The Mona Lