Mini-Rant: Screw the Critics

It's a new year, and I have been thinking a lot about this. There was even a long, rambling rant all written up, but I just spiked it. I'll save you the reading time by condensing it down to this:

Don't try to please everyone. The more worried you are about pleasing everyone else, the less likely you are to ever please yourself. Nor are you likely produce anything truly interesting or develop any kind of a personal style worth having.

That applies to your lighting. But it is also true for your composition, your choice of subject matter, your cooking, your performance review, your haircut -- whatever.

If you are not getting the occasional blowback, you are almost certainly playing it too safe and worrying too much about what others might think of your work.

The important thing is, what do you think of it?

And just understand that some people feel it is their sacred, God-given duty to tell you what you did wrong in your photo. Unsolicited of course. Because, the internet.

Just block 'em. Problem solved. If they'd rather spend their time injecting unsolicited critiques into the photo streams of perfect strangers than actually being out making photos, let them do it somewhere else. Life's too short.



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OpenID casey3photo said...

Excellent rant, David. Exactly what I needed to hear. Thanks :)


January 10, 2011 12:33 AM  
Blogger Stephen said...

Robert Heinlein, author, made the remark: "critics are unbiased, they hate all creative people equally."

I suspect that declining to please everyone will lead to recognition by thoughtful critics.

January 10, 2011 12:33 AM  
Blogger David Sr. said...

Roger that!

January 10, 2011 12:34 AM  
Blogger Joe G. said...

Thanks for all you do David. You're a great photographer and teacher. The trolls are out there whether you like it or not.

January 10, 2011 12:35 AM  
Blogger Josh Zytkiewicz said...

You got it. I decided the same thing a few weeks ago, it's one of my new years resolutions. And not just when it comes to photography or art.

January 10, 2011 12:36 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

"A little bit of a knowledge is a dangerous thing." The rise of the DSLR amateur has taught me the value of that statement. They know just enough to be mean and viscious, but not enough to really understand the industry, the craft, or the art of photography. Don't feed them...don't give them anymore tutorials or free information. Let them earn it the old fashioned way by going to school and working their way up through assisting and small jobs etc. The un-supervised online education process doesn't work. Yes, we all wanted the internet to be this wonderful tool of democratizing art etc. But it's not turning out that way. Photo bloggers, instructors, and workshop teachers etc beware: The army of DSLR wannabes armed with limited knowledge are going to turn against the very people that taught them the little they know. They know just enough to be dangerous. "Cast not your pearls before swine lest they turn and rend you..."

January 10, 2011 12:42 AM  
Blogger David said...

Confidential to @David Dack Maki, re: unmoderrated comment-

Yeah, um, we do not really do the "Vote for my photo" -type comments here. It would get a little crazy. Good luck, tho.

January 10, 2011 12:48 AM  
Blogger Glyn Dewis said...

Here! Here! Well said David!

January 10, 2011 12:52 AM  
Blogger Jan Fredrik Leversund said...

Mike, you realize you're telling David Hobby to shut down the Strobist blog, right? After all, it enables an "un-supervised online education process".

January 10, 2011 12:54 AM  
Blogger David Dack Maki said...

Your rant just fit! Cheers and Happy New Year!

January 10, 2011 12:58 AM  
Blogger michael said...

That very thing crossed my mind this week. Every time I give in to someone just to show them that I can be compliant, I end up usually embarrassed by the results. Still there are art directors who feel it is their way or the highway.

January 10, 2011 1:03 AM  
Blogger Trevor Dean Photography said...

Great post David.. As always :)

@mike I hear where your coming from and I could probably even understand a little of your frustration. But are you suggesting that democratizing the idea of art and photography are going to be detremental to society. I tend to think it would be the other way around. Sure you'll get the ones who will undercut the pros but really in the long run they will either sink or swim. Maybe you lose a job or two but when they do make a mistake they are not going to have years of experience or clientel behind them. I think if someone is willing to put in the time and the self learning and they succeed then all the power to them. Most people don't realize the blood sweat and tears that go along with being a "pro" photographer and im sure many will soon realize how hard it is. The cream will rise to the top and for the ones who don't succeed... Well at least we might have some better quality photos of friends and family to look at on all our beloved social sites :)

Keep up the fantastic work David

January 10, 2011 1:05 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

... actually I'd love to read the longer post you alluded to. I love the writing here. Well done.

January 10, 2011 1:10 AM  
Blogger viscara said...

Mike above said it best.. "No freebies make them EARN" what they get.. The more you give away for free the less they appreciate it and the more they want for free... Clients as well as photographers that you are sharing knowledge with.. Those that get more for free tend to even complain to you as if they want a refund when they themselves did not pay anything especially not even making a effort on their part.

This is human nature.. I say "New" photogs need to be humble and also need to appreciate those that have "earned" the knowledge that they are even willing to share with them and kiss their humble feet. Now days every "New" and I am talking 2 or 3 year old photogs think they are entitled to this knowledge.. But then again that is what we teach in this country.. That you are "Entitled" to everything with out question.. The world dont owe you squat...

January 10, 2011 1:15 AM  
Blogger melissalicia said...

This is the kind of encouragement I needed.

