Depending on your approach, photography can be a communal experience or a loner’s art. When you’re in the early days of your practice, there’s a chance you might show your work to close friends, and they’ll most likely encourage you in your pursuit. If they’re not photographers, their encouragement will in many ways be superficial, and while the good remarks may feel good, they’re not substantively helpful. Thoughtful critique is key to any photographer’s development, regardless of genre. One of the best ways to get that critique, beyond workshops and portfolio reviews, is to develop and maintain relationships with other photographers.
A friend with a deep understanding of photography, both in terms of what makes a good image and what makes a good body of work, is one of the most essential parts of any photographer’s growth. They’ll know who you are as a person and who you are as a photographer, and while they’ll encourage you in your work, they’ll be able to candidly tell you what doesn’t work, particularly if they’re more experienced than you are.
Talking about photography in a meaningful way with those who understand helps you to develop a visual language. It’s not enough to be able to make good images. It’s essential to be able to identify what makes them good, and in some cases, what makes them better. Hang out with a writer long enough, and you’ll understand what makes good writing good.
Of course, this isn’t at the expense of workshops and portfolio reviews. It’s important to see how your images are received by those who don’t know you. Any criticism you receive should be taken with a grain of salt because you are the one with the camera. You decide what you shoot, and you shouldn’t compromise your vision.
Those types of events can be good watering holes to meet likeminded photographs with whom you can forge relationships, and make sure to forge those relationships. It is incredibly fulfilling to have a good group of photographer friends that you can trust with your work, and you can be sure they’ll give you their unabashed thoughts.
Knowing what works and what doesn’t in your photography will help you move in the right direction. Your fellow photographers will be there every step of the way, and you, in turn, will be there for them.