It makes me a little bit sad that there is a need for an article like this. But there is, the Internet is a grubby place, and there are a lot of idiots about! And you will, at some point, be forced to interact with them… Photography Trolls!
The thing with photography, as with any art form, is that in 99.99% of cases the ultimate purpose of taking a photograph is to share it.
We take photos to capture moments, not just for ourselves, but to share with others. And we work to improve our photography so that those images that we share will be better received. Of course, there will be exceptions, but a photographer who never shares any of his work is a rare thing.
So, most photographers are regularly “putting themselves out there”.
In the last 20 years the Internet has gone from being inaccessible, unfathomable and niche to universal. The number of people who don’t get online on a regular basis is rapidly reducing. The majority of even the oldest generations now have some means, and uses for, accessing the Internet.
When we share a photo on the Internet, therefore, it becomes accessible by everyone. And we mean everyone. Not everyone will find your photograph. But it is accessible by everyone, if they happen to look in the right place.
I am not sure anybody has ever broken down society into demographics based on how much of an idiot you are… But I would hazard a guess that it might break down something like this:
30% kind and caring
40% can be kind, but can also be unkind…
1% absolute, complete, unforgivable idiots
Now imagine yourself posting a photo on, say, a photography forum. You are proud of it, you want to hear that other people think it’s good to. Maybe you’ve even steeled yourself to embrace some constructive criticism. And what happens?
I would hazard a guess that, no matter what the quality of the photograph, no matter how good it is, the response will be split roughly in line with the split above:
30% praising, supportive
40% a bit positive but with some criticism
29% entirely critical or over critical
1% downright rude, abusive, usually quite unrelated to the photograph itself…
Sound familiar? In this article we’re going to deal with that bottom 70%.
Our favorite people, by a long shot, are the top 30%. Aren’t they lovely! The nice guys in life, they just want you to feel good about yourself and will say nice things no matter how awful your photograph is.
That 30%, the nice guys, are top of our list because, let’s face it, most people who post photographs on forums looking for feedback want to hear that their photograph is good. Or at least they want the majority of people to say that it is good. Maybe they want some helpful pointers on how it can be a bit better, but they don’t want to hear that it’s awful and has few merits.
It is those 30% of people, the good guys, who inspire the world, encourage creativity, and improve the overall quality of photography on the Internet. You guys, take a bow.
Now let’s move on to the rest of them.
We’re going to help you out here. Here’s a lesson for life that is worth remembering – people are out for themselves. I don’t mean this in a nasty way, I don’t mean that everybody is selfish, and I certainly don’t mean that people aren’t kind. But what I do mean is that for each individual, their top priority is themselves. And there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s how it should be. If you’re not gonna look out for yourself, then who else will?
I am not saying this because I want people to have a negative view of society. But in order to succeed as a photographer, you have to understand where people are coming from. You have to understand that people are not, by their nature, out there to help you.
If you can get you ahead of if you can get your head around this, then the online world because easier to understand and more useful as a source of constructive criticism. Because in amongst all those nasty comments, the comments that at first glance appear to be vitriol and bile, there are probably some good, helpful pointers. If you can get your skin thick enough, then feedback on forums can actually be very helpful.
The 40% are the ones who will actually help your photography, albeit often in a fairly clumsy way.
They will look at your photo and they will try to say something nice about it. But then they will also look at your photo and try to criticize something about it. And this is the important thing here – they will TRY to criticize something about it. They would argue that they are trying to offer constructive help, but whatever way you paint it, they are going to say something negative.
But, in their defense, they’re trying to help. And you asked for their help! So suck it up.
Take a look at each comment and ask yourself WHY that person said those things. It’s unlikely, if they fit into this 40% (and statistically they are most likely to), that they are out to slam your work. They’re just trying to help out by finding negative aspects of it. But they will generally be born out of a genuinely belief that your photo could have been better if you had done X.
If, for example, they say “I really like it, but it’s a little dark”… that was obviously their first impression. What it doesn’t mean, and you shouldn’t take it to mean, is that the photo is too dark. It means that that is what they saw. And you should take that on board and ask yourself if that is the first impression you want. Is it?