January 10, 2011 1:16 AM  
Blogger The Photophile - Lanthus Clark said...

I delete the troll posts and include the genuine critiques because they add something of worth. Works for me!

My blog is not a democracy...

Thanks for a great blog David!

January 10, 2011 1:28 AM  
OpenID SUNSTER said...

been reading and enjoying your blog for a while now and never posted a comment before
but on this occasion felt compelled to say
That's right David, you got to say F@#k it every now and then, and just think about yourself


January 10, 2011 1:56 AM  
Blogger Kirkland Photo Guy said...

David, totally agree and actually have followed that advice in several trades non-photographic.

Mike, man I get sick of hearing (reading) that lame excuse for lack of innovation. I went from apprentice to journeyman in 2 separate trades in my life and if it was not for those that were encouraged to teach and train others, that would not happen! Go join a union keep your knowledge to yourself and then sit back and complain as the more optimistic open minded people leave you behind. That attitude is an example of a last ditch effort to save something that should not be saved.
Teach the people that appreciate being taught and it will come back to you in ways you can't imagine. What knowledge are you holding back that is so precious anyway ?

January 10, 2011 2:35 AM  
Blogger Olaf Willoughby said...

Ignore the mental midgets! Just keep on doing it your way. Strobist is a wonderful, educational, thought provoking web site. And along with all the others here I offer you my congratulations and support.

January 10, 2011 3:09 AM  
Blogger Patrick Ryan said...

Not really the type to comment, but this time around it was great to hear that from you, David.
Thanks for the site, and thank you for free tutorials and free information. No, I'm by no means earning from this hobby (nor do i peddle my services, if you can call it as such), but through you, and the generosity of other strobists, you've definitely made photography more fun and more interesting for me. And yes, it also improved the quality of the photos of family, friends, and pets among others on my social networking sites... :)

January 10, 2011 3:38 AM  
Blogger Craig Strachan said...

Thanks David

I once got jumped upon because a flower in my photo was not quite on the "rule of 3". It was a great pic; I liked it so who cares!

Rant appreciated

January 10, 2011 3:39 AM  
OpenID falleri said...

I'm interested in the long rant as well, but I understand you didn't post it. I have those rants myself and in the end I usually decide to not publish things like that- they usually do you more harm than good and turning 'everyone' against you is not the smartest thing to do..
It's always a good thing to hear from others. "If you are not getting the occasional blowback, you are almost certainly playing it too safe and worrying too much about what others might think of your work."
Thank you for the reminder- Sometimes I forget how true that is!

January 10, 2011 3:41 AM  
OpenID falleri said...

@Mike - I started out with a few courses, worked at photo stores, then studied at the art academy but worked with video there. After that I pretty much learned everything I didn't know by reading about it and practicing. I suspect most of us did- btw we do not have an assitant culture where I live. You want to be a photographer, you do it yourself. With the exception of a few categories, there's no one who's going to take you in here. Nor would I want to. I like being on my own and earning everything myself.

No one learns everything in paid courses and studies. You learn most of the stuff afterwards when you're working. At those times, the internet can help you figure out what went wrong a little sooner. I had to do all of this on my own. I would never have had the means to pay for all of this knowledge. I built up my gear and my knowledge step by step. Humbly. While most people called me a photographer I felt I wasn't even nearly there. I learned to do so in the process because I realized most people who can't do much already thought of themselves as photographers and I was harming myself and my business by not being more confident.

There's no one who is not 'worth it'. No one can learn everything by reading about it. Photography- let alone art- is not just theory. You still have to work hard. The ones that do and the ones that don't- well, the difference becomes clear soon enough.

I do have to admit I was a little annoyed by people not taking me seriously in the beginning 'just because they had the same dslr'. I have learned that a little attitude (self-confidence) can shut them up before they start, and in the end even the idiots will definitely see the difference between a dslr owner and one who knows what to do with it.

January 10, 2011 3:41 AM  
Blogger Ian Pack said...

I could not agree more, David!

January 10, 2011 4:01 AM  
Blogger michael said...

Many "old school" positions demand that newbies "earn" their way. Newbies do earn their way. The game has changed and information is injected into our minds faster than can be absorbed, everyday. There is no stopping the digi-flat era, the sharing will continue and will dominate the landscape. The how-to is there for the taking. What remains unique is the individual, the creative soul. Don't hate someone who took a path in 2 years what took you 10 years. The 10 year path might be outdated now. If you don't adapt and learn quick, you could miss the bus. But once on the bus, sustaining the ride requires uniqueness. It requires the one thing that cannot be given away for free. It must come from the soul. You can't buy it or steal it. You have it or you don't. It can be discovered, but then you had it all along and then found it. The consuming masses might not recognize it if it bit them in the leg, but those who appreciate that place where emotion and creation swim, recognize it immediately. Don't be grumpy because someone learned in a different manner, take satisfaction in knowing that you have a deeper relationship with your creativeness than a "noob".

January 10, 2011 4:36 AM  
Blogger Drew Gardner said...

Well said David

Follow your heart in whatever you do



January 10, 2011 5:02 AM  
Blogger Luar said...

I completely agree with you.

