As Ye Judge...

“As ye judge, so shall ye be judged.” I recall listening to a preacher ranting about this one night many years ago as I drove home from a late night dinner meeting with a client group. The preacher, obviously possessed by some otherworldly force, admonished us sinners about not judging others because we, in turn, would be judged by them.

I got to thinking about that a couple of days ago as I sat here in Maui, reviewing a previous day’s shoot. Trust me when I say that not very many of the images were winners. It was the wind, or maybe the rain, or maybe‚Ķ (ouch, could it have been ME?). In any case, I shrugged, laughed it off and moved on.

I think there are two aspects of being a professional photographer that surprise most amateurs. The first is that we know when NOT to take a picture. I’ll see ten people lined up taking a shot and I know that with my particular camera-lens combo the shot just will not work, so why bother? The second characteristic of a pro is that we can shrug off a bad day and move on without beating ourselves up over it. Sure, we perform a post-mortem to avoid a repeat, but we accept that bad days, and bad images, happen.

Not so with many of my friends who tend to be too self-critical. I see this often in my workshops, where some people are reluctant to share their images because they feel they don’t measure up. Here is where I get back to the preacher.

I think most folks miss the deeper message contained in the quote. It’s not that if we judge others then others will judge us. I think it’s more like if we are the type of person who is judgmental, then we self-judge ourselves into a narrow corner. And that can be a hindrance to our development as a creative photographer.

So, I’m here to try to convince you to turn off the judge-o-meter. Take a second look at that image. What is there to like about it? What did you do right? Okay, so the image is way too dark in the foreground, but is the composition done well? If so, let’s learn from it. What can you do to lighten the foreground while not blowing out the sky in the background? I’m sure you get the point.

As a photographer, I have seen so many images hanging on walls, some of them quite pricey, that I frankly do not like. But if it gives someone pleasure, that’s the name of the game. I personally love Degas, Renoir, Monet. I don’t get Picasso. So when I’m at a museum and I’m confronted with a Picasso, it forces me to look deeper, at the lines, the colors, the shapes. Pretty soon I get a taste of what people appreciate. Not the whole meal, mind you, but a taste.

Will you try it? Shut down the constricted judgments. Open up to new possibilities.

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