Month: April 2015

How to Make a DIY Light Panel or Scrim

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In an earlier article we discussed 10 reasons why you should consider using a light panel instead of a softbox for your next shoot. In this, part two, I am going to:

  • Show you how to create your own self-standing PVC light panel frames and accessories
  • Share some cheap fabric alternatives to use with your new frames
  • Offer helpful tips on making them stronger and easier to assemble

Before we get started, I want to talk a little bit about the size of our panels versus what you may buy online. There are a lot of different brands of frames out in the market, and most of them top out at around 72”. A six foot tall panel might sound plenty big, but when you are shooting someone who is tall, you are not going to have the area of coverage you need around your model’s head. To remedy this, you will have to attach the panel to your light stands, using an adapter, to raise it off the floor.

The panels we are going to create measure in at roughly seven feet tall, giving you a little more headroom and allowing you to free up your light stands for things such as… lights!

With that being said, while the panel part of this project is pretty quick and easy, creating the fabrics can be a bit more daunting, especially if you are uncomfortable around a sewing machine.

If you do not want to tackle making your own fabrics, you can still clamp large pieces of fabrics to the frame – such as bed sheets. Another option would be to build your frames to the smaller dimensions as a name-brand panel, then purchase the fabrics from that company. The money you save building the panels might even be enough to cover the cost of the fabrics.

Here are the main things you are going to need to create your panel:

List of Tools for Creating the Frame

  1. Ratcheting PVC cutter or shears
  2. Measuring tape
  3. A marker

As far as PVC goes, your local hardware store will most likely have two lengths to choose from. Depending on how you are going to transport the PVC, you can choose between the standard 10 foot sections or pre-cut five foot sections. The 10 foot sections will save you more money, but getting them home may prove a bit tricky, unless you have a long vehicle such as a truck, SUV, or van.

I like to build my panels out of ¾” Schedule 40 pipe. Schedule 40 is both rigid and lightweight. If you decide to buy the PVC in 10 foot sections, you will need three pieces per panel. If you go with five foot sections, you are going to need six pieces per panel.

As far as fittings, you are going to need: (all fittings Schedule 40)

  • Eight 90 degree ¾” elbows
  • Two ¾” couplers
  • Two ¾” slip to threaded adapters
  • Two ¾” slip to threaded street elbows
  • Four ¾” threaded saddle tees

(A) 90 degree ¾” elbow (B) ¾” coupler (C) ¾” slip to threaded adapter (D) ¾” slip to threaded street elbow (E) ¾” threaded saddle tee

That should do it. Let’s get started on the panel.

Measure and mark

With your tape measure and marker, measure and mark your cuts on each section of pipe. When measuring your cuts, be sure to start your measurement from the last mark you made.

Your marks need to be at:

For 10’ pipe

Piece 1

  • Mark 1 – 40.75” (103.5 cm)
  • Mark 2  – 40.75“ (103.5 cm)
  • Mark 3 – 19” (48.3 cm)
  • Mark 4 – 19” (48.3 cm)

Piece 2

  • Mark 1 – 40.75” (103.5 cm)
  • Mark 2  – 49.5“ (125.7 cm)
  • Mark 3 – 11” (27.9 cm)
  • Mark 4 – 11” (27.9 cm)

Piece 3

  • Mark 1 – 49.5” (125.7 cm)
  • Mark 2  – 40.75“ (103.5 cm)

For 5’ pipe

Piece 1

  • Mark 1 – 40.75” (103.5 cm)
  • Mark 2  – 19“ (48.3 cm)

Piece 2

  • Mark 1 – 40.75” (103.5 cm)
  • Mark 2  – 19“ (48.3 cm)

Piece 3

  • Mark 1 – 40.75” (103.5 cm)
  • Mark 2  – 11” (27.9 cm)

Piece 4

  • Mark 1 – 40.75” (103.5 cm)
  • Mark 2  – 11” (27.9 cm)

Piece 5

  • Mark 1 – 49.5” (125.7 cm)

Piece 6

  • Mark 1 – 49.5” (125.7 cm)

Once you have finished marking all of your cuts, take your PVC cutters or shears, and cut out all the pieces. When you’re done you should have:

  • Panel Sides: four  40.75” pieces
  • Panel Top and Bottom: Two 49.5” pieces
  • Leg 1: One 11” and one 19” piece
  • Leg 2: One 11” and one 19” piece

Next, take one of your leftover scrap pieces and cut two small sections of pipe, roughly 1.25” inches in length. These will later be inserted into the elbow joints of the legs, so that they can pivot.



