“Do you like this?” Sounds like an innocent enough question. We ask it all the time. Do you like this outfit? Do you like that dinner? Do you like how I did XYZ? This question to an artist (mom’s capturing your family… you fall into this category too!) is loaded. What if they don’t like an image, a drawing, a painting, or a dress you sewed? Does it change what you feel about it? Do you like what you created any less? When we create we pour bits of ourselves into it. We pour what we find interesting, how we see, how we experience life, what moves us, and even bits of who we love. It is no wonder when someone doesn’t express they like what we created or worse say they don’t… well…we take it a little personally. But there is more to you as an artist then what others think.
We love getting lots of Facebook likes or new Instagram followers because of what we shared. Its validating. We gain confidence when others around us say, “wow. That is stunning.” So when we hear crickets… do we question our worth as an artist? I would be lying if I said no. Validation is huge. Especially in this “look at me” world.
New artists and older artists feel the same way… unsure. That is ok. The reason the question, “Do you like this?” is dangerous is because we often don’t ask the right people. We ask strangers. Total strangers to vote with the like button. And if they don’t let us know they like it (or we only hear from our moms and grandmas…) then we retreat. We question what we created. Was it good, normal, weird, or stupid? The other danger is everyone sees things differently… and that is OK. Someone not liking what you created doesn’t mean it is not good or powerful. It just didn’t hit them in the heart.
Let me be the first to say, if you are sharing your work of your kids, life, adventures or whatever you are creating…bravo. Let me also say if you are new to a craft and are sharing, you are just starting your journey and what you share today may not be what you share in a year. You may even look back and cringe (I have!) If you love it, if you love doing it, if it is important to you… keep it up. A journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step. To be honest, I have been on this journey for some time and I don’t know if I have ever reached the destination… I don’t think I ever will. Your journey, your circumstances, your failures, your successes, and all of the inspirations your encounter along the way all start to chip away and define you as an artist.
I started out like so many of you. I had a new baby and wanted to take pictures. At first I didn’t care if they were perfect. Facebook hadn’t even b in invented yet! So I wasn’t sharing with any who didn’t love my son and he he was the most amazing thing since sliced bread. I couldn’t do it wrong. Grandparents loved every image. As they years went on and I started to define what I liked I often found myself seeking approval. First on my new photography blog and then on Facebook. It is easy to get yourself sucked into the validation = value… and lack of validation=less value.
THE PERSONAL PROJECT
I love a good project. They give me direction and a goal. If you are seeking others validation more than your own… I challenge you to complete a personal project. This might be a way to explore a whole new side of photography, or to photograph the same exact thing daily. Share it or don’t…just do it for you. Even if you are brand new to photography… don’t shy away from a personal project. The only rule is that you make a constant effort for the amount of time you set for the project. Make yourself, encourage yourself, and give yourself grace to be terrible at it. For example. I challenged myself to create double exposures in camera. I love this look but am terrible at it. Honestly. it is so hard for me to think about all of the elements I need to align to make it work. I am still working on the technical side of them… It will be a long while before I can even be creative. But I went out for a week daily and made them. Still… they were terrible. haha. Grace… be ok with being at the starting point. This is a project for you to learn and grow.
Personal Project ideas
- Shoot the same thing daily. (Your child, your dog, your favorite plant)
- Shoot using a different lens than you would normally.
- Self portraits (be brave..remember you don’t have to share these.)
- A color. Find things that are all pink.
- Shoot every image in Black and White.
- Shoot your favorite details of your child.
- Shoot the most raw and personal parts of your life (the messy, unkept, cluttered etc areas and moments.) (this might just be your favorite!)
- A photo a day of your child
- The morning sky/evening sky
I have to share a story about a personal project that was profound for me. A few years ago my family want through a super trying time. It truly pushed me to the edge. Photography grounded me. Every morning I would go out and take a picture of the sky. I would wake up early to see the beauty. I need to see that the sun comes up… no matter what. No matter what I was dealing with, I was blessed with a new day. I look back at those images and see such a personal testimony. I see such beauty, hope, and strength. Others may just see the sky. Personal projects bring you back to why you picked up a camera to begin with.
“DO YOU LIKE THIS?”
Reserve truly asking “Do you like this?” for friends that you trust who will give you an honest and fair opinion. Be ready for lots of, “you are amazing!” and “You have so much creativity.” Don’t brush off the praise. Also be ready for, “It’s not your best work.” or “I would like it better if you did ….” That is criticism that is constructive. You can grow from that. All to often we believe the criticism, but not the praise. Value both, they are equally important.
Isn’t grace amazing? Since we can never be perfect and we all fall way short, realize that you will fall short as an artist too. All too often it is my mistake or the imperfect that becomes my favorite aspect. Don’t judge your work by what you thought it would be but by what it is.
I am sure I could look at an image and list off a number of mistakes I made. Beat my self up and feel terrible. Or I could list the same number of ways I rocked it… and lift myself up. The beauty of being a creative is we get to do it again and again.We get to have do overs all the time.
I take a million pictures. Some turn out amazing… some turn out terrible. Some I love and others don’t, while some I don’t love, but other do. Some times I love what my life looks like and other times my kids are waring crazy clothes and look somewhat homeless… As moms we also have to give ourselves grace to not have it all together. For me I find the images I take where others might judge me are the hardest to share. I don’t make my kids where special pictures clothes often… and often they have dressed themselves. But for me… that is what is important. I am 100% sure my kids will look back and ask me, “what were you thinking letting me where that?”
The point is, you can’t be perfect. Others will do somethings better then you and you will do others better then them. When you are looking through someone’s instagram feed and see amazing posts one after another, realize they are only posting what they want you to see. We know that, but still forget and judge our worst against their best.
Being a creative is tough. We truly wear our hearts on our sleeves and we want to be appreciated for the craft we learned or are learning. We want you, no matter if you are just getting into photography or have been on your journey for a while to be proud of what you are doing and excited to keep on learning. To do that, you have to ask the right questions to grow and give yourself a little emotional padding when you share an image or video with the world on Facebook.
HERE ARE MY TOP 5 QUESTIONS TO ASK ABOUT AN IMAGE
1) Do I like it?
2) What do I like about it specifically (the light, connection, the color, the location?)
3) Do I feel anything or remember a moment when I look at it?
4) What are the successful elements in the image?
5) How can I improve this image?
These questions are helpful to you. They are helpful to your improvement. They are also helpful in being confident in what you love. If everyone only created what others said was “right” then we wouldn’t have a million artists doing a million amazing things. Everyone’s style would be…well…the same. No one would stand out. Out talk your self doubt… it will try to talk over your confidence. Talk louder.
It is ok to do it differently, to like different things, and to have a different perspective. You don’t have to touch everyone.. you just have to make something you find important and beautiful.