A Critical Moment

by Kris - September 02, 2021

We are two-thirds of the way through the year.  The seasons are changing and we are moving toward what many people refer to as “the busy time of year.”  The start of a new academic year for many as well as rapid-fire holidays over the next four months will keep us moving at a non-stop pace.  When we are trying to move through life with efficiency and grace, the last thing we need to carry with us is a critic who undoubtedly will weigh down both our hearts and minds.

We all have an inner critic who demands our attention and desires to be our constant companion.  When that critic steps in momentarily to suggest that we take a break for a reality check, its presence can be helpful; but, more often than not,  that critic sets out to march in and redefine our reality.  When this happens, it’s time for us and our critic to participate in some relationship counseling.

What role does your inner critic play in your photography?  How does this critic influence how you view your own photos?  The photos of others?  When you don’t understand the relationship with and the role of your inner critic, accessing creativity and finding joy in your photography can become elusive.

In a project such as a photo a day, Whether we like it or not, we have an encounter with our inner critic every single day.  That inner critic likely has something to say about what we choose as a subject and how we execute our daily photos.  And, if you are one who posts in one of the community forums, Facebook or Instagram, and who scrolls through the daily contributions of others, the critic by your side is likely in hog heaven…so many opportunities for opinions to be had.  In both instances, my advice to you is to proceed with caution.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for looking at our creative work with a critical eye and mind.  Helpful questions that our critic can ask are:

  • What is your intention with this photo?
  • Did you think through the technical execution of the shot before releasing the shutter?
  • Do your intention and execution come together to tell the story that you intended?

If you are not happy with your final image, do your best to write down concrete aspects of the photo with which you are not satisfied.

You might then ask someone else to describe the photo to you.  What do they see?  How does it make them feel?

That last question should then circle back to the first one, which is addressing your intention.

If your intention is to document YOUR life and you are happy with your image, then what others see or feel when looking at your photo is inconsequential.  That is a polite way of saying that their opinion really doesn’t matter because you did not intend the photo for them.  Others will always have an opinion, but you do not have to take delivery on that opinion.  If you made the photo that you wanted to create and it tells that story that you intended it to tell, that’s all that matters.

If you feel that you missed the mark with your image, soliciting thoughts and ideas from others can be helpful.  Remember though, you are still the arbiter of how those opinions influence your creativity…which suggestions do you desire to take into consideration and which ones are best for you to let go.  It can be helpful to introduce your inner critic to people whose ideas and opinions you respect and trust. Otherwise, random comments will quickly run in to steal your joy.

It’s a whole different scenario when you are trying to impress others with your photos, whether that be because taking photos is your business or because your inner critic is telling you that is what is important.  Creativity and joy come from within.  Others can inspire.  Others can inform.  Others can not make you creative or joyful.   The converse here is also true…others cannot steal your creativity or your joy.  Our inner critics want us to believe that they do have this power, but they don’t.  In this case, you are the boss of your creative self and you are the boss of your joyful self.

When you feel that you are struggling with finding creativity or joy or both in your photography.  Take the time to have that serious conversation with your inner critic.  It sounds silly, but giving your critic a name makes these conversations more personal.  Your critic knows your weak places, the things that can be said to make you doubt yourself.  As artists, it is important for us to recognize the voice of that critic and nip it in the bud.  I know this all sounds crazy, but think about the recent times that you have struggled with your daily photos, or any other creative endeavor for that matter.  What was the voice in your head saying to you during those times?

The inner critic doesn’t like to be put in time out.  Remember, it wants to be your constant companion.  Sometimes when we get a grip on the critic with regard to our own work, the critic refocuses and directs his or her attention to the work of others.  This hurts you too.  If your critic is wasting your time criticizing all of the creators around you (in this group that would be the rest of us) then your critic is again stealing your joy.  The message is that you may not belong in the community, that you are “too good” to associate with “those” people.  In the long run, this hurts you.

Everyone belongs here!  We all have so much to share with and learn from one another regardless of our skill level.  Over the years I have gotten great book recommendations, recipes, suggestions of places to visit, and made some awesome friends (the kind whose opinions I do respect and trust), all from the daily photos that are shared every day.  We all have a hand in nurturing the creativity in others and celebrating the joy that each of us brings to this community.  We all have a hand in helping each other to keep our inner critics under control.  We all have a responsibility to keep the 365 Picture Today community a happy, healthy, and welcoming place for all!

Lego on piano keyboard