Assembly diagram showing each length of pipe, and each fitting, that make up the completed light panel. Letters coincide with above fitting diagram.

To create the sides of the panel, join together the ends of two side pieces with a coupler. Next, connect the top and bottom sections to the side pieces using 90 degree elbows.

Three short sections of PVC are all that make up the feet for your panel. First, add a 90 degree elbow to the 19″ and 11″ pieces of pipe. Attach the threaded coupler adapter to the other end of the 11” piece, then attach the 90 degree street elbow to the other end of the 19” piece. Next, screw a threaded saddle tee connector onto each of the threaded adapters. Finally, join the two pieces together by inserting the small piece of PVC between the two 90 degree elbows. You should now have a pivoting leg that can snap onto your panel, so that it can stand on its own without having to attach it to a light stand.


Assembly diagram showing how to assemble the snap-on panel legs. Letters coincide with the above fitting diagram.

*Quick Tip*

The shape of the legs are great for placing sandbags on, whenever you are on location and it is breezy.


I have three main types of fabric that I always keep handy. Diffusion, black, and white. You should be able to find everything you need at your local fabric store. For the diffusion panel, I use a white (translucent) rip-stop nylon. For the black, I use a nylon material. Make sure that it does not let a lot of light pass through it, that it’s fairly opaque. For white panels, I found that the white lining of blackout curtains works awesome! It does not have to be hemmed, and it does not allow light to pass through it, which seems to make it a very efficient bounce source. Just make sure you pick the whitest blackout fabric you can find. (The fabric comes in off-white colors, as well.)

The fabrics for the panels can be made by cutting out pieces of material, about 2-3 inches larger than the  4’ x 7’ frame, then hemming them. Hemming is not required but will keep the edges tidy and professional looking.

To make the fabric panels easier to attach to the frames, sew 10” strips of wide elastic on a diagonal to the back corners of each piece. Once added, attaching the panels to the frames is as easy as slipping each corner into the elastic pocket.


Example of elastic strip pocket, created to make fabrics easier to attach to panel frame.

At this point, you have pretty much finished your DIY light panel. Now, I am going to show you some additions that will make your light panel even more versatile.



A crossbar is a great thing to add to your panel for extra strength in outdoor windy conditions, and it can make the panel a lot easier for an assistant to hold and position.

To add a crossbar to your panel, just cut out an extra 49.5” section of PVC, the same size as the top and bottom sections of our panels. Next, replace the couplings on each of the side pieces with a ¾” tee. This will give you a channel to attach your crossbar to. That is all there is to it!

A Bungee or Shock Cord

If you decide to make more than one panel, you are soon going to realize how cumbersome it is to dump out all the individual pieces and sort through them.

To make your life a little easier, you can use a 23 foot length of thin elastic bungee (shock) cord and run it through each piece of your panel. The bungee cord keeps all your pieces together when the panel is broken down, and the slight tension helps pop the pieces into place when you are ready to set things up.

To add the shock cord to your frame, lay out all the un-assembled pieces on the ground and start feeding the elastic cord through the PVC. Next, pull the two ends of the bungee cord tight until the ends of the frame touch each other, then tie the ends together. Finally, cut off and discard any extra cord.

Single and Double Clips


Single and double clips are an essential accessory to carry in your bag, along with your panels. Single clips offer a great way to attach pieces of fabric to your frame, or further secure your fabrics for windy conditions.

Things Needed to Make Clips:

  1. Measuring Tape
  2. Marker
  3. 5’ section of 1” Schedule 40 Pipe
  4. Ratcheting PVC Cutter/Shears
  5. Dremel tool with cutting and grinding attachment
  6. PVC cement
  7. C-Clamp

To create a single clip, cut a 2” section of pipe using your shears. Next, use a Dremel tool fitted with a cutting wheel to cut a section from the PVC. (Use the circumference diagram below as a reference, to produce a sufficient clip.) Once you finish cutting out the section, use a grinding attachment to bevel, smooth, and round any rough edges.


