If You Have Nothing Nice To Say…

A while ago, my dear blogging friend Manja wrote a blog post that left me wondering. To sum it up, she had posted a photo in a Facebook photo group and received a flood of negative comments. People were saying she needed to “fix” the photo and do things like apply the rule of thirds, etc. Some people defended her. As far as I understood, Manja herself had been happy with her photo.

Personally, I liked the photo. It was a very neutral subject: a calm rural landscape with a vivid green look to it, and there clearly was a story there if you looked carefully. The background was unfocused in a dreamy way.

So reading her post, it felt confusing to me how such a photo could cause an online debate. It’s just a photo, after all. There weren’t even any people in it. How can it cause such strong feelings?

It also feels confusing to me because there’s no arguing over matters of taste. We don’t all need to have the same opinions about a photo. If you don’t like it, move on. Constructive criticism is fine, if you know that’s what the other person wants to get. Unsolicited criticism without warning? Maybe not always so nice to get it. And who is it coming from, why do they think they know better, what kind of authority figures are they in their art?

I don’t like it when someone says (usually in a matter-of-fact, patronizing tone) that art has rules. While Manja told me her photos are not art, I consider all photography art, even war coverage if you really think about it.

And art has no rules. It really doesn’t. Using photography rules is optional, they aren’t real rules, you know. They are there to assist you if you feel insecure or undecided. Something to reflect on, and adapt at your will.

Not perfect

The last time I said that art has no rules was in a blog post years ago, I don’t even remember which post it was anymore. But I do I remember a comment I received from a photo blogger who didn’t usually visit my posts. He was saying maybe I don’t consciously apply photography rules but certainly my brain applies them subconsciously.

Interesting. I acknowledge that this might be true. But I don’t like it when a stranger tells me a) what my brain is thinking and b) how it should be thinking. Whenever I hear something like this, I can’t help but think the person speaking really lacks imagination.

A couple of years ago, I attended a little photography course, just to see what I could learn. I’m just an amateur and so anything I learned would be new to me. One of the first things the teacher said was that there are two types of photographers, technical ones and creative ones. He added that in his opinion, very few are both. (And I don’t remember much else from the entire course.)

Another point that comes to mind from Manja’s post is professional pride. I love it when people are doing what they love in life and when they try to do it well and are proud of themselves. But I don’t like jealousy.

Just because A is good at something doesn’t mean B can’t be good at it too. Admitting it doesn’t make A any less competent. There’s room for many kinds of talent in this world, we all have our niche.

Posted on purpose – out of focus and I don’t mind

I also studied some Internet Marketing a while ago to update my old Marketing degree a bit. Over here, you expire pretty quickly in the job market if you don’t keep updating yourself constantly with new courses and degrees and skills. (This is the land of free university education and high taxation leading to low entrepreneurship, so while it’s a small place, there’s lots of competition and unemployment.)

There was a woman in my course who was around my age, fortyish, who was complaining about how companies are now purchasing social media services from random people without formal education. Instagram stars and Snapchat princesses. Her job was to create brand stories on social media, in other words she wrote Facebook and Instagram posts all day long. She was talking about how it requires skill to build a story and keep it consistent. (I still can’t believe jobs like that exist.)

Anyway, I always thought it was funny how she automatically assumed she was entitled to do that job while others weren’t. Yes, I understand uneducated freelancers bring down the salary level for those with a formal education in communications. But that’s life. Those freelancers are hungry for success and it’s a jungle. Find your niche, the thing that makes you better, and compete. Stop complaining.

For photographers, it must be the same. I can understand how professionals might be annoyed at amateurs getting more attention or praise online than they do, or higher pay. But it’s like saying no one can play football unless you’re a professional. Or no one can enjoy dancing unless that’s what you do for a living. Photography just happens to be well suited for online displaying. Deal with it! Don’t be jealous, be nice. Kindness always carries you further than aggression.

The rest is mystery

At work, I do some copywriting. I’ve actually been writing all sorts of texts at all of the different jobs I’ve done throughout my working life (I have a colorful work history) and I’ve been writing in my free time all my life. Since I was a kid, really.