Complaining and criticising is free.

I understand people want to help you, sometimes, when looking for flaws.
However, other times, there's that atavistic vice of the human nature of just criticising for the sake of it. Because for some reason, that's the way some brains work.

I'm a positive person and I always look for the good things. I think I can help people like that as well.

Happy New Year, David!

January 10, 2011 5:16 AM  
Blogger david said...

I'm not the first to say this and I'm not sure who did, but I think it's apt: if two people agree on everything one of them is unnecessary.

January 10, 2011 6:07 AM  
Blogger carlyeomans said...

Right on, I stay true to what make me happy about my photography.

January 10, 2011 6:33 AM  
Blogger Tom Diakun said...

Mike and Viscara,

Nobody has a monopoly on knowledge and truth. When you try to restrict it by your own arbitrary criteria of "earning" it, you sound like the medieval church trying block the spread of the printing press because of the danger to faith and morals.

To me, you "earn" knowledge by study, training, and practice. This takes many forms and gets there by many routes.

I am one of those amateurs who have learned a lot from Mr. Hobby and other educators, and I think I some of the photos I have created are pretty darn good. I like them and the people I created them for are pretty darn pleased. But I neither pretend nor aspire to be a "professional."

When I attend a wedding, I bring a camera. I have been told many, many times that my photos are consistently better than the "pros" they hired. All I can say is that if these so called professionals can't please the client better than I can, they need to put in some serious work upgrading their skills and products. Please understand that I am not trying to take work away from anybody. When asked to a wedding, I very clearly and loudly tell them that they still need to hire a professional, because I cannot and will not guarantee that a single photo I take will come out.

What Mr. Hobby and his fellow educators have done is raise the bar for those so-called professionals who have become complacent with a mediocre skill set.

The people who do top notch work have little to worry about. We amateurs have neither the time nor the resources to put them out of business.


January 10, 2011 6:34 AM  
Blogger baldmountain said...

I'd take it even farther. Don't try and please ANYONE!

Ok, well, please your clients.

But if you are taking pictures for yourself, then you shouldn't be trying to please anyone but yourself. That is what art is about. Art needs to slip quietly from within yourself. It can't do that if you are trying to please anyone but yourself. Art is selfish. It needs your full attention in order to slink out from inside you.

(Yes, I meant slip quietly and slink. Art doesn't spring into existence. There is no fanfare. It kind of sneaks up on you while you weren't looking and fades into view.)

January 10, 2011 7:04 AM  
Blogger typingtalker said...

Everybody's entitled to an opinion. Not everybody's entitled to having me read it.

January 10, 2011 7:15 AM  
Blogger fotofred said...

Yep. If the whiner wasn't there to face the challenges alongside you, they have no idea what obstacles you faced.

January 10, 2011 8:28 AM  
Blogger Pete said...

@Mike @viscara
Funny how y'all are making these anti-free-knowledge comments on a blog built quite firmly on the idea of free knowledge...
I'm one of those DSLR amateurs that apparently "know just enough to be mean and viscious", and I deeply appreciate and enjoy the knowledge that's been freely shared on this site and others; I've gained a high percentage of my knowledge/understanding from such sources, so I can't agree with your statements about hoarding knowledge and making people "earn it".
Having said that, since your comments were made in response to a post concerning critics, I suspect your reactions/comments were just not clearly stated. I'm hoping your true frustration lies in seeing amateurs (who've yet to produce a respectable body of work, like myself) criticizing the work of established, professional photographers; if that's what you're frustrated with, I wholeheartedly agree with you. There are far too many people willing to criticize work who have never produced anything of equivalent quality.
As I see it, though, that is a separate issue from knowledge; that's an issue of respect, isn't it? I'm fully supportive of making us amateurs earn respect (read as "the right to criticize"), but making us earn the right to knowledge? Seems kinda harsh and elitist to me...

January 10, 2011 8:54 AM  
Blogger Pam said...

Amen. I don't give a toss about haters, I'm only here for me and my family.

January 10, 2011 9:13 AM  
Blogger ScottieGW said...

This was just what I needed to hear, I got a bad mark at a camera club competition for a photo I was really pleased with.
Obviously, I was annoyed, and was unsure if I should stick making my style of photos.

Thanks David, I can continue with a smile in my face.

January 10, 2011 9:36 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

Good show of cajones David.

@Mike: Dude your too funny. Worry about your own pearls and everything will be alright.

January 10, 2011 9:46 AM  
Blogger Eric Muetterties said...

Keep up the great work. This site has helped change my photgraphy in a ver positive way.

January 10, 2011 10:12 AM  
Blogger shashin said...


Fair point Mike. But will guarding professional secrets really stop the explosion of DSLR wannabes invading the professional arena? I doubt it. The accessibility of digital photography means the amateurs will keep coming regardless. But this shouldn't worry the true professional.

I personally have no fear of an enthusiast stealing my work. Sure, they might get the odd job and execute it very well with some of the techniques learned from Strobist. But when things get really complicated and clients/art directors are breathing down their neck they'll soon twig the emporer has no clothes.