Double clips are made by cementing two single clips together, then attaching a c-clamp to them until the cement dries. These clips do an awesome job of attaching two or more frames together. For instance, by using double clips, you can create a giant 8’x7’ diffusion source, bounce source, or v-flat.

Adding Strength

Though PVC frames are cheap and lightweight, their strength does not stand up to their commercial aluminum counterparts. If you find that you are needing your panel frames to be stronger and more rigid, there are a few things that you can do to strengthen them without adding a lot to their weight. (The only downside of each method is that you won’t be able to use bungee cord to keep the panels together.)

Spray Foam

Filling your tubes with spray foam might be the easiest way to add stiffness and strength to your panels. To insure that there are no voids left in the pipe during the filling process, drill a few small holes along the length of each section. The holes should be just large enough to stick the straw of the spray foam through. Once each section is filled, make sure that it is placed on a flat surface, otherwise it will stay bent once the foam dries.

Dowel Rods

Wooden dowel rods are another great way to strengthen your PVC frames. This method will require a saw to cut off the excess ends of the dowels. A ¾” dowel will not fit snugly into most ¾” pipe. (The inner diameter of the pipe is more around .8”.) To remedy this, try wrapping the ends of the dowels in a few layers of gaffer or duct tape, then hammer them into the pipes using a rubber mallet. You can also try applying a large glob of PVC cement to the rod before placing it inside the tube. Once the cement dries, it should hold the dowel in place.

Closing Thoughts

I hope this article has proven helpful and has made you excited to start using light panels in your photography. If you have not yet read the first article entitled “10 Reasons to Ditch Your Softbox for a Light Panel”, I encourage you to do so. This article shows the benefits of using a light panel over a softbox and shares techniques that will help you get the most out of using one.

Until next time, go out, have fun, experiment and create something awesome!

The post How to Make a DIY Light Panel or Scrim by Joel Dryer appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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How to Make a DIY Light Panel or Scrim 5

Categories: Digital

10 Low-Cost Marketing Strategies for Your Photography Business

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Marketing-logosWhether you already have clientele or are looking to build a client list, marketing is a never-ending task for photographers. You’ve already focused in on a target market (or two), but where to start? Are you unsure of how to get things started with a shoestring budget? Here are 10 low-cost marketing strategies for your photography business:

1. Get out of the house

This biggest thing you can do to spread your name is to be out there. Finding events and activities where your target market may be is key. has a huge selection of groups that host events, many for no cost. While it can be overwhelming, and may take some trial and error, there are loads of opportunities on that site. Your local Chamber of Commerce also has events that are open to the public and offer networking time. They are ideal if you’re looking to connect with local small businesses that may need your services. If your target market is within a certain profession, you can look into professional organizations in your area. Most professions have local and national chapters that meet regularly, and most of these groups welcome guest speakers. Offer to speak to their members about what you do, and how it relates to their work. It’s a perfect opportunity to put yourself in front of potential clients at no cost but your preparation time.

2. Get charitable

Is there a cause that is close to your heart? How can your photo skills help them out? Maybe a local animal shelter could use professional photos of the animals to help them get adopted quickly. Maybe there is an organization that helps the homeless find work, and those folks could use headshots. Make it something that resonates with your cause, or with your target clientele.

Donated Product Photography for African Refugee Business Owners

Donated product photography for African refugee business owners

3. Tell your friends and family

Often just telling people what you’re enthusiastic about will also get them excited and make them want to help you. By just letting people you know what you’re working on, and what you have planned, they will often make suggestions or give you leads. There’s no need to do a sales pitch to them; just tell them about your life and what you have going on.

4. Put a photo on your business cards and hand them out to EVERYONE

We all have some sort of business card, so why not put a photo on there that will make people notice? It will give them something to “ooh and aah” over when they first get your card, and it will be a memorable card that they’ll recall easily.

Color photos on back side of business card

Color photos on back side of business card

5. Seek out opportunities and ask for a chance

If you want to shoot large events, check local calendars or your convention center for what’s going on in your area. Contact these organizations and see if they have photography coverage booked. Sometimes all it takes is asking. Have you participated in a great event and want to be involved as a photographer? Ask them! Having someone help that has already been involved in the event will be a big bonus for them.

