How to give feedback

With effective feedback your photographer learns more about your needs and can deliver better value next time. Without it they are left guessing.

One of the difficulties is that photography is a subjective media. It is possible to approach and satisfy a brief in numerous ways. As a photographer, it is always a nice seal of approval when a client asks you to work for them again but without effective feedback on the last project they can never really know what you particularly like about their work and what you wish they you they could improve.

As with other creative professionals, constructive criticism is part of a photographers training. That doesn’t make it easy but it does mean that your photographer should be prepared to hear what you have to say. If it is delivered in the right way, criticism shows that our work is valued by the client.

Why is it hard to give and receive criticism?

Photographers care deeply about their work. They put their heart and soul into it and because of that, it feels part of them. The up-side of this is that it makes even small praise feel disproportionately good and the downside, that it makes negative comment unnecessarily uncomfortable for both parties.

I suspect that some clients avoid giving criticism because they lack confidence in their own ability to assess the work of a photographer. That is understandable. It is one of the reasons why they put their trust in a professional  who understands the media. Just remember, the photographer does want to hear what you have to say. They just want to feel you have thought carefully about the work they have done and for you to be balanced in how you deliver your comment.

The Brief is your friend

As with other creative disciplines, photography is subjective but its outcomes are much more than just a matter of opinion. You have a professional background whether it is sales, branding, or technical  If you have put careful thought into drafting a brief to which the photographer has responded, then you have the makings of a process which can have a little more objectivity. Use the brief to notice what has been most successful and what has been less successful.

Unless you have a design or photographic background beware of basing comments on photographic technique. It is worth rooting your comments in your own discipline by explaining why an image will work well for you as, say,  a Marketing Manager, or falls below your needs. This approach has the productive tone of two professionals from differing backgrounds collaborating together rather than trying to tell each other how to do their job.

Be kind. Think . . . ‘How are we going to move this project forward?’

If you want your criticism to be heard, find something you like about the work  and say this BEFORE you move on to make any negative comment. Your comment should always be about the work not about the individual. Hopefully the Photographer will respond by actively trying to understand your needs better. This is the basis of a stronger ongoing professional relationship.

Remember, it is as important for the photographer to hear the things you like about a project as the the things you don’t like. It is human nature that negative feedback is recalled much more strongly than positive feedback so it is important to make the positive feedback really clear. That way, you will get more of what you like in the future.

Finally. Don’t shrug your shoulders and move on to a new photographer unless you have really good cause to. The work they have done for you has been a learning journey for you both. If you have communicated effectively, following the guidance above, then you have made an investment in them and when the time comes for another project they have all that learning and experience to do a better job next time. Dumping them and moving on could mean you are starting back at the beginning of the road again.

You photographer really does want to hear what you have to say so be brave and be kind.


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