In 2010 I wrote about a shoot I made using a Range 2000 film camera. The Range 2000 is the embodiment of point-and-shoot: Fixed aperture, fixed focal length, fixed focus, fixed shutter speed. I shared some of the images from that film roll on the blog.
Now I received an email from a reader. He bought a Range 2000 on eBay and, while waiting for the camera to arrive, searched for the topic on the net and found my website. Long story short – He really liked the images and wrote a very kind email in which he explained exactly that to me. No other inquiry, just the feedback.
Why am I blogging about that email ?
Besides from totally making my day that email is a textbook example on how positive feedback can (and should) be given. There are several aspects which make that feedback stand out from other comments I received.
(Note: The rules below are valid in nearly any context, not only photography. Also they do not only apply for positive, but also negative feedback. Also keep in mind that I am reflecting on my personal opinion here).
- The medium. He chose to contact me via email although there is a comment box below the post. I appreciate that a lot. Why ? Every medium requires a different amount of effort. Think about wishing somebody a Happy Birthday for example. Writing on the Facebook wall is done very quickly, just a few keystrokes („Happy Bday“). Writing an email takes more time. A phone call takes even more time. And think about sending a (physical) birthday card…
Don’t get me wrong. Every single one of these ways to wish a Happy Birthday is wonderful and valuable. But some ways are just a little more because they require more effort.
- Giving a reason for the praise. Besides from telling me he liked the images he also gave reasons for that. He mentioned the framing, the choice of subjects and how that relates to the medium of b/w film photography.
Telling people WHY you like something will make your feedback stand out from 99% of the internet. Scroll through Flickr for example and look at the comments. Most comments go like „beautiful“, „wonderful pic“ or „awesome“. That’s cool. But you can be different. Say what you like (or don’t like). This is more valuable because it shows that you took some time to think about the images and have some dedicated thoughts you would like to share. Again, more effort.
- A personal reference. In that email he made a personal remark which underlines the uniqueness of his feedback. He told me that looking at the Range 2000 images in the gallery re-sparked his enthusiasm for photography which he believed had vanished. That one makes me very proud, nothing to add here.
These three simple things can make your feedback even better and increase the impact your words will have on the addressee. The points above apply to positive feedback, in which case the writer just wanted to underline that he is fond of the images. But in most cases feedback also contains elements which are supposed to help the addressee improve his/her work. In photography terms this is a photo critique. The rules are simple and are often called a „feedback sandwich“:
- Say what you like about the images
- Then say what could have been made better
- Close with a positive remark.
I won’t give any examples here but link to a photo critique from US-based photographer Jared Polin, who runs the site froknowsphoto.com. Jared is a hyperactive YouTuber and produces several videos per week. He often does what he dubbed a „rapid fire critique“, where he goes through a certain set of images and feedbacks the photographers. His videos are a good example on how a photo critique (feedback) can look like (even if he does not like an image he feedbacks in a way which is constructive and honest).