Self-satisfaction vs. external validation

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by Mendoza, Dec 12, 2009.

  1. Mendoza

    Mendoza TPF Noob!

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    I'm not sure precisely how to articulate this so try to bear with me.

    How much of your satisfaction with the pictures you take is derived from the attention they receive from other people, and how much of it is derived internally? Say for instance you were to post your best 8 shots of all time on a photography forum or photo/art website, and after three weeks you had received 11 views, 0 comments, and 0 "magic stars" or "favorites" or "thumbs up" -- how would you feel, honestly? (I've not done this but am sincerely curious.) Are you secure (or oblivious) enough to dismiss this lack of attention? Or would you interpret it as criticism or evidence of your inadequacy?
    I'm concerned about photography as competition, or appeal for popular recognition. (After all, the #1 winners of major competitions are often the most appealing but least interesting of the top entries.) I'm also personally distracted by comparison. Sometimes I'll take what I think is a nifty shot, get ready to post it, stumble across a pro's masterpiece, conclude that my shot is an embarrassing failure in comparison to this other person, and decide not to post it because I can't bear to follow a shot with 4,000 views and 900 comments by people falling all over themselves at the brilliance of the shot. I'm sure this sounds very trivial, but it's honest.

    Are you comfortable with your own sense of self-satisfaction when it comes to photography; do you yearn for external validation; or if you fall somewhere in between, where do you stand?
     
  2. Josh66

    Josh66 Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Hmm...

    I like to know, but I don't really care.

    Let me elaborate. Like on Flickr - there's that little graph that shows which pictures people are looking at... I look at that every day, but it's completely meaningless. I don't go out of my way to 'get views', but it is a little satisfying that people are looking.
    Flickr is mainly just a storage place for me - just a hosting site to link to.

    Whether other people like my stuff or not won't change whether I like it or not.
    I like to know why they don't like it, or what could use a little tweak, or what I did wrong (whatever the situation might be), but it won't make me hate the picture.

    We all have different tastes, and it would be pretty boring if everybody liked the same thing.
     
  3. Johnboy2978

    Johnboy2978 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    It's the self satisfaction that keeps you shooting. You don't keep shooting and keep buying gear and learning the ins/outs of photography just to get the pat on the back or "atta' boy" from some stranger on the internet do you? I've been on this forum for a while and there is a certain ebb/flow to it. When I first started, there were a lot of veteran folks here who tended to comment a lot, both good and bad. You could generally expect about a 10-20% comment rate. That is, 100 views yielded at least 10-20 comments. I think we now have a younger audience or a least a more newbie audience. It's much easier to click a button than take the time to comment and formulate an opinion. I think the current trend is to only comment on the extremes, that is really horrible or really awesome. If it's anywhere in the middle, the viewer may say to themselves "nice shot" or "meh" but won't take the time to comment for whatever reason, probably laziness. So ultimately, you are going to stay with this hobby until it quits giving you whatever Positive you are looking for, whether that be a paycheck, positive comments, wall decorations or just personal satisfaction. You'll grow much more in this hobby (as well in life) if you learn to give yourself your own pat on the back b/c more often than not, others are not going to continue to do so.

    The internet is really a very artificial environment. It's very interesting to also watch the quality of the posters to ebb/flow to compare the posters of the current forum to those when I started like JonMikal, DigitalMatt and Cindy from Tx (can't remember her nick but a phenominal wedding photog). I think you need to have some real life critique where folks vote w/ their wallets to decide if your content is appealing to an audience more than just yourself. But in the end, would you do it if no one ..... no one commented on your skills. If you were the last person on earth, would you just do it for yourself?
     
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2009
  4. Eco

    Eco TPF Noob!

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    Bingo!

    I can look at 100 pictures on this site or any other site and maybe 1-2 will inspire me to try for the same shot. Likewise I can show people 100 of my pictures and they might ask for prints of 1 or 2 of them.

    Most of the ones that I hang in my own home mean something to me......the memories of laying down for hours in the winter waiting for my idea of the perfect shot of some ducks or swans.

    In regards to what others think of my photos, while it feels great to win a contest it feels almost as rewarding to get feedback that actually improves my skills. Negative constructive feedback is just a way to get better.....negative feedback from people that want to show off their anal orifice skills is another story.
     
  5. KalaMarie

    KalaMarie TPF Noob!

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    Please keep in mind that a site like Flickr is also used for social networking. And with regard to views/comments/fav's: those are in part due to how much networking you're willing to do. How much time you want to commit to groups and to building up a base of "good" contacts who are going to faithfully view & comment on your work.
     
  6. Josh66

    Josh66 Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    True.

    I don't really try to network... I have a few contacts on there - pretty much just people from here or other forums. I'm sure that if I wanted to, I could get my views a lot higher than they are. I really don't care that much though.

    I mean, I guess I care a little. Just the fact that I look at it shows that. I think it's more that I'm just curious than anything else though. It does feel good when people like your work, but I'm not going to change what I do to make more people like it.

    Photography is not a major source of income for me though (you can hardly even call it a source at all), so I have nobody to cater to. If I depended on income from my photography - yes, I would do everything I could to make as many people as I could love it. The approval of other people just isn't a very high priority for me right now.