We outlined in another post (here) how you should always be intentional in your photography. If you want your photo work to be amazing, you should mean every pixel. That photo should be a representation of your intention at the outset. So, if it’s dark, is that what you meant it to be?
Not everyone is going to like your photos. That is a fact. My mom hates a lot of my work. She likes photos that a colorful and where people are smiling, but they’re not often the sort of photos I’m setting out to create. So she doesn’t like my work. Does that mean it’s crap? No, not at all.
Take all those comments on board, and you decide which ones are valid, and which ones you want to act on. Just don’t expect them all to be effusively complimentary. Even if they were, would you be learning?
These are the guys you should start to ignore. You should be able to spot them, because they rarely leave short comments. They are the ones that won’t say “I really like it but it’s a little dark”. They will say “It’s way too dark…” and then follow that with a rant about why dark photos are the worst photos in the world. And if you’re lucky they will follow that with a rant about why people like you shouldn’t be allowed to use a camera.
So who are this 29%?
Try to put yourself in the shoes of the commenter… if you saw a photo that you thought was too dark, what would be your response? And more importantly, why?
Would you say “it’s too dark, you have no idea what you’re doing, seriously dude, put that camera down and never pick it up again… ?” If so, why? Are you trying to crush the original poster? Do you really want him to put his camera down and never touch it again? Or are you trying to sound macho and knowledgeable in front of the other forum members? I suspect it’s that last one.
You should run this thought process whenever you get a comment on a forum, or any public feedback. Because, genuinely, it is so, so rare that a person giving you a rude and rambling criticism is doing it to help you or because they are thinking about you. They’re doing it for themselves, and nothing else.
The problem is, and the thing that that 29% guy didn’t realize, is that it took some guts to put yourself out there right? There was a moment before you hit send when you hesitated, thought about deleting the post and forgetting the whole plan. I know the feeling. We all have that feeling.
But then an opportunity to make fun of the guy baring his soul pops up and the forum-jocks sense weakness… and they pounce.
That’s all it is. Just plain old school bullying. Except on the internet those bullies don’t need to be big and strong. They just need to have a keyboard and an internet connection.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is trolling. In a nutshell. Did I just solve the internet?
They don’t even deserve a heading. Mainly because I can’t explain them. They are just totally weird.
These are the guys who will comment things like “you’re an asshole”. Or “f**k you, you deserve to die”.
There is nothing to be said about these people, except – please, for your sake and theirs, don’t respond!
A client of ours posted a video we made for them and boosted it on Facebook. It picked up about 30k views in two weeks, shared about 300 times. Pretty good stats. The comments were great – so funny / love this/ great stuff etc.
And then this one guy, right at the bottom, wrote “you are sh*t”. Not “this is sh*t”, about the video. Or even “your products are sh*t”. Just “you are sh*t”.
I’ve tried really hard, out of plain curiosity, to work out what happened. Maybe it was a teenager, boiling with hormonal rage in desperate need of a direction in which to vent that rage. Or maybe it was a competitor, hoping to derail a successful ad campaign?
Or… how about this… maybe it was a clever reverse-psychology phishing scam, where someone puts something like that hoping that the poster will react and inadvertently let his bank details slip in his responding abuse??
Ok, I don’t know the answer. Some people are just completely weird. Don’t listen to them, don’t engage with them and for god’s sake don’t become one of them.
On a very serious note, if you are experiencing online bullying, please don’t suffer in silence. Report it, and get help. You don’t have to put up with it.
If you’re experiencing online bullying in the US, go here – https://www.stopbullying.gov/cyberbullying/how-to-report/index.html
If you’re experiencing online bullying in the UK, go here – https://www.kidscape.org.uk/advice/advice-for-parents-and-carers/internet-safety-and-online-risk/reporting-cyberbullying/
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And please leave a comment in the section below, if you want to say something. As long as it’s not “you are sh*t”.
Thanks for reading! From the BudgetProPhoto team. x