6. Become a source

Write articles. Start a blog. Use to start a group and lead photo walks or workshops. Use social media to follow folks you admire, and connect with them. Interaction is key. If they post something of interest to you, thank them for it or ask a follow-up question. If you have a link (not necessarily your own) that relates to something they are speaking about, be a resource for them and share the link. By doing so, you build credibility and create a professional relationship, and will therefore be someone that comes to mind for future needs.


7. Make sure you love the work that you’re sharing

Passion is contagious and palpable. If you’re excited, others will get excited and will be more willing to help out in any way they can. It’s that simple.

8. Offer a free session to a strategic friend or family

The key word here is strategic. If you give away services that you would normally charge for, be sure that there is a reason for giving it away. For example, if you are looking to do more family portraits, offer a session to a well-connected friend with kids. Be sure that it’s someone who is active on social media so that they will share your work if they like it. Also, be sure to ask for a testimonial for your website.

A free sample session for marketing to families

A free sample session for marketing to families

9. Collaborate

Strategic partnerships are much better when you create something cool together that you can show off. Maybe you organize a styled wedding shoot with other wedding vendors (and then you can submit images for features in local wedding publications). For kids, maybe you put together an elaborate cake smash session with folks that do cakes, kids clothing, party decor. Not only do you have something beautiful to show from your collaboration, but these fellow vendors will be a great source for referrals as well.

Strategic collaboration with a food stylist and wine brand

Strategic collaboration with a food stylist and wine brand

10. Incentives

You may have heard of giving incentives for referrals or to new clients, but how about giving incentives to your existing client base? If you do family sessions, you can send an email offering a small discount for booking their following year’s portrait session early. If you have wedding clients, touch base with them on their first anniversary, and then again at milestones to offer a discount for booking with you for updated portraits. If you’ve worked with a local business before, contact them periodically and offer a small discount to book for new product shots, new headshots, or photos of their new location. Be sure to put an expiration date on these discounts to encourage folks to book early.

One thing to keep in mind with any marketing tactic is that it will most likely not provide instant results, so you need to be patient and consistent. Only you can determine when it’s time to give up, and move on to something that will be a better fit for your business, but patience and consistency will help yield results.

What marketing strategies have you made that had great results? Do you have other ideas for free or low-cost marketing? Please share in the comments below.

The post 10 Low-Cost Marketing Strategies for Your Photography Business by Natalia Robert appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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10 Low-Cost Marketing Strategies for Your Photography Business 10

Categories: Digital

How to Make a Triptych in Lightroom

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Lightroom print module triptych

It seems that the majority of photos we see online or in print are presented individually. But if you have several strong images on a related theme, you may be able to create a stronger presentation by placing them together.

The triptych – three images laid out side by side – is a traditional way of doing this. While there is no way of creating a triptych in Lightroom’s Develop module, it’s easy to do in the Print module. It’s a simple procedure and saves you having to leave Lightroom to create the triptych in Photoshop. Then you can either print it directly from Lightroom, or export it as JPEG file to use in a photo book or upload to a photo sharing website like Flickr.

Here’s how to make a triptych in Lightroom

Step #1 – Create a collection of the photos for the triptych

Go to the Grid View in the Library module and create a new Collection containing the photos you want to use in the triptych. The photos should be the same orientation and aspect ratio. Click and drag to arrange them in the desired order.

Lightroom print module triptych

Step #2 – Setup in the Print module

Go to the Print module, click the Page Setup button and make sure the paper orientation is set to landscape. Then go to the Template Browser panel and select the Triptych template from the Lightroom Templates list.

Lightroom print module triptych

Step #3 – Crop images correctly

For some reason Lightroom crops the photos to square format and arranges them vertically, so you need to change that. Go to the Image Settings panel and uncheck the Zoom to Fill box. Then go to the Layout panel and, under Page Grid, set Rows to 1 and Columns to 3, and untick the Keep Square box. It will look something like this:

Lightroom print module triptych

Step #4 – Show guides

To see how the layout is created, go to the Guides panel and tick the Show Guides box. The screen shot below shows the Margins and Gutters (light grey, indicating the three column and one row layout) and the Image Cells (black).

