Sunday, August 06, 2006


It wasn't that many years ago that any criticism of my photography could send me into a world of self-doubt. I had no confidence in what I was doing so almost anyone could tell me how or what I should be doing and I'd throw away what I had been working on and start trying to do it their way. I read how-to-books and carefully followed instructions on how to test and develop film. But somewhere along the way I realized that I didn't like to "expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights." I wasn't ever going to be comfortable with sheet film. I wasn't going to go into the Southwest and shoot the big landscapes. I stopped doing what I thought I was suppose to be doing or what I was told I should be and started doing what I wanted to do.

Oh, I can't say that I'm never affected by what others think about my work but I've reached a place where I can hear it as a suggestion rather than a criticism. This really came home to me last week when I asked Frank to go on Flickr and look at some of the work I've been doing in my neighborhood with the Lensbaby because I was thinking of printing some of them in a small portfolio. Many years ago Frank led a workshop that I took and since he has been a mentor and friend. He is a photographer whose work I respect. So what he says holds a lot of weight.

He took a look and wrote me:

Going to be honest here. First of all, I like the subject matter -- the tree against the wall, the juice cups, the lone flowers on the table, the front of the old Ford truck, stuff like that. I think you are seeing well, but still somewhat in "full-frame" mode. I guess what I'm saying is the "out-of-focus" is not extreme enough for me. AGAIN, FOR ME. You may think they are already extreme. If I were shooting the Lens Baby, I would cock the front to its most extreme position and tape it there. Then I would go shooting. I would like to see no more than 1/2" in focus across the frame so the edges would get really wild. And I would probably use PS to blur the edges that might too sharp. I want to see these images REALLY out of focus except for one little small area sharpness. The edges should be essentially unrecognizable.

My immediate reaction was to go back and look at what I had done again. I still liked most of the images. I still wanted to print about six or seven of them for the portfolio. They were doing what I wanted done. But I thought that Frank had a good suggestion, maybe I should push this Lensbaby tool a little more, explore how far I can go with it. Maybe those images would fit with this project or maybe it would lead to something else. The good news is, I wasn't filled with self-doubt, I wasn't ready to abandon the project. I realized that I'd come a long way from where I started.


San Miguel Photos said...

As a certified co-dependent personality, I can truly appreciate your reaction. I always crave critisim of my work but my gosh does it hurt when someone does not fall over in awe when they look at it. I wish I was a mature creatively as you. Thank you for sharing.

Jerry M. Pine said...


You can always try Frank's suggestion and do some photographing that way.

Next, compare the results with your other work, and YOU decide which YOU like better.

Remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and there is no accounting for taste. It's a very personal thing.

Most of all, have fun doing it.


Claudine said...

When I was in highschool I detested criticism. When I was in college and realized I wasn't so hot afterall (academically), I wanted criticism! Especially in the area of academic writing. I wanted "fixing" and got it (I think). It takes maturity to realize you can take suggestions that enhance your current abilites. Once again, I am at a stage in my life where criticism hurts...but I am sure my pride will one day accept what is. Frank's words sounded more like praise with a tad of a suggestion that reflects his way. I enjoy your pics and hope to see more.