and shouldn't be used. I hesitate to inject this into the conversation but, it sounds a lot like people being able to decide their sex, race, etc. While I can certainly except a Caucasian individual saying they feel African, I can't accept them saying they are, in fact, African. In the same way, I can accept the creator or the viewer of an object stating they think it's art (artistic), I can't accept them stating categorically, it is art.

Michael Holst's picture

I think you're comparing apples to oranges. One can test DNA to find how far back you're closest ancestor is to being of African decent and then we approach the semantic argument of how much African DNA is needed to officially call oneself African. BUT art is just whatever you want to call art. I could drop boogers on piece of white paper from two stories up and call it art if I wanted to. Someone might call it genius. Someone might say WTF?! Maybe I had a reason why I did it and maybe I didn't but it's up to whoever is viewing my booger art to decide if they want to call it good or bad. Maybe some gallery curator sees it and thinks it's the greatest work of this generation and they convince everyone else of the same..... all I'm saying is... do you wanna buy my boogers? haha JK

If you've been snorting coke, someone will probably buy them! :-)

Photography is not just art; it is also a technical craft.

Jeff Walsh's picture

All art is a technical craft...this changes nothing about its subjectiveness.

Without defining art, how can you distinguish between art being subjectively good or bad and saying what is or isn't art? The entire conversation is worthless unless and until you define art.
Personally, I think the word "art" is kinda like the word "awesome." They've been overused and abused to the point of being meaningless.

Michael Holst's picture

"Without defining art, how can you distinguish between art being subjectively good or bad and saying what is or isn't art? The entire conversation is worthless"

Simple... you can't and yes the conversation IS worthless. You can discuss what you like and dislike about a piece of art with others but none of it will ever anything other than subjective opinions. You might find that you tend to agree on lots of things but that will never be prove any objectiveness because all it takes is one person to have a different "taste" in art to keep it subjective.

It sounds like you're supporting my point that there is no definition for the word "art". And, if that's the case, "art" isn't an object but rather an idea. Therefore (I come from a programming background so think in terms if If...then...else :-) ) there's no such thing as a "piece" of art. Only artistic ideas invoked by objects.

Michael Holst's picture

I couldn't have written that better myself.

Boom! Two people talked something out on the internet without name calling or getting political.

You saw it here folks!

Nobody saw it. The article has run its course and everyone is looking for the next article they can politicize! :-)