Lightroom print module triptych

Step #5 – Size images

Return to the Layout panel and move the Height slider under Cell Size right to increase the size of the Image Cells. All three are adjusted together – you cannot make adjust them individually. You can also adjust the left and right margins to increase the space around the three photos.

Lightroom print module triptych

Step #6 – View without guides

Return to the Guides panel and uncheck the Show Guides box to view the photos without any guides. This makes it easier to see whether you have the right amount of spacing between images.

Lightroom print module triptych

Step #7 – Save your print layout

Lightroom print module triptychClick the Create Saved Print button at the top of the Content window and give the print a name in the Create Print window that appears. The print is saved inside the Collection of your choice, and marked by a printer icon. Now you can leave the print and come back to it later without losing any of your work. To export the triptych as a JPEG file simply click the Print to File button under the right-hand panels.

Other options

You can use the same template to create a diptych by setting Rows to 1 and Columns to 2, like so:

Lightroom print module triptych

If you set Rows to 1 and Columns to 5 you can lay out five images side by side like this:

Lightroom print module triptych

You can also explore the other templates in the Print module for alternative layouts. How do you use the Print module for laying out your photos? Please let us know in the comments.

The Mastering Lightroom Collection

Mastering Lightroom ebooksMy Mastering Lightroom ebooks will help you get the most out of Lightroom 4 and Lightroom 5. They cover every aspect of the software from the Library module through to creating beautiful images in the Develop module. Please click the link to learn more or buy.

The post How to Make a Triptych in Lightroom by Andrew S. Gibson appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

7 Tips to Take Better Family Photos

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Regardless of the type of photographer you are, family photos are among the most important pictures you’ll ever take. Here are some things to keep in mind.

#1 – Make sure the family is prepared


Even if it’s a few emails, a phone call, or an in person meeting at a coffee shop, have a consultation with the family at some point before the shoot. Address things like what the family will wear (use a service like Pinterest to create a board for the family to look at for suggestions on how they might dress), what time of day would be the best for them, and what they’re looking to get out of the shoot (i.e., candids, headshots, or a holiday card).

Send out an email a day or two before their appointment with the time, date, and place of the session. Provide a checklist reminding them to make sure the kids are fed and they pack any essentials with them. Depending on the season, your checklist will change (e.g., knit hat reminders in winter and sunscreen and water it the summer). A family shoot will never go perfectly, but by making sure the family is prepared, you can maximize the likelihood that things will go as smoothly as possible.

#2 – Become friends with the kids (bribery is underrated)


Young or old, everyone loves little gifts. Stop by the Dollar Store before your next shoot and pick up some bubbles, a baseball, stickers or a tiny stuffed animal. If it’s autumn, stop by a farm market and a grab a small pumpkin. Summer? Grab a bunch of wildflowers. These tiny gestures will take some pressure off the parents, gain you points with the kids, and have the added benefit of making the pictures more fun and interesting. It’s a win – win.

#3 – Let parents play with their kids

This is when the magic happens. If you let the parents be who they are and more importantly, let kids be kids, the pictures will start to fall into your lap. Facial expressions on both the parents and children will be authentic and genuine. Smiles will come more easily, and your job is just to capture the moment.


#4 – Provide direction

Don’t be afraid to move the parents around and tell them where they need to be. Even if you’re just casually photographing your neighbor’s family, you’re the professional and people will listen. If a location isn’t working or the light is poor in a certain area, suggest an alternative in a positive way. Say something like, “Why don’t we try moving into that large open shade area by that tree, it will give us a break from this heavy sun”, rather than, “The light is horrible here, let’s move”.

Relying on the parents to direct their kids can make your job a lot easier too. A little boy will listen to his mom who tells him to hug his sister over a stranger that he just met.


#5 Make everyone feel comfortable

Most people feel awkward having a camera pointed at them. Keep the conversation positive and periodically tell everyone how great the pictures are looking. You can even show them a few shots along the way. Your enthusiasm and excitement for what you’re seeing will put everyone at ease and make your job much easier.