    Damnit. I had a point and forgot what it was. Now I've typed too much to just hit the back button.

    ...It will come to me later. :lol:
     
  7. Gabriel

    Gabriel TPF Noob!

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    If you're not paying me, or I have not known you for quite some time, chances are that your opinion of my work will be quickly dismissed. A compliment gets a thank you (I can't say it's not nice to hear), a nitpicking commentary (like what you'll get on the Internet) will get a shrug. Cyber-togs - people who post and "critique" a lot more than they actually shoot - like to sit there and tell others that they've burned out a highlight, or missed a single strand of hair in the wind, or whatever other nit they can pick. It's meaningless to me.

    Why anyone would care what some stranger says about their work is beyond me. Mind you, I can deal with constructive thoughts - I could shoot for the rest of my life and still not learn everything about photography - but the fact that my images on Flickr have low view counts and even lower comment counts means nothing to me. I don't really have a very high regard of Flickr anyway. It's two steps above photobucket, maybe. The overall quality of photography on there may rival MySpace.

    Someone mentioned networking - it's true that the more people you know, the more people will see your work. But again, I don't think it's worth the time that I would need to invest in something like Flickr to make that happen. I'd rather go knock on some local doors and drum up at least a few paid assignments. To be honest, I only use the Internet as a place to park my portfolio, and show clients - any assignments I've ever gotten over the years have been through word of mouth, phone calls, and rubbing the age-old elbow.

    So yeah, self-satisfaction for me. And money, and publication. I do want my images to actually get seen, after all. It just means a lot more to me when they had to pay a coupla bucks to get a peek :mrgreen:
     
  8. FrankLamont

    FrankLamont TPF Noob!

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    If you don't look for approval in some way, you are either oblivious or foolish.

    Humanity looks for commendation in some form - always. Self-satisfaction is a necessity in striving for goals, but so is validation from third-parties.

    In truth, we seek minor criticisms as well as recognition for our works, to bring it down to earth and thus 'prove' that the source of critique was not biased in any fashion.

    It is impossible to deny that one would be hurt - amount irrelevant - if their work was criticised dramatically, or even just a little bit. We do enjoy praise, too.

    I think it's a mixture of both, really... we need confidence in ourselves, but shouldn't shrug off criticism nor appraisal from others either.
     
  9. Torus34

    Torus34 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    First, kudos to Mendoza for posting a most interesting question. It's one with many facets.

    One which comes readily to mind for me, and which is at least hinted at in the initial post, is what I'll call the 'selection effect' [SE]. The SE is the sum total of factors which determine the type of photograph which the photographer finds satisfactory. It can be separated into two major divisions.

    Satisfaction without outside input. Here the driving force toward the production of satisfactory photographs is most probably informed by an interest in the work of a specific photographer [or group of photographers], a technique or a photographic type such as 'Calendar' art. The photographer can also develop his/her own criteria and produce an unique body of work. Think of Diane Arbus as an obvious and exceedingly rare example.

    Satisfaction through outside response. The photographs deemed satisfactory will depend upon the commenting group. It's not surprising that the photographs taken by members of a photo club will resemble each other. Group pressure affects the prints made for all but the 'loner', who will most probably not seek group approval in the first place. A simple example of group effect in determining photo satisfaction is the plethora of photographs posted for comment on this site which show water resembling white taffy flowing over rocks. Or those which make obvious use of the latest 'hot' technique in post processing. Again, it is only a very few photographers [Man Ray and solarization] who blaze new paths. Satisfaction through group approval, if the group is highly sophisticated in their perception of what is good, can be a force for creative improvement. If not, it will result in mimicry.
     
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2009
  10. Garbz

    Garbz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Chicken you're assuming we're looking for approval in everything we do. I look quite desperately for approval in my electrical engineering. Photography however I do for me. I have a small gallery which I rarely update, and even that was requested by relatives.

    It always feels good to receive praise from others, however there's a big difference between this and looking for approval. It's akin to someone noticing your new picture on the wall, vs saying "come check this out".
     
  11. bentcountershaft

    bentcountershaft Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    For me, approval of my work (be it photography, music or whatever) is always a welcome thing, but it's kind of like the icing on the cake. My own enjoyment is what matters the most.

    What I find interesting is that if you have something you think it your best and you get little or no feedback and then you have something that you feel is almost an afterthought and people fall over themselves loving it. I see this more with my music than anything else, but it's true with photos as well. You never know what people are going to like, so in my opinion there's little sense in trying to please them. Artistically speaking of course, if you expect to get paid for your work you better try to please them.
     
  12. pharmakon

    pharmakon TPF Noob!

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    For me it's a little of both. I do Photography as a hobby because it relaxes me, gives me a new way to explore my creativity, and gets me up and out of the house on my days off. I like learning and enjoy looking back at my own photos.

    I don't look to others just for a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down", but I do post on forums such as this one to kind of benchmark my progress and get opinions on what I could improve. At this point I expect most of what I produce to be considered basic or in need of improvement in the eyes of someone that has been into photography for a while.

    I tend to take the opinion/critique of a more experienced photographer more seriously than any old joe on the internet, but it still feels good to get positive feedback regardless of who it's from.
     

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