Beware of the Keyboard Warrior Critics
Today I am discussing people who seem to enjoy giving scathing critique to learner photographers whilst hiding behind their computer screens. You know who I am talking about, right? Those keyboard warriors who have forgotten that they too started somewhere!
I didn’t actually plan this show but I got up this morning and as I was waiting for the kettle to boil I browsed through the feed of one of the Facebook photography groups I belong to. It is a group made up of photographers of all ability levels from beginners to professionals.
It is a large group and people post there about all sorts of things. There are discussions about hot topics, equipment and training but, as with most groups like this, people are mainly posting their images. Some are just sharing and others are specifically asking for critique or they have a particular question.
What I saw this morning was typical of this group and a great many other photography groups on Facebook. Someone who was quite clearly a beginner had posted an image they had captured that day and asked for advice on what they could have done to avoid the overexposed highlights in the scene.
Well, the comments that followed really made me feel very sad indeed.
People pointing out that there was much more to worry about in this image than blown out highlights and then listing everything that was ‘wrong’ with it. Others were even making jokes at this poor learner’s expense. Someone sarcastically commented that he bet this person ‘was getting prepared to shoot their first wedding at the weekend’.
In amongst these unpleasant comments were lots of attempts at help and advice. Others who saw the post for what it was – someone at the very beginning of their photography journey, putting themselves out there in an attempt to learn from others. These people were giving him answers to his question and they were pitching it at the level he was so clearly at.
But, as a human being, which of these comments is he going to be thinking all day? Which of these comments are going to be running through his head as he tries to sleep tonight?
We just can’t help focusing on the negative comments people make about us can we?
Why do some people forget so quickly what it is like to learn something new? Not just photography either! For example, maybe you were a natural when it came to learning photography and you took it all in your stride. Everything came easy and you progressed fast. You have a God-given gift for composition and light. Lucky you! It can be difficult to understand why others find it much more of a struggle because you didn’t experience that yourself.
However, maybe you then decide to learn how to cook. You have never been great in the kitchen so you are a real beginner ‘chef’. You buy a few books and you watch a few YouTube videos. You start following celebrity chefs and trying dishes out but you are finding it a lot harder than you thought. You start out by making some meals for friends and family. What if, even though they knew this was a very new interest of yours, they spat out the food you had made for them and proceeded to rip every element of it apart in the way that a restaurant critic would critique an established chef?
But you are not an established chef! You are just starting out. You are experimenting and practicing and asking for people to help you. What you wanted was some feedback based on your level of experience and what you got was critique that you probably didn’t even understand. How likely are you to continue to pursue this new interest? And what a shame! You could have been great given time and lots of practice!
What right does someone have to put a spanner in the works when it comes to someone pursuing an interest, or even a passion?
But do you know what? The scenario I have just described with the food wouldn’t happen. Do you know why it wouldn’t happen? Because these fierce critics are not brave enough to do this in person. They like to hide behind their computer screens and dish out nasty, unhelpful, sarcastic comments which serve no purpose but to make the person on the receiving end feel horrible.
Comments like these are enough to make someone give up. We are not all strong enough to take that kind of criticism. Most of us are far too quick to believe that we are not good enough because, unfortunately, most of think that about ourselves anyway!
I am all for people giving critique.
Critique is so important, not just when you are beginning but all the way through your journey. I still ask for critique from others and I always will.
But critique should be carefully pitched according to the level of ability the photographer who is asking for it has. It is not helpful to rhyme off every single thing that is wrong. Starting with just a couple of basic things they could work on is all that is required at this stage.
And as for making fun of someone who is asking for advice. Well there really are no words for that.
So this thread I read through this morning got me thinking about these keyboard warrior critics again, which is unfortunate because I would rather not give them a moment of my time. But it’s hard isn’t it? It’s hard to see people behave like that and move on with your day without thinking about how spiteful they are and wondering why they feel it is acceptable?
There was a time when I used to jump in on a thread like that and call them out on their behaviour, but not now.
Honestly, these keyboard warriors just need to be ignored. Biting back doesn’t work nor does gently trying to help them see the error of their ways. Generally they are just unhappy, bitter little people who get a kick out of making people feel bad.
Don’t give them the satisfaction of a reply and don’t let them know that they have affected you in any way.
More often than not, they are not great photographers and they are probably not at all confident in their own work.
I find that the best photographers are actually the most helpful, the most encouraging and the most inspiring people. Listen the THEM – not these faceless critics!
Just a short one today folks – let me know in the comments if you have any experience of this. I would love to know your thoughts!
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