#6 – Improvise

The night before the shoot I’m usually scouring Google for “family photo tips” or pulling the “How to Pose Children” books off my shelf. Preparation is essential. But photographing a family is a mixture of luck and skill, and when you’re in the thick of it and things aren’t going as planned, you’re going to have to improvise. Kids won’t sit still? Pop on a telephoto lens, back off and let them run around a bit. You might be surprised at the photos you get when you’re forced to do what wasn’t planned.


#7 – Embrace the outtakes

As photographers we want every photo to be a masterpiece – perfect light, natural expressions, everyone looking at the camera. But sometimes the best photos that you wind up taking are the most ridiculous — a boy with his hand up his nose, a brother embracing his crying sister, or one sibling looking at the other with a crazy face. Don’t stop shooting just because the kids aren’t cooperating for a moment, or the parents are chasing them around. Sometimes these situations can lend to the funniest and most memorable shots.


We all wear different hats as photographers. One of these days, you’ll be asked to do family photos. Keep these tips in mind and you’ll be one step ahead.

Please share your comments and any other suggestions below.

The post 7 Tips to Take Better Family Photos by Joe Turic appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

Constructive Photography Critique: How to Give and Receive with Grace

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I’ve been in a funk lately. Just a little……off. Like I often hear other people do, I blamed it on the weather and assumed it would pass. A month later and it still hadn’t budged. This wasn’t the snow or the cold, yet completely normal, temperatures—it wasn’t even my kids who have been relatively low maintenance lately (all things considered).

There was only one thing left to do before I took complete stock of my life and started looking into some serious therapy or, dare I even consider, enroll in a yoga class, and that was to bug my husband about it: “What’s wrooooong with me? Why am I sooooooooo cranky? Why don’t you tell me I’m pretty and feed me cookies anymore?” His reply was: a) “I do tell you you’re pretty and you know where we keep the cookies”, and b) “well, you’ve taken some pretty harsh blows lately.”


He was right. I have had more than a lions share of un-constructive criticism tossed my way these last few months. I consider myself to be fairly good at rolling with the punches. I accepted a long time ago that not everyone is going to like me; no matter how badly I want to invite them over to my house and tell them they are pretty and feed them cookies and convince them to. And not everyone is going to like my photography. I can deal with those things—I really can.

Like many of you, I saw early on that photography strikes so many chords with people, it’s very easy to get an internet debate going between total strangers about whether a random image is good or not. Whether or not it’s strong, if it’s beautiful, and the one that people seem to get hung-up on the most – if it’s correct or not. I have never heard talk of someone using the wrong paint strokes on a canvas. I’ve never walked into a debate over a songwriter using the wrong chords on his original music. I’ve never watched the internet get excited about the exact one proper way to throw pottery. But photography…photography is different with its mathematical magic and scientific reasoning. Photography is the one art that seems to have that one perfect right way.


We will never all agree on that one right way though. It wasn’t long ago I was reading about a photography trend of the “in-between-shots”, which it turns out, I had been doing for years, I just had been calling them “out of focus shots.” So if even focus is subjective, how can we possibly come together on all the other pieces of our craft? We can’t. What we can do however, is be better for our peers and ourselves by being open to other viewpoints, and being better critics and brave receivers. This comes by giving and receiving constructive feedback, emphasis on the constructive part.

Kind criticisms can be helpful—both offering them to other photographers and being willing to hear them ourselves. I know the internet is never going to be a place where I can post an image and expect nothing but rainbows and sugarcanes of encouragement and praise to come my way, but I have to believe it can be better than what I have personally seen lately.


Here are three questions I ask myself each time I get feedback, whether requested or not:

1) Am I really wanting other people’s opinions of this image?

Am I really? Because the truth is that there are some images we don’t need feedback on. Either they are just very special to us, are personal, or our client loved them, and for whatever reason, we don’t feel the need to hear what a friend or stranger may have to say about them.

If you find yourself in this situation where unrequested feedback has fallen in your lap over a photo you don’t need or want feedback for, move on. It’s not your job to validate the comment or engage in debate if you didn’t request it. They said what they needed to say, and what a wonderful gift you gave them of allowing them the space to say it.

If however, you have found yourself receiving feedback you asked for and decided that you actually don’t want, be honest! There is nothing wrong with saying, “I guess I wasn’t as ready to hear feedback as I thought I was.” There is no shame in not being interested in criticism, or in thinking others would enjoy your work more.


