In my years of being a professional photographer and a photography mentor I have had the opportunity to give constructive criticism and feedback to many photographers and small business owners. As well as I have been the recipient of much feedback and constructive criticism.

Many times I have been asked to give my feedback and opinions on business matters as well as critiques on portraits and photographs. I have often found that those whom ask for feedback have a hard time accepting the corrective critiques. Several times a week I am approached with situations where I am asked to help and to give honest and authentic opinions and I must say that more times then not those who ask have a hard time listening to the feedback.

So I decided that it was about time that I blogged a little bit on this subject. I honestly believe that these few tips will help you in growing your business, your brand and mastering your craft.

  1. Don’t ask for feedback if you really don’t want an honest opinion on it. If you are particularly proud of something and really love it….keep it special to you. Don’t ask for other peoples opinions on it. You wouldn’t go to someone with your child and say “Hey, can you be honest with me? Do you think my child is beautiful? I really want to know what you think.” You wouldn’t. WHY? Because your child is so special to you. Others opinions about your child’s beauty doesn’t matter. Your baby is so important that you would never “cast your pearls before swine”. With that…if you love something so much and are so very proud of it, keep it special to you. Don’t allow others opinions to change the way it makes your heart feel.
  2. When you do ask for feedback….HOLD YOUR BREATH. (figuratively) Don’t say anything. Allow the feedback and critique you are being given to sink it. Stop your reactions. When we hear negative feedback we immediately get defensive. Allow yourself to really think about what the other person is saying and digest the constructive criticism.
  3. Don’t make excuses. Many times when we are given critiques we give back excuses as to why we did something. Instead of making excuses, notate what you could have done better. In some situations the reason why you did something is completely justified and there is no other way you could have done it with out compromising something else. But in that moment of listening to the feedback, hold the excuses. You do not need to justify your reasoning to anyone. The person giving you feedback does not need to know the back story, they should remain as impartial to the situation as possible.
  4. Understand the other persons point of view. You have asked them for an opinion because you respect their ideas. So we really start to believe what they are saying and try to understand that they are not trying to knock you down and tell you everything that you need to change. They are just trying to help you to become better.
  5. Ask questions. When they give you a critique ask questions as to why that critique. For example if they tell you they believe you need to change your branding, ask them why they believe so. Ask them what they think would be better. If somebody gave you the feedback that was about your attitude in a specific situation, a good question to ask would be "where did you feel that my attitude was poor?” Asking questions will help you to truly accept the feedback and try to be better.
  6. After feedback has been given say THANK YOU. It takes time for someone to sit down and thoughtfully give you bits of their knowledge. Even if you do not agree with the feedback giving a thank you is a must. I just spent two days composing an email to help a young photographer and the response I got back was “Okay, I will see what I can do.” There was no thank you. Do you think that situation makes me want to help others? No, it does not. People want to know you appreciate them. Say thank you.
  7. Share your progress. If someone has taken the time to help you, they want to see that you are growing. When you have made the changes that they have suggested or if you have seen growth since they have helped you, let them know. Share with them your progress. There is nothing better than cheerleaders!
  8. NEVER take it personally. When you have asked for feedback, critiques and opinions you should always separate yourself from the situation. The only time I would say take it personal is if you are asking about a personal matter. For example. If I asked someone “do you think I have gained weight?” and they said “yes I do.” Then I should take it personal….BUT I should not be offended because I asked. Always be prepared to hear the good, the bad and the ugly.

Accepting criticism with grace will show not just others the type of person you are, but it will solidify to yourself the kind of person you are too.