The out and out professionals, the ones who indeed earn their place and study intently have little to fear from the strobist "swines". Any client daft or cheap enough to let an amateur take on real jobs isn't worth working with in the first place. I've re-shot plenty of jobs given to the client's son or brother...etc. Once a client has their fingers burned by an enthusiast they always come back to the real pros.

Strobist is a wonderful resource for learning the practical basics of photography and long may it last.

January 10, 2011 10:38 AM  
Blogger Ramón said...

Simple and true, great reminder for the new year, for always. My best Mr. Strobist...

January 10, 2011 11:20 AM  
Blogger Abe said...

I find it humorous that people are saying "No freebies make them EARN" on this site. David Hobby has got to be one of the most freely giving people I've ever run across. The amount of valuable information he has posted for free is astounding.

But back to the original rant...

I agree that if you stay in your comfort zone you will be comfortable but you will never grow. I have some wonderful self portraits I was forced to do. I hated it at the time but I'm glad I was pushed to do it.

January 10, 2011 11:20 AM  
Blogger thomas.a said...

It is said (marketing wisdom), that the ratio between negative and positive comments is about 12 to 1. At least this is what I simply assume. So for every positive comment I just ignore 11 negative ones. Makes me feel better at least...
The Internet is open to every kind of people and sometimes I have the impression there are more trolls around than reasonable people.
Just keep up the good work. Those who know, know. You're not alone.
Keep it rollin'!

January 10, 2011 11:21 AM  
Blogger WildePics said...

Uh...David...You ARE married, right? Haircut?

Anyway, I agree with the main thrust of your comments but, in the context of photographic education, I tend to view and use critiques as an educational tool. Will be undergoing 6+ portfolio reviews this week (if I get off my butt and get my images printed) and plan to take very seriously the common comments I get from the various reviewers. I feel the common comments tend to go to important and valid matters of perception rather than just the taste of the reviewer, as an isolated comment may.

January 10, 2011 12:16 PM  
Blogger Gary L. Friedman said...

So you're just now figuring this out? :-)

January 10, 2011 1:09 PM  
Blogger rock'n'roll photographer said...

Only recently did I say "that's it--I shoot for myself now",and I seem to be enjoying my 'work' more than ever. I guess Im not technically great(or anything great-some would say) but I don't care anymore--I shoot for me. If I like it I'm happy.If the model likes it I'm very happy.Anyone else likes it then I'm delirious!

January 10, 2011 1:16 PM  
Blogger David said...

And to try to tie it all together...

A million monkeys, with a million PhD cameras (Push here, Dummy) will eventually take every beautiful picture.

That does not mean they will be taken with style or artistry. That does not mean they will be able to take them on purpose, or even worse, on demand.

One of the first things I learned when I took a course for pro photography a few years ago is this: Taking a good picture is easy. Taking a good picture ON PURPOSE is a whole 'nother thang!

Mr. Strobist, you have a style. Well done! You're much further along the path than I am. I can take pictures. I cannot take a certain type of picture, in an ongoing, repeatable fashion. Even better, to be able to take pictures in more than one style, on demand.

But to me, do not confuse your artistic work with your "job" work. When you are being paid, make the shot the art director wants. When you are on your own time, make the shot YOU want, and be satisfied with your work. When working, please your boss. When creating, please yourself. If I worked at McDonald's, I make a Big Mac the way the boss says to make it. Doesn't mean that's the burger I make Saturday on the grill in my back yard over beers with the guys.
Don't ignore the critics, they may actually have something valuable to say. But DO put their comments in context.
The internet has granted everyone freedom of speech with freedom from responsibility. I'll leave it to the philosophers to decide if that's good or bad.

January 10, 2011 1:36 PM  
Blogger andy said...

Good advice, D. I wrote something similar recently about the fear of failure and quoted Thomas Edison: "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." If interested, you can find it on my humble little blog here: Keeping the clients happy is paramount if you're making - or trying to make - a living in this biz. But over the long term, you won't succeed at the former without pleasing yourself.

January 10, 2011 1:39 PM  
Blogger Surly said...

It's hard to comment specifically because we don't know what the criticism was or in reference to but I'd like to say I agree with your sentiment. Two quotes come to mind - "You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life." Winston Churchill and "Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats."
H. L. Mencken
Oh and as an aside, thank you for providing education for free. Not that has anything to do with your post.

January 10, 2011 1:40 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

David, I detect alot of bitterness in some of the comments against amateurs. I happen to be one but I am reading your posts for self education only. I am not trying to steal anyone's clients or jobs. I want to learn how to take better photographs for my family and myself. I do not critize others for their 'Style', I try to understand what they are trying to present. I want to say I really appreciate the service you provide us.

January 10, 2011 1:49 PM  
Blogger Perretti Photography said...

Great Rant! Sticking to it

January 10, 2011 1:57 PM  
Blogger marlen.james said...

Thanks for this post, once you start a blog with some personality people will criticize it no matter what. I do post stuff that "I" find entertaining or useful to my potential clients.

January 10, 2011 2:09 PM  
Blogger said...

I don't know what the specific criticism was but I'd like to add my voice, that as a photographer and teacher, your work is extraordinary. Thank you.

January 10, 2011 2:50 PM  
Blogger Zoomfreaky said...

