Every profession, from photography to biology, has a group of individuals who know best about all subjects and circumstances. These people are the quickest to offer criticism to your project under the guise of mentoring, if you ask for help or honest feed back. They gleefully find any fault in your project and loudly denouce your decisions, yet rarely praise you. They are poison and should be avoided or better yet ignored. In the photography field, I call them fauxtographers.
Fauxtographers live comfortably in social media because social media makes it very easy to criticize another person as there is no face-to-face interaction. Fauxtographers are often insecure about their own abilities and think the best way to build themselves up is to tear someone else down. When confronted, they become indignant because, after all, they were only offering their opinion. They often have the loudest voices and sometimes have minions who are quick to support them.
Concert fauxtographers think everything should fit inside a preconceived box labeled What-makes-a-great-concert-photo. They’ve invented catchphrases like ‘mic mouth’, ‘eye hand’ and cry foul when a guitar head (or another other instrument) is cropped from a photo. They love high contrast/high clarity images, bright colors and pinsharp photos. They want every image to be the same. Any images that falls outside these parameters are considered bad. Unfortunately, the final images they love are predicable, boring and forgettable.
Photography, concert or otherwise, is about capturing a moment. Photographers should capture moments then refine the moment through the editing process. Some moments are discarded but the ones that are chosen should be treasured because it is a reflection of both the photographer and the person in the image. The more images you capture, the easier it becomes to find your own style of refinement.
As I’ve said before, concert photography is a tricky gig. It’s a game between me, the other photographers in the pit, the lighting guy, the musicians, the fans, the security, and the equipment on the stage. Split second decisions are made often in less than ideal circumstances. It’s exhilarating, intimidating, at times frustrating, but extremely rewarding. What I capture can be (and should be) different from what the guy next to me captures. That’s what makes photography so exciting! Every photographer has a unique point of view and that uniqueness should be celebrated!
As a professional concert photographer, I often cringe when other photographers ask for creative criticism on social media. I cringe, not because people are asking for feedback, because everyone needs feedback, but because the person asking is the wrong way. More often than not, a photographer will post a photo or a series of photos and ask for feedback. That’s when fauxtographers pounce and then try to destroy.
It would be beneficial if photographers seeking feedback would provide details about the shoot. What was the venue? Was there a pit? Were you allowed to move within the pit or was it so small or crowded that movement within was impossible? How was the lighting? Was the singer stationary or running constantly around or somewhere in the middle? What was the audience like? Where they pushing and prodding against the pit (if there was one) or was there appropriate space between you and them? What camera settings were you using? How did security treat you? How many songs were you allowed to shoot?
Some of these questions might not seem appropriate at first glance but without having an idea of the environment in which the images were captured, it’s difficult to provide an answer. Knowing the circumstances of the images can quantify constructive criticism. Another strategy for constructive feedback or advice is to only seek it from other photographers who are familiar with the band, tour or venue. They know the habits of the band or the best vantage points of the venue. Before I shot the Foo Fighters I asked some photographers who shot them before what the best vantage point would be – stage right or stage left. I received the answer and was able to get some great shots.
Getting feedback is part of learning and improving your skill set. But it should be taken with the grain of salt, especially on social media. There are no absolutes in photography except there will absolutely always be fauxtographers who want nothing more than to tear you down. Don’t let them. Create your own style and run with it. You are meant to be unique and unforgettable.