Why Do Really Bad Photographers Think They Are Amazing?

We all know that person (if you don't, it's you) who thinks they are amazing and are completely useless at photography. Chances are that we have all also been that person, but why?

Although photography is subjective, I am going to put it out there that some photographers are simply bad. Be that due to technical abilities, poor execution of concept, or just bad taste, they suck. And I was certainly one of them. I was useless at photography for the longest time imaginable. I nearly gave it up because I was so bad. However, during that bad patch, there was a period where I thought that my work was amazing. Looking back at it now triggers some sort of anxiety mixed with shame. I was utterly delusional. 

However, you mustn't be disheartened. It turns out this is really common and actually completely normal. In this video, I look at why this is, as well as offering some test that you can take to work out where you really sit in the grand scheme of things. I also look at ways in which you can help people who are currently stuck in this rut. 

This phenomenon is not only related to photography. It is no mistake that more than 50% of drivers think that they are better than average. Have you fallen victim to the Dunning-Kruger effect in the same way that I did when starting out?

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59 Comments

Stuart Carver's picture

I’d rather a bad photographer who is actually out taking photos than these anonymous forum commenters who offer no indication that they even own a camera, yet like to offer snidy opinions about everything from someone’s portfolio or different types of gear.

Deleted Account's picture

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Stuart Carver's picture

It’s not about providing evidence, it’s about keeping your mouth shut if there is nothing good to come out of it, or in this case the virtual mouth that is a keyboard.

Deleted Account's picture

I'd ask if you are new around here, but I know the answer.

However, your post was specifically framed around the notion if you do not show work then you somehow have less right to comment.

Stating something you should already know, this place is full of trolls, and the moment you say something unpopular your image rating mysteriously falls.

Stuart Carver's picture

And that was kind of my point.

Whilst I fully agree in the concept of bad photographers needing to open their eyes and realise their skill level (I’m a massive advocate of modesty being the best skill you can have in any line of work as you will strive to get better) I also feel that anyone feeling the need to make snarky comments about someone else’s image should at least be demonstrating their own expertise before feeling the need to run someone else down.

The same goes for those gear sites (looking at you DPreview) where everyone thinks it’s ok to comment on sample galleries either slating the lens or the person who shot the photos... it’s far to easy to create an account just to be nasty for the sake of it, and imo it needs regulating better.

Making unpopular comments and being snidy are two different things and the former I have no issue with as long it’s not taking aim at someone specifically.

Deleted Account's picture

Fair enough.

Hans J. Nielsen's picture

Are you implying, that common folks with no photographic experience should not be allowed to criticize other people's artwork? Is art not meant to be critiqued? But if it can only be critiqued by your equal peers, does the critique even matter?
Are common folks not literally being taught about art, by being exposed to it?

Some philosophical questions that, I know, won't have any substance when talking about the majority of people on DPreview.

Stuart Carver's picture

Critique is fine as its often constructive and done in a polite manner... the key word here, as ive already repeated 4 times on other comments is 'Snidy'... thats not critique, its just trolling, because its the internet and people can.

Hans J. Nielsen's picture

Just reread the tread and can see I missed your point. My bad!

Stuart Carver's picture

Haha no probs, im all for someone offering an opinion on things, but keeping it civil on the internet seems more and more difficult these days.

Stuart Carver's picture

P.s. I fully expect some 1* on my gallery after making the comment above lol.

Venson Stein's picture

I'm headed there right now to *Trash all your work.* :-)

Justin Sharp's picture

Careful not to fall victim to the tu quoque

Stuart Carver's picture

I just had to google that as it’s not something I’ve heard of before, can you explain please how it’s relevant to my comment??

Justin Sharp's picture

Tu quoque is a logical fallacy that, simply stated, if a person makes a statement, their actions do not affect the truth of their statement. If I say that a photograph is bad, the fact that I have or have not posted a photo shouldn’t affect the accuracy of the original statement. It may not be fair that I comment without first posting my own photo. It may not be ethical. You’re correct in your original post. It can be very frustrating when this happens. In some circumstances, I may need to be instructed that it’s best to post work before I comment on others. That being said, The original comment of the photo being bad shouldn’t be dismissed solely on the fact that I have not previously posted my own photos. Tu quoque.

Stuart Carver's picture

I think to counter it, if you were to say a photo is bad, explaining reasons why and what might be done to improve somewhat mitigates the need for having your own work posted.

I’m talking about snidy comments, not constructive ones, there is a massive difference.... anyone who makes ‘snidy’ comments without displaying their own skills can fuck off imo, regardless of what anyone else says.

Justin Sharp's picture

I’m in agreement and you have every right to dismiss these commenters. Realistically, people that fall into this behavior are rarely correct or have any insight. However, I’ve dismissed many of these in the past but rarely they have said something that has a grain of truth. I have to be careful that I dismiss the behavior but be aware of anything that I need to hear that contains any bit of truth.

Stuart Carver's picture

Yeah true on that, I’m just happy to keep learning the skills and don’t think I’ll ever hit the day where something can’t be learnt

James Michael's picture

Playing Devil's Advocate for a moment, why do some people "really appreciate it" and "thanks a lot, mate" when you tell them how good their photos are but get mad and indignant if you suggest their shot is less than stellar?
Any time you put your work out there, some people will love it (Hi mom!) and others hate it. Don't let the former go to your head or the latter bother you.

Stuart Carver's picture

Snidy opinions being the key, not constructive criticism, there is a massive difference. And on the internet people seem to think anonymity of it allows them to be nasty with no comeback. Please read my comment as referring to ‘snidy’ comments only, of which there is zero need for in any walk of life, it’s not big and it’s not clever.

James Michael's picture

Agree completely but "snidy" can often be subjective. I wasn't countering your original comment so much as offering caveats.

Stuart Carver's picture

And there definitely are Caveats fully agree.. a recent example of my point that I’ve come across is on the review of the Nikon 70-200 on DPR. It was the almost expected ‘I find these images dull and boring, soft with poor colour’ etc that are now mainstays on every single lens review... we all know those observations are just complete bullshit and offer nothing but trolling the photographer. There isn’t such a thing as a soft lens now so people saying that are just doing it to seek attention and try to be snarky about either the pictures or the brand.

Simon King's picture

I’d guess saying “thanks” when something nice is said to you is basic manners. For the negative comments, I think the response is dependent on whether the negative comment has been explained or not as to how a person will respond. If someone just says “that’s terrible” with no explanation, that’s just nasty, whereas if someone says, “I think a would have preferred if you had done this...because it would have had this effect...” that’s a totally constructive way to say something “negative” that a person can consider taking on board.

James Michael's picture

I would amend your comment to, "I think the response should be dependent..." as it isn't always the case.

Julian Ray's picture

Spot on! Thanks for posting this Scott.

Justin Sharp's picture

As soon as I read the title, I thought Dunning-Kruger. Since learning about this a few years ago, a large part of the world around me makes more sense. It’s everywhere. Everyone of us has at some point fallen victim to some degree. We all need to continually to a D-K self check.

Mike Shwarts's picture

Beat me to the D-K post.

c0ld c0ne's picture

And always keep the Peter Principle in mind.

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