Hear Hear to that one! Thanx for the reminder...:)

January 10, 2011 2:52 PM  
Blogger Mark Wood said...

First of all, thanks so much for all the hard work you do. I couldn't agree with your rant more -- it needs to be said. This is one of the most generous sites on the web filled with fantastic information.

@Mike / @Viscara:
Frankly, your attitude is completely disheartening. I may not know everything about the trade -- but frankly, I'll guarantee you don't either. No one does, and that's my point.

I've heard it said that the act of teaching others enables us to learn more about ourselves and our subject. I've found that 100% accurate. If you don't want to share your knowledge, or help people along the way, I feel that you're inevitably going to suffer even more from these "dSLR wannabes" since they are going to find others to learn with / from and surpass you at your own trade. And worst of all, you're going to cease to learn from other people -- the biggest shame of all.

January 10, 2011 3:02 PM  
Blogger David said...

I think I may cause some confusion.

Although my name shows up as "David", I'm not David Hobby. Since I just put my first post on here, I didn't know my name was going to come up confusing, and I still don't know how to change it. Sorry. Working on it.

David Hobby, you do great work, and thank you for it!

January 10, 2011 3:03 PM  
Blogger WingedPower said...

Good rant. Not trying to please everyone is part of my new year resolution for my photography as well.

Re: Mike's thoughts on keeping knowledge from the amateurs:

Being mostly self-taught and still learning, I find the idea of not sharing with new comers, to keep knowledge to ourselves to be a pretty short sighted concept. Each new wave of photographers will learn in whichever way they can. Sure, there are those who suck, those who whine, and those who are both.

Sharing of your knowledge isn't giving people a free lunch. It's an experience exchange. Both persons get something out of the interaction and learning.

There is no "turning against". If he's referring to the new comers acting all knowing with just a bit of information... that's just an individual's attitude problem. If by "turning against", one is referring to competition... that's well... competition. :)

The idea of everyone having to struggle and learn/do things through a potentially needlessly tedious process, just because someone else did, is rather ludicrous. One size does not fit all. And there are endless number of roads with endless number of destinations.

Just because someone had to struggle doesn't mean they won't "turn on you".

Anyways, good rant, David. It's also interesting to read the thoughts of others, some positive and some much less so.

January 10, 2011 4:13 PM  
Blogger Gary Wornell said...

I have followed your blog for over a year now David and aside from gaining so much personally from your amazing knowledge (and your humour) these words are gems. There is too much boringly perfect photography flying around. A Danish painter Per Kirkeby once said to me - 'if there isn't an element that is uncomfortable in a painting then it has no life in it' or something to that effect. Thanks for everything - you really have reached out and given us all so much!

January 10, 2011 4:23 PM  
Blogger John said...

"I rant, therefore I am."
Dennis Miller

January 10, 2011 4:40 PM  
Blogger Dream Boy Martin Kimeldorf said...

Oh yeah Dave...I love it when my friends say my image is soft or my light is hard...I like it that way...don't need no freaking permission to do my art my here you are preaching to the choir.

January 10, 2011 5:32 PM  
Blogger Sandra said...

What's the saying again? Better to have kept quiet and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and prove it. Something like that anyway. That applies to many self styled critics in my opinion. They make themselves look foolish. Criticism can be valuable of course, if it is well thought out and delivered with the intention of encouraging progress in the recipient but often it is ill informed univited rubbish that is best ignored and when I come across it in that form I do my best to do exactly that.

January 10, 2011 5:51 PM  
Blogger Michael & Melissa said...

Agreed. Thanks for sharing this with so many others. I have created a business around doing what I want, how I want. Only good things have happened to this point.

January 10, 2011 6:53 PM  
Blogger David Griffin said...

Dear David,
Congrats on the best post ever! As The Prince of Cheap I always catch flack for doing different and new types of imagery. This post echoes what I do.... Light, compose and think the way I like. Those that agree agree... those that dont agree... dont. Thanks for posting a real and pointed lesson for why we shoot! Amen and keep it up!

January 10, 2011 6:57 PM  
Blogger Lisa*Asil said...

I completely agree. This is usually my everyday motto. I also just got finished reading another article online that says that you know your work is good if people are willing to criticize it so the criticism actually helps me to learn what I like and what I don't like.

January 10, 2011 7:17 PM  
Blogger Honbob said...

Remember the words of the late philosopher Ricky Nelson in his treatise "Garden Party:"
"But it's all right now, I learned my lesson well.
You see, ya can't please everyone, so ya got to please yourself."

January 10, 2011 7:47 PM  
Blogger Kenny Theysen said...

Well said Mr. Hobby!


January 10, 2011 8:42 PM  
Blogger Newser said...

This raises important questions like: "Is art nothing?" or: "Is art everything?" Since art is subjective, it's a given that you won't please everyone. So you have to ask: are you creating for yourself, or for others? For me, it's simple. When I'm shooting for myself, the image should match my vision; when I'm shooting a job, the image should match the client's brief. In the former, I don't care if you don't like it or not; in the latter, my income depends on it.

January 10, 2011 8:51 PM  
Blogger rob said...