2) Is it helpful?

One of the most frustrating things about photography is that there are no redos. You can reshoot anything until kingdom come, but it won’t be the exact moment it was before. So, while nitpicking over a single image, all things considered, will not likely help that photograph, hearing feedback about things in general can possibly help you the next time. Can you take what they are saying and apply it? Can you rework the image in post-production to be stronger? Is there a lesson somewhere to be had in the feedback you are getting?

“You asked for it, you got it!” moments can sometimes be humbling. Remember—it’s not a reflection of you, your character, or your very soul. For as passionate as we can be about photography, for as much as we live and breathe it, criticism is just words on a page or in the air, about a piece of paper or part of a screen that somehow came from your camera. These words cannot eat you, or make you spontaneously combust, even though sometimes it can feel that way.


3) Is it really about my image?

Some people just need to share their opinion. I get that—I have a tendency to be an over-sharer myself. In this time of social media, we over-sharers forget that not everyone cares what we had for breakfast. Not everyone is interested in knowing that when I’m stressed, I get whiny and want to be fed cookies.

Really look at the feedback you received. If it feels off, or truly doesn’t make sense or seem helpful in any way, consider that it’s not about you. The feedback you received is maybe related to a battle you know nothing about, that somehow got caught-up in the vortex of sequences and ended up under your image because it needed a place to land.

I’m not a big fan of people saying, “it’s not personal, it’s business.” This “business” has taken from my personal life every chance it got. Photography has made me friends and taken my sleep. It’s taught me about beauty and kept me away from my family. You bet it’s personal! But that’s exactly the thing—the image is personal. It gets to be as personal as you want. The feedback however? That’s just business.


A photographic community only works if people participate. There was a time when I was desperate for feedback of my work—a time when I truly wanted to learn and needed people more experienced to be willing to share their knowledge and skills with me. What power we are giving people when we ask for this! If I could do anything, besides teach the world to sing in perfect harmony, I would create a kinder internet. An internet that remains the most helpful source in the world, something that brings us all together, but isn’t so darn mean. I believe with all my unicorn believing ways that this is possible, and that being kind is the first step to being a respected member of any community. Giving constructive criticism is almost as hard as receiving it.

Here are three questions I ask myself before I offer feedback to another photographer:

1) Is it helpful?

It does no good for me to simply tell someone “nice image”. While a pat on the back is always great, enough of them and you’ll just push the person right over. If someone has truly asked for thoughts or a response to their image, is what I am about to tell them helpful? Can they use it going forward? Could it be taken as condescending or hurtful, or am I showing the proper respect? Just because someone asked for my opinion (or the opinion of the internet at large), doesn’t mean I have to be rude about it. Remember that it does take a bit of courage to share your very personal work with the world and though unspoken, I think a photographic community works best when the rule is – to above all else be kind.


2) Is it balanced?

Does my comment also offer encouragement along with any negative elements I’ve mentioned? Have I pointed out something that was done well, so it’s clear that I invested more than a brief second before I spoke my thoughts for the world to see? I can hear some of you now saying, “it’s not my job to tell them it’s good—they wanted honesty!” To you I say, honesty can still be kind. You don’t have to reassure anyone or lie about your feelings to be honest. One of my all-time favorite quotes:

“Be an encourager. The world has plenty of critics already.” – Dave Willis


3) Am I okay with this being the only thing someone has ever heard me say?

When you comment on the internet, it is usually read by people you don’t even know. Possibly hundreds or thousands of them. The world does not know that I try my hardest to be a decent human being, but sometimes my mouth gets away from me. The world doesn’t know that my passion can sometimes come across as overbearing. The person requesting feedback doesn’t likely even know who I am. So if what I am about to offer is the only thing anyone could ever attach to my name, am I okay with that? Have I been fair? Have I been helpful? Have I been kind? I would rather be completely forgotten than permanently attached to a unnecessary comment that I wrote in haste or worse yet, an unhelpful comment that I wrote out of spite.


Do you leave comments on images? Do you post your images and ask for feedback? What are your thoughts?

The post Constructive Photography Critique: How to Give and Receive with Grace by Lynsey Mattingly appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Constructive Photography Critique: How to Give and Receive with Grace 25

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