I am a photographer, and on more than one occasion people have introduced themselves as photographers. Yay! The more the merrier I guess. I actually love talking photography with photographers. However, I don’t have a lot of patience for people looking for an opening to brag. I like to open with one question to weed those people out. The answer itself is not near as important as the delivery of that answer.
So, you any good?
Those four words can coax a lot of information out of people. I get a mix of answers and I always appreciate a bit of humility. Most of the time that is what I get. However, I have noticed that the younger and hipper the photographer, the more boasting they like to do. There’s no need to brag though. You have the whole conversation to work in how “good” you are.
My favorite interaction; I was shooting a show at Berbati’s Pan in Portland and this kid struck up a conversation with me. I asked the question, and he actually said, “I’m pretty much the best young music photographer in Portland.” He went on for several minutes, I turned my back on him and walked away. Sometimes you just have to cut your losses.
Is good even definable?
Yes, I think it’s definable, but only in a very limited context. The adjective good as it relates to photography is much more vague than in other forms of visual media. Good is subjective. If you think it’s good, then it’s good. Simple. I know that doesn’t help.
How do you know if your work is any good?
Seriously though, don’t listen to your friends and family, and for the sake of all that is pure, don’t give any weight to the opinions of your Facebook and Instagram followers. These people don’t know what they’re talking about. Work hard and put real pressure on yourself to get better and learn more about your own work. There is no such thing as a natural. There are no naturals in the world of photography. Monetary success and popularity does not make a good photographer. Putting out consistently good work and not resting on your laurels.
Well, then how do we know if we are good photographers?
You ask yourself that first question. If you answer it honestly, then you’ll probably fall somewhere between terrible and the best the world has ever seen. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Join groups and look at other people’s work. Sure, 👍s, ❤s and ⭐s are great, use them as a general gauge and go from there. If you need more than that, you can seek out professional portfolio reviews. You should probably prepare yourself for reality though, those guys can be harsh.
Xerox came up with a computer program that can tell the difference between good and bad photos. https://services.open.xerox.com. I think it’s kind of funny.