Hey David,

Here's some very sage advise I received from a creative coach I worked with..."Be who you is not who you ain't. Cause if you is who you ain't, then you ain't who you is!"

January 10, 2011 9:57 PM  
Blogger Chad G said...

Easy on hatin' the start up photogs. I've been reading this site daily, or at least checking daily, since I discovered it. I greatly appreciate all that David teaches, it makes me want more. Hence, why me and you return to this blog.

David, as you probably know, this site is a godsend to all who hope to make better photos. Keep the knowledge pouring, the cup is still half empty.

January 10, 2011 10:14 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

I fully agree with David in that I trust my own voice and have found it's the only way to maintain motivation and composure in my work. However, whilst we all hate getting ripped on we need to remember to laugh off the irrelevant comments and learn from the critics who are offering a constructive point of difference (even if we disagree). Isn't learning how to better our craft the reason we reveal our work to the world?
I'm not interested in praise, only improving.

January 10, 2011 10:16 PM  
Blogger Emmett Photography said...

"It is better to be hated for what you are than loved for what you are not..."

I'm sure you have a few close friends/associates which you bounce ideas and future direction off, so, I say go for it. Those that choose to follow will benefit, the others...well who cares ;-)

Your stuff is awesome (I seldom use this word). I love the controversial content (aka non flash) you put in, including articles about not using flash, studio lights, stories of when things go up the creek (or south depending on which part of the world you are from).

Thanks for the effort and passion you put into making us better photographers.


January 11, 2011 3:35 AM  
Blogger Valerie said...

Bravo! Go on, let's have the full rant.

January 11, 2011 4:57 AM  
Blogger Robert Davidson said...

My experience agrees with you 100%. While I do not earn a living from my photography, I have been doing it for almost 60 years. The only photographs I ever created that truly moved people were those I shot solely for myself. One of the best examples is a photo I entered into a competition in a local club about 15 years ago. It was the first photo I entered upon joining the club, it was taken before I joined, solely to please myself and display my own vision. The photo not only won first place, but also won photo of the year (against more than 1,000 others). It is a photo I can stare at day after day, and never tire of admiring it. Whenever I ignore my own vision and attempt to meet expectations of others, it invariably leads to poor results -- in other words, it scores very high on my internal crap-meter. Perhaps that is why I chose not to make a living with photography.

January 11, 2011 7:29 AM  
Blogger larry said...

Mike, Mike, Mike. Take a load off. The photo mags have always told stuff, sold stuff, everybody's always read the latest techniques, and HDR in its Kinkaidesque glory has a thousand variants. Thanks to Strobist I've saved my ass a ton of hurt, and still made my own mistakes. Its called "learning".

January 11, 2011 9:08 AM  
Blogger golftooter said...

Why try to please others with your creativity? I am not even sure we see the color "blue" the same at the neuron level. So how can we know what others are seeing of our creativity?

The largest percent of photos posted to Flickr are taken with an IPhone. Many are blurry or out of focus. The technology today is creating many individuals who expect less from a photo and are happy with what they get. Who can expect them to make a fair critique of another's work?

I have heard it said, "You can please everyone... some when you come, some while you are there, and the rest when you leave."

January 11, 2011 11:56 AM  
Blogger Sharna said...

I am truly grateful for what you have given me David and I hope that you continue to share your awesomeness with us.

Critiques will always be there but I've learned to take it with a grain of salt. If I listen to them all I would be one crazy individual for sure. :D


January 11, 2011 12:04 PM  
Blogger Cheyne said...

ok, I haven't ready every single comment but I just wanted to say. To those that are saying dont share the knowledge, please keep it to yourself. You are making genrilizations about "newbies" and you need to stop. if it wasnt for people like Mr. Hobby then then tech would still be cheap and there would still be people out there trying to undercut pros they just would not have nearly as much knowledge as they do and would give the industry a really bad image. at least they can do a little. if your business is failing stop blaming amatures and hobiests and start looking at your marketing and the way you do business. I am in the process of starting my own studio and have people like david and Gavin Seim, joe mcnally and several others out there that share what they know becuase if it was not for them I never would have been able to persue this art. in the 4 years that I have been reading and prcticeing and learning from these people I have come to think of them as mentors. such as you may have had 20 years ago with an internship, if I fail so be it but I will do everything that I can to succeed so that someday I may be able to meet these great people and say "if it wasnt for you being kind enough to share your knowledge, I wouldn't be where I am today" and thank them in any way that I can. so to the haters and the trolls...instead of putting down people like David and the people that learn from him, maybe spend a little more time looking at your own business and try to find somewhere that you give your clients something special that the "uncle Bob's" cant and make it so that people want to deal with pro's instead of the cheap guys.

Rant over, thanks for all you do David.

January 11, 2011 1:32 PM  
Blogger Brute said...

David, im a student and this is my first post
Firstly, thanks. Most of my learning comes from your site. Thanks for doing what you do.

In the past, i used to take a lot of what my "critics" used to say to heart. people loved some stuff, but the people that always had something to whine about, it drove me mad.