But I’ve never been a Copywriter. For instance right now, I’m a Marketing Planner in a sales team. Not ever having had the title Copywriter attached to my name has never been a problem for me until now: at work, the Marketing department seems to hail a young kid as a semi-god. He’s a real live Copywriter, outsourced, and just because he has this title, he must be better at it than anyone else. Even though his work experience must be less than 5 years judging by his age, while my experience in writing spans over 20-30 years.

So I do understand the pros who get annoyed. Even though in this case I’m the non-pro. I can understand both sides of the debate quite well.

Anyway, who knew there were degrees for copywriting these days?! Back when I was choosing what to study, the options over here were limited. But nowadays you really can be whatever you want. There’s a degree for everything. And if there isn’t, become a freelancer.

I know Manja has moved on and forgotten about this little photo episode but these thoughts captured my attention.

Who defines who is the best, the most credible, a definite authority? Who decides the rules? What kind of people comply and pretend they are experts in doing so? Personal branding meets follow the leader.

As for Manja’s photo debate, my opinion is that not everything needs to be “fixed”. Paraphrasing Manja when she compared photo editing to doing make-up: you start doing more and more of it, fake eyelashes and colored lenses, and finally one day all you’ll have left to resort to is plastic surgery. Is that the goal? Does everything need to look plastic, polished, improved? Where is the magical feel in a too-perfect photo?

I don’t have the answers so I’ll stop here.

Enjoy your day!

69 responses to “If You Have Nothing Nice To Say…

  1. Last week in France was the Baccalauréat – the end of high school exam. One of the philosophy subjects for literary sections was “: À quoi bon expliquer une oeuvre d’art ?” – what’s the point of analyzing a piece of art.
    This post made me think of this question…

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I rather like the half focused pictures..and he one with the light stream I thought at first was water spray….stick to your own “rules’ when it comes to either your photography or your life.
    My dad was a professional photographer. He used to “play” by taking photos that were not salable..those were out of focus, or half focused closeups.

    Liked by 4 people

    • They would be salesworthy too, for sure, you just need to find the right target group 🙂 I sometimes get bored of traditional photos and unfocused ones can be a relief, though I don’t do them often. These here were just practice shots

      Liked by 1 person

  3. As they say, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” when it comes to art and preferences. I am more of a technical photographer, preferring realism to the abstract. But I do enjoy out of focus images and I keep quite a few of them because they make a nice backdrop for a meme or powerpoint slide. I find yours very dreamy, restful and artistic, Snow. I say, do what you want!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Your title says it all. The problem with social media is that it promotes a sense of familiarity with a high degree of anonymity – so the worst impulses can be followed through with no impact.
    In general, I’d say that Art is very subjective. In real life, when I see Art that I don’t like, I simply walk away. Never have I tried to find the artist and tell him why I don’t like his work. Why would that be any different on social media?

    Liked by 3 people

    • Exactly!! And what would be the point of telling an artist his work doesn’t meet your criteria: certainly the artist had his own thoughts in mind when creating the photo. Trying to fix someone else’s point of view is so twisted. (Is all photography on social media art? Mobile snaps and so on? If you want it to be, yes. Anything can be art if you say so. Times are changing.)


    • Thank you for sharing this thoughtful and thought-provoking post! I can relate and feel the same way in the points you make – from both sides.

      Just wanted to say I really enjoyed this and all your other posts 🙂

      Best wishes,

      Liked by 2 people

        • Thank you for your kind words ❤
          I currently work a full-time job while doing photography on the side. Like many, I dream of supporting myself solely through photography, but that is a different game with different rules (and strategy, business-savvy-ness etc) 🙂
          However, I will take things one step at a time. Your wonderful site is always a big inspiration 😉 ❤

          Liked by 2 people

          • I feel the same way about entrepreneurship (I would’ve loved to have become an independent translator but you’d need to have lots of money saved first etc). Your phots are an inspiration too! ❤️ Have a great week and greetings from sunny Helsinki!

