Beware of Empty Praise
Maybe it’s a generational thing but I really have a distaste for empty praise. I really cringe at the thought of getting praise for work that I know is subpar. Maybe I’m too hard on myself but I truly believe one can not advance when one is constantly told how good they are if they internally know that they can do better. Sure it takes an outside opinion to give one perspective but we are constantly surrounded by biased opinions from family, friends and people desperate to be your, or anyone’s friend or wanting to help boost your ego.
Kids these days are raised in environments of constant praise. If their baseball teams loses every single game, they still receive a trophy. If they receive an F on a test they are praised for trying or given an excuse that the teacher plays favorites whether or not they actually studied for the test and truly gave it their best effort. This is the generation who has 1,000s of friends on Facebook without doing the work of actually creating friendships. This is the environment in which people reward themselves with a $5 fancy coffee drink for writing that difficult email.
There is a book about this generation called the Praise Generation that describes today's work environment where employers are having to adjust the way they manage this new wave of employees who expect to be praised for simply showing up for work each day.
Dreamstime gives one the opportunity to achieve real praise. When the rubber hits the road it doesn’t matter how many people like your photographs on Flickr or give you a high five on the Dreamstime blogs. When you actually make a sale you achieve real praise. A sale on Dreamstime or anywhere else means that you have produced a piece of artwork that has real value to someone. Your image is valuable enough for someone to spend real money to be able to use it. That sale means that someone believes that your image will add value to their article, blog or even is good enough that they will be able to make money off of it through the sale of printed materials. This is real praise and real feedback that you are on the right track.
Empty praise is dangerous. It can actually prevent you from getting better and improving. Rather than looking at fellow artists work that sells and figuring out how to achieve that level of skill and vision, empty praise can leave one to the dangerous conclusion that other just don’t understand your work or somehow those reviewers or buyers just don’t like you personally. How could they not accept my work or buy it when all of my Facebook friends love my images?
I know a few photographers who tried uploading a few images ot DT and when they were not accepted they were done with microstock. They retreated to their Facebook accounts where the 1,000 of “friends” they barely know heap on the praise for their out of focus, untweaked, bland, boring photos. They pat themselves on the back and beam with pride as they feel the love from pseudo-friends craving empty praise so badly they’ll say anything hoping to get some praise in return.
Or they concentrate on putting their images in places where the images are given away for free. How desperate can we be where we are willing to give away our work for free? How much is the knowledge that someone downloaded our image for free worth to one’s ego? Out of the zillions of free images available on the Internet, they picked mine! Oh boy! Let’s go out and celebrate! I must be a great photographer now.
Although microstock sites are open to amateur photographers it doesn’t mean that it's a place to find amateur images. The competition built in to agencies like Dreamstime means that to sell one must constantly produce high quality and unique images. Amateurs have the opportunity to learn, develop and achieve high level results and to toe to toe with professional photographers and compete for sales. Opportunity should not be mistaken for shortcut. You need to bring a professional level of vision and technical skill to the party. A bit of self confidence and ego is healthy if its used to drive oneself to improve and achieve a skill set that is professionally minded. Self confidence and ego is not helpful if it’s supported by empty praise and the idea that you’ll just breeze in and succeed from day one. More time looking at other people’s photographs and being humbled by the quality of the images is far better being buoyed by empty praise. Its your peers on DT that are your role models and guides to success and its the buyers who validate your work.
Photo credits: Peanutroaster.