This last quarter at school, i had a batty teacher who's opinion i really didnt value (artistically. So im 130+ hours into a certain photo project and she starts telling me what i should do....i just nod my head and keep working

Well placed criticism is necessary, but i know exactly where you are coming from when you need to just tune the nay-sayers out and just do your own thing. I have become a better photographer (in my eyes XD) for it.

Once again, thanks alot. i hope to post more soon

January 11, 2011 4:49 PM  
Blogger Rob said...

I am just glad to see that someone else types up long rants and then deletes them. lol

January 11, 2011 6:03 PM  
Blogger Puggle said...

You need thick skin to be in the creative business.

Mine... has turned into elephant hide.

January 11, 2011 6:50 PM  
Blogger MorneC said...

Hallelujah, he has seen the light!

... and said it so much more politely than "Learn to not give a shit what people think".

I have long encouraged those around me to go for it and ignore their detractors. As the saying goes, "the tall trees get the wind" so if you aren't being criticised you aren't pushing hard enough.

I hope you reap the rewards of the positive attitude!

January 12, 2011 5:44 AM  
Blogger mark said...

Good rant sir... I think we all agree with that ;-)

January 12, 2011 7:15 AM  
Blogger KlauSquare said...

I fully agree with Tom Diakun. No one has the rigth answer to everything. I let the pictures I dislike inspire me to rethink my views, sometimes I change my mind, sometimes I learn what not to do and why, but I'm always a little wiser when I leave. I am grateful for your sharing your thoughts, and I could not walk a mile in your moccasins.

January 12, 2011 4:04 PM  
Blogger KlauSquare said...

I fully agree with Tom Diakun. No one has the rigth answer to everything. I let the pictures I dislike inspire me to rethink my views, sometimes I change my mind, sometimes I learn what not to do and why, but I'm always a little wiser when I leave. I am grateful for your sharing your thoughts, and I could not walk a mile in your moccasins.

January 12, 2011 4:05 PM  
Blogger Leo DeSouza said...

Hello David,

It looks like the negativity really got to you this time. Maybe you should move on from doing these free tutorials. You are very established in the photographic community, so go full time into commercial/fashion/sports and progress with your career. I/we have learned a great deal from your efforts (and humor) but we all grow and develop on to different goals. Good luck sir.

January 12, 2011 4:44 PM  
Blogger James said...

Having found this site well over a year ago, I cannot thank David enough for the time & energy he has put into this place. I have been motivated and inspired to be a better photographer. Does this mean I will quit my day job? Nope! It means that the pictures I take are my pride & joy. That what I have learned has helped me to be a better person. I had an older Canon DSLR sitting around. I tried to sell but the offers were too cheap. Then I ran across a college student that could not afford a camera so I lent her mine, along with some lenses. I also shared with her this website. Am I taking jobs away from the Pros? Or am I helping the younger generation to be better at this wonderful craft?

I did what made me happy! And in the long run, made another happy. I hope it snowballs!

January 12, 2011 6:12 PM  
Blogger john said...

This is a cool post that just came across my facebook feed. This guy uses small cutouts mounted on glass sheets to produce words on his bokeh. May be something cool to pass on. cheers

January 12, 2011 6:16 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

It's a great piece of advice, no doubt about it... but remember, there is always a flipside...

I have a little different outlook though. I choose to see both negative and positive criticism really as kind of a gift. Just always careful to use them for the purpose of enhancing my abilitiles, not letting them diminish my confidence...

January 12, 2011 8:13 PM  
Blogger Michael said...


I bet you'd make a great next-door neighborhood. I wouldn't even mind the aberrant flashes of light that no doubt must often come from your back yard.



January 13, 2011 12:39 PM  
Blogger Chris McCrackin said...


January 13, 2011 9:02 PM  
Blogger Villanueva & Stone said...

Hi David,

My name's Joe Villanueva. I started reading your blog about 5 or 6 months ago. Me and my girlfriend opened up a fashion photography studio. We are now testing with an amazing agency.

As I'm sure you know in the fashion world, people pretty much say you NEED monolights, well... thanks to all the advice that I've found on this blog I can successfully say that's not true.
The lp 160s are very affordable and incredibly powerful, combine that with a silver umbrella and you've got yourself a whole lot of light. All the work in our portfolio is either natural light (rarely) or speedlights.
To anyone pursuing fashion photography. It is awesome to have powerful monolights, but there is sooo much you can do with speedlights. It will even give you an edge seeing as how everyone else is using strobes.

I just wanted to show my appreciation David, and share my personal experience in fashion using speedlights.

There are many things I had to figure out on my own because I was using speedlights vs. strobes and I'm happy to share the knowledge with others :).

Send me a message on my MM profile below and I'll be happy to share.

January 14, 2011 1:12 AM  
Blogger Paul F said...

"If you are not getting the occasional blowback, you are almost certainly playing it too safe and worrying too much about what others might think of your work. "

It was worth posting again. Thanks for that.....!

January 15, 2011 11:23 PM  
Blogger Paul F said...

" If you are not getting the occasional blowback, you are almost certainly playing it too safe and worrying too much about what others might think of your work. "

It was worth posting again.
Thanks for that!

January 15, 2011 11:25 PM  
OpenID vincentvanes said...