            Liked by 1 person

    • Good point! Photos can also prompt other kind of creativity, like those writing prompts you see on WP sometimes. Not all photos are about getting the ratio and framing ”right”, according to rules someone made up ages ago (which I don’t dispute, they are indeed pleasing to the eye)


  5. I agree with you and often wonder why people feel the need to comment if what they’re saying has nothing to offer to the conversation. I don’t mind criticism of my writing, photographs or my blog but only if it offers something. My blog is my creative outlet and I feel I have the right use my own photos despite them not being technically ‘right’, it’s art as I see it and my interpretation. I really enjoyed your thought processes in this post and agree with others, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. My blog is a part of me and I’m not perfect either!! Thanks for a great thought provoking and interesting post 😊

    Liked by 3 people

    • I agree with you, my blog is my creative outlet too. If I want critique I’ll ask for it. But you know, I think even positive comments (without any specific feedback in what could be improved) are constructive because they motivate and inspire you to do more, and keep the passion going by creating a good vibe! Too much constructive feedback might result in writer’s block or create an enormous mountain in your mind, preventing you from just going ahead and doing what you love doing

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This is such a wonderful post, Snow. I had not read Manja’s post and I did after reading this and she wrote about the episode with such dignity and beauty. You have captured some crucial thoughts perfectly and art cannot be right or wrong. That’s the whole beauty of it. You inspired me and in support of Manja, I am going to write a small post myself and have photos that many may think need to be ‘fixed (not that my other posts don’t have such photos!) Thank you for this post…very thought provoking indeed.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. There are certain professions or skills that you really need to be learned and practiced formally, in a controlled environment. Like being a doctor. I think it’s pretty important that medicine is studied in a controlled environment and certified by a reliable board so that people don’t die because of incompetence. But photography and marketing are not like medicine. Sure, some people need formal training, but others just have a knack for it, or are self-taught through the internet, or trial and error. Education is important and enriching but not always the be-all, end-all. My mother has a degree in linguistics but it had nothing to do with the job she had for 20+ years in data processing, where she basically learned everything she needed to know from her own basic skills and on the job.
    Also who are these people critiquing Manja’s photo? It’s a nice photo, and this isn’t art school. Those people need to relax haha

    Liked by 4 people

    • Well hey, exactly!! Photos, writing and social media posts aren’t brain surgery after all, it’s more about your commitment and natural talent than something you decided you were goingto be a pro in. Also, anyone can start a business and say now I’m a pro at this and this, here are my merits. Why is that person then more credible than someone else who has been doing the same thing all along? And what’s wrong with doing several things and developing new skills? I’ve changed careers many times too. Have a relaxing Sunday and thanks for your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. You’re right: it was only a month ago and yet I’ve almost completely forgotten the details so I had to read my own post again (and most comments).

    But I remember that you said you’d post about it and I’m really glad that now you have. Quite fascinating, all you say. And I love all your photos, the first three more than the last two. They are pure art, if you ask me.

    The whole online world, it seems, except WordPress commentators who must be the kindest people in the world, functions in this way: slam, bam, destroy, make people feel bad for what they do and think and say.

    Now is the new day and I’ve read your post again. I love your questions and your thoughts on rules, especially this one: “They are there to assist you if you feel insecure or undecided.” Hihhi I can just imagine what this sentence does to a pro. And yet I feel exactly the same. I’m far far far from undecided. 😀

    Also interesting what your teacher said about the two categories of photographers: technical and creative. Few are both, I agree, but I feel I am neither. Like in many things (left – right brain) I fall in the middle: I don’t care for the technical side and I don’t like to invent and get too creative. I like to leave it as it is and only make it more like it really was.

    That said, I love it what you did with your first three images in this post. It certainly proves the point. And I always feel in your posts: you’re far from undecided as well. And who is anybody to tell our brain what to think. 😉

    And finally, just to make it clear: I did like my original blurry photo very much, that’s why I posted it in that FB group, but I was in a hurry and didn’t notice how much the church tower was left hanging. And that is something I always fix. 🙂 That is what disturbed the ‘pros’ the most, I think. Okay, and blurriness, which was intended.

