In mid-2020, at a time of "shutdowns" I decided - in addition to my workshops - to offer 3 types of online coaching in the future. It took me a while to develop a concept for this - I finally
started at the beginning of 2021.
Today, 2 and a half years later, I would like to share some thoughts from my point of view, as they have been very well received and I have conducted many coaching sessions in the meantime.
In particular, this article is about the coaching module that focuses on feedback. I first called this module "Portfolio Analysis" and more recently "Your Pictures - Learning via Feedback". Coaching and feedback are also two different things, in the context of the module I actually take on both roles.
In advance: Of course you can classify today's article as self-promotion, for free 😉
However, I am more interested in showing that structured feedback is also useful in the field of photography.This is based on the conviction that you can actually learn via
feedback. This is something that I have been practising in my main job for many years - sometimes as a feedback giver, sometimes as a feedback taker.
In general, feedback processes have become indispensable in large / modern companies, in many industries.For many reasons, it makes sense to regularly reflect on one's own "work results". But what does it actually look like in the field of nature photography?
In my opinion, there is now a trend in the opposite direction. Until a few years ago, it was absolutely common to receive and give positive and negative feedback on specific images in (professional) forums. Today, honest and well-founded feedback hardly ever takes place. On Instagram and similar platforms certainly not, but even in professional forums more and more rarely. A heart or a like is welcome, but if you discuss the pros and cons of an image without being asked, the result is rarely that the photographer thanks you for your in-depth consideration of the image.
Why is that?
I think many photographers are not necessarily interested in this. In my experience, there are often two reasons for this:
1. especially in the "experienced" or "technically skilled" scene, some photographers see themselves very much as knowers rather than learners. I often notice this in the wildlife scene in particular. Here you can get through life with the basic assumption that photography is actually mastered at a high level in all respects and that a lack of implementation ("content"), results, recognition or "successes" is at best due to a lack of time, less willingness to travel or a lack of budget. Negative criticism of one's own image is often ignored or shot down.
A note on this: I personally felt differently even after years of nature photography, as I was very ambitious and upon close analysis after a photo trip I regularly
had to admit to myself that there was always that "one" photographer who managed to go home with THE top image of the day, even when many experienced photographers were in the same place at the
same time. With some photographers/photographers whose work I followed, virtually every series on whatever subject consisted almost entirely of reference shots, even of everyday species. So at
that time I developed the "brave theory" that this is no coincidence and that there is always a large part that is due to me and not to external circumstances 😉 I approach photography with this
2. then there is a second group of photographers: these are quite reflective, but only want to share the euphoria about their own work and the moment they experienced, without facing a detailed critique; these photographers also do not pursue any specific goals with photography. Perfectly OK in my opinion.
My opinion: I always find the attitude of the first group a bit of a pity. My own view is that photography (both artistically and technically) is constantly and rapidly evolving and that you NEVER stop learning photographically. I myself am constantly learning, both in image processing and in planning, choice of perspective and motif, etc. I'm always ready to learn more. I would also make use of coaching expertise for special topics at any time, see for example at the end of my Arctic report from March.
Practically, my online course is also aimed at a "third group" of photographers who share the same opinion and who like to develop their photography. In principle, it is an
in-depth analysis of a photographer's images, followed by feedback and concrete tips on how to implement potential improvement levers. This is done using coaching dimensions I have developed,
such as those commonly used in business coaching. This is also a learned craft, like photography itself. And here, too, I am constantly trying to develop this further.
With regard to photo coaching, I have also made these observations after 2 years:
It is interesting to see that even very advanced photographers photographers book the module and evaluate it as helpful - I would I would go so far as to say that the feedback from a portfolio makes sense for any professional photographer. About two thirds of my customers are very advanced - I would not have expected before. They are then concerned with the finer points in order to to improve the image quality even further. But it also makes sense for beginners to be able to focus more quickly on the essentials.
- A number of images facilitates feedback immensely - on the basis of individual I would not allow myself to draw clear conclusions on the basis of individual images to draw clear conclusions on how to improve the skills
- Now that I know the comparison to learning at a photo workshop while travelling: there are many aspects or levers for improvement that can be filtered out much better by analysing a photographer's portfolio than is possible on location at a photo workshop. I think both complement each other well, as other aspects can of course be better identified on site.
- A final thought that came to me the other day: looking back, I myself should have taken advantage of something like this a good 10-15 years ago. However, I thought that you can get any valuable information from the internet and that such a thing is not necessary. That is theoretically true, but it takes much longer because there is a lot of false half-knowledge in the field of photography. You can save yourself a lot of time here
So much for my observations. In the end, I can only recommend everyone to get structured feedback from experienced photographers from time to time. And if they also happen to know the
coaching trade, that would be even more nice 😉
If you are interested in such feedback, feel free to check out this page.
Best regards, Thomas