This is so true! But sometimes it can be hard to screw the critics. Thanks for pointing this out!

Keep doing things that make you smile :)

January 18, 2011 3:37 PM  
Blogger clockdoc said...

"The Man In The Arena"
The Famous Quote from President Theodore Roosevelt

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

January 19, 2011 10:47 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

I Guess Ricky Gervais reads Strobist as this has been precisely his response to critical opinion of his performance on the Golden Globes show this year.

If you want to grow you have to push at your own boundaries and if you're not getting criticism, then you're not pushing your boundaries so you're not growing, your stagnating.

January 21, 2011 12:51 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Adams said...

Honda Element designers talked about making the vehicle stand out...People will Hate it and People will Love it....that is what they were going for.

The call it the white bread theory.

Back in the day bread was baked and some people liked one bread and some like other they went about to create a bread that the majority of people would like. After you got everybody's opinion in on the bread you come up with today's current White Bread.

It serves it purpose but it's rarely something you crave.

January 24, 2011 8:39 PM  
Blogger ian said...

thank you for reiterating this. I needed to hear it today.

January 28, 2011 12:48 PM  
Blogger ian said...

Thanks for reiterating this sentiment. I really needed to hear it today, as I've gotten discouraged from shooting at all from all the gear heads and people who have had more training than me. I love it and I'm mostly self taught, and I too often fall into the habit of "If I had that gear, or knew that thing or could do that…"

Which is partially why I read the blog, I suppose, but I don't need to get discouraged by the lack of priase or approval or gear at any juncture!

January 28, 2011 12:50 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

This is exactly what I needed to hear.

I just finished a job this past weekend where I set up a black backdrop at an event to get some edgy portraits to add to the delivered photo package which would have normally consisted of standard boring walk around photography. I generally light pretty high contrast portraits and I found they were totally hit and miss with some people.

Most people aren't used to having stylized portraits done where there are clear highlights and blacks in the frame so they were apprehensive and at times critical about facial shadows, hair lights etc. However, a majority of people to whom I showed my photos to were excited to see a different take on a standard lifeless photo shoot. Ultimately, I'd rather excite a few people about my images, than just "please" everyone. Nobody remembers the photographer who lights like they work at wal-mart, they remember those who take risks and inject some style into their work, even sometimes at the expense of your relations with your clients. You just can't please everyone, so why even try?

Ultimately, you just have to be confident because you are the authority. That's why they hired you instead of their nephew or neighbor. The second you start second guessing your photographic instincts to please everyone, is the beginning of the end of your aspirations to achieve greatness in your field.

February 01, 2011 2:54 PM  
Blogger DaveDiLauro said...

I happened to read this post at a perfect time. I am, right now, going through this exact thing with two "students"/freinds of mine that I have been trying to help. Now, apparently, they think they are at the point to "teach" me. Both of these guys have nobody to shoot but maniquins. I provided them with a real living and breathing model to shoot and they complained that she had too many tatoos. "You are sooooo welcome!"

February 02, 2011 10:17 PM  
Blogger Cynthia Farr-Weinfeld said...

Couldn't agree more with this--and I found it just at the right time. Thank you David!

December 30, 2011 6:00 PM  
Blogger Sharon Campagna said...

Very good advice. It's good to be reminded of this now and then.

January 01, 2012 12:09 PM  
Blogger JS said...

"I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody."
- Bill Cosby

February 14, 2012 9:14 AM  
Blogger Dylan Alvarez said...

Thought you might like this post that Chase Jarvis wrote later in the year... When you start beating Jarvis to the chase (excuse the pun... ;) then you know you're doing good.

Congratulations on the revelation.


February 26, 2012 7:14 PM  
Blogger Hurst Gannon said...

@ Mike, Viscara, and others
I understand completely where you're coming from when you say people tend not to appreciate "Free" advice. On the other hand, what you're suggesting is basically that we give up innovation. Someone who is "self" taught; who reads everything they can find; and who practices on their own is not someone who should be criticized. Shouldn't innovation and entrepreneurship be encouraged? Sure, a lot of beginners make mistakes, but isn't that how we learn? If everyone went to the same school, learned from the same "masters", and followed all the rules, photography would no longer be an art. Wrote learning is great for the learning the alphabet, but to be a true writer, a person needs to step away from what they've learned and create something truly unique. How is photography any different?

On the same train of thought, this isn't exactly an economic climate where "anyone can make a living as a photographer" - you can't exactly snap a few pictures with your camera and all of a sudden get hired. Economic theory tells us that competition is a good thing: NEW, INNOVATIVE, UNORTHODOX businesses sometimes force OLD AND STAGNANT companies to go under. That's how democracy works.

I realize this rant is almost two years behind. However, thanks to STROBIST, I've spent the last two years reading everything I can (yet I've just found this particular article). Regardless how many years I spend as a photographer, I hope I never reach a point where I think there's nothing left to learn.

The last thing I’d like to mention is how ironic it is that someone who is against “free information” would spend their time reading STROBIST. Isn’t that what David’s amazing blog is all about?

Thank you David Hobby, we "amateurs" who didn't go to school owe you a lot.

October 03, 2012 1:29 PM  

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