    I’m happy to see that you’ve followed through with this post as you said you would. But you always do. ❤

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes, WP bloggers seem to be the nicest people on earth, which I guess is a big part of why I stick around! 😊 As I was writing this, I was wondering if you’d identify with either of the two categories, technical or creative. I’d still say you’re creative because of the way you post them with great captions and stories, no one else does captions quite like you do! The end result is a very creative type of blog post 😊 Even if you are ”just” documenting.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for saying this! 🙂 Well, photos plus words, that’s creative. Even just the selection of photos can be creative. But photos as such – more like documents. 🙂 And yes – that’s why we are all here. It’s a wonderful community.

        Liked by 2 people

  9. I love the out of focus photo. Such a lovely explosion of color! Art is in tge eye of the beholder. Some get a bit carried away with rules and defining art. All that is important is creating and whether you are happy with it. I agree with you about photography and blogging! I design fabrics, am a complete amateur but people like them and buy them and it makes me happy. I have created something desirable that can bring joy to someone. It is the same with photography and writing.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thanks Amanda for reading 😊🌷 Being an amateur or a pro is a very funny thing if you think of it. Who decides when you stop being an amateur and become a pro? Is it once you’ve finished a degree and started a fresh business or is it after 30 years of experience without training? Anyone can study something, start a business and say I’m a pro. Are they better at what they do than someone who hasn’t gone through those steps, that’s another question. I see it often in translations over here. A pro translator is hired but the result isn’t perfect because it’s not his native language. A native could do it better but doesn’t get hired unless they brand themselves as a translator. It’s all about personal branding, building credibility.


  10. I just don’t like the experts who feel that it is their duty to keep their field (art, theology, whatever) pure by correcting everyone else. I can’t imagine people criticizing a photo on FB. On second thought… Facebook is full of idiots.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Ah, theology/religion is a great example of this very phenomenon! As for FB, I don’t use it. But my pet peeve is people who turn to FB groups for answers instead of asking the servie provider. As in, ”Does anyone happen to know what the luggage limitations are on this and this flight?” -> Why don’t you just ask the airline instead of a random group of people? 🙄

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I’ve never studied photography, but I do know how to make a beautiful photo. And you are entirely right: beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
    Not that I mind art critics; it’s often interesting to meet a true alien posing as a human… 👽 But… Lost in Translation isn’t just a movie 😉

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hahah! Indeed!! 😁 I feel like art (photography, painting, writing) doesn’t need/shouldn’t have formal educational requirements 😊 It’s a talent and a passion, either you have it or you don’t. And there’s nothing wrong with that; everyone is good at something. And no one is good at everything.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. I think either version of the photo in question is fine. Anyone saying you should do this, this and this, is really saying this can only be seen one way, or one way that’s acceptable, and that’s just not the case. Anything can be seen and judged in a myriad of ways. It’s the eye of the beholder that counts. I also don’t have any problem with people criticizing if they want. I wrote a column, and did local political cartoons for a weekly newspaper and got a lot of feedback – some positive, some negative. I found it was good for me because I became able to read the criticism, see if it contained anything of interest to me, and then let it go. Many of them were really, ‘I disagree with you’ comments. Some were, ‘I would do it this way’ comments. Some of those helped me hone my work. Others I’d respond in effect, ‘yes, but I don’t want to do it that way.’
    I sometimes post photos I know aren’t great, but I do it because I like them or they have a significance for me or I just want to share an experience. I think sometimes people forget that these are blogs we’re talking about, not a submission to the Nobel committee!

    Liked by 4 people

      • The column was about anything I felt like, usually taking a humorous angle. They used to be accessible online, but I see they no longer are. I think the new owners of the newspaper must have cleaned house.
        As far as feedback is concerned, I think any time anyone puts something into the public realm, pros or amateurs, praise or criticism might follow, and that’s OK. WordPress tends to be an encouraging platform, which is nice, but there will always be some who have a contrary view. The tricky bit is, what I might shrug off could be devastating to someone else. Personally, I tend to respond to posts I like and if I don’t like something, I just don’t respond. I wouldn’t criticize unless critical feedback was asked for, and even then, I’d try and be tactful. I don’t have a lot of time for those who say, ‘you should fix this and do it this way.’ Who put them in charge?

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yes, who put them in charge?
          The more I think about it though, I must admit that at work I feel a bit different about feedback and critique than on my personal blog. At work I actually want feedback, ask for it, and often feel I don’t get enough of it. It would help me improve and see things from a different perspective. But I’m talking about internal feedback from sources whose opinion I trust and value. I still wouldn’t want unsolicited feedback from random strangers whose backgrounds and intentions are unknown to me.
          Interesting to hear about your column! Did you publish photos too?

          Liked by 1 person

          • No photos back then. It’s mostly since I moved to Hawaii that I’ve been doing more of that. I know what you mean about the different sources of feedback. I think, over the years doing my column, I developed a thicker skin (and it used to be very thin indeed when I started out) so criticism bothered me less and less. Some I found helpful, some neither here nor there, and some I found I could just ignore very quickly. I’m sure it varies from person to person what is and isn’t OK for them.

            Liked by 1 person

  13. That’s why I rarely post on Facebook. It’s full of hatred and jealousy. Even if you do nothing wrong, they will find a way to criticise you. Photography, or art in general, is liberal and if they don’t like the work, they can just skip it. It’s rude to insult someone who they even barely know. For me, there is no standard for a beautiful photo. I don’t understand all these rules and technical stuff 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  14. Ah, and I wish those comments were from real pros. I don’t know the people and the group though. But generally I find as a perfect place to pour out one’s frustrations. I thought it only happens in Russian internet, but I see it more everywhere now.
    The pros don’t bother a lot to criticize. But those who consider themselves so – they so.
    In short, I find people who succeed in life are more prompt to support. Those who feel unlucky are faster at sharing negativity and calling it “my personal opinion” 😆

    Liked by 3 people

  15. Thought-provoking post, Snow! Art indeed has no rules. If art was like science with a set of rules, we wouldn’t have so many creations in music, art, movies, photos etc. I went over to Manja’s blog to check the photo, and it’s beautiful. I don’t see any reason to criticize anyone’s perspective of capturing a subject with their cameras. It’s their perspective that makes it interesting and original after all!

    Liked by 3 people

    • You are so right, Pooja! Isn’t it the craziest thing?! Why should everything be uniform? Enjoy your weekend 🌻🌻🌻🌻 – over here it’s sunny and pleasant, around 20C so just nice, not too hot! (Although I was a bit cold in the morning! Now it’s okay 🤣)

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I really don’t understand why people feel the need to provide negative commentary. I also see photography as an art form. My photos run the gamut of styles and sometimes I love to change up the colors and can love 20 versions of the same photo. lol. I think if you aren’t doing it for a job (ie-being paid to please another person) then it should really be about if you love the photo. And if you love it, it’s likely that someone else out there will as well. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  17. I am always puzzled when people start discussing somebody’s photo without being asked. Who do they think they are? 🙂 All these groups have been created to have fun. If you don’t like a picture, well, don’t ‘like’ it and move on. If ‘the pros’ get annoyed, they should create a closed group and annoy each other there. Real ‘pros’, who are worth something, are generally very polite ( customer service is important when you are making a living).
    Thank you for the interesting post!

    Liked by 3 people

  18. This is a great post with a great message. I couldn’t agree with you more and I think that one idea from the class would have stuck with me as well: the existence of creative and technical artists, and the fact that they probably won’t overlap. I love Manja’s photography. She has a wonderful eye for a scene, and is very brave about trying things out and posting them, even when she isn’t sure yet how she feels about the photo. My life is richer because of her photos.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I agree about Manja’s photo posts 😊 Thank you for your kind and thoughtful comment! As for photography, it’s the same in other areas of life, too. Take commercial website design: those who code aren’t the ones who know how to design its navigation for shoppers or visual look for the brand…

      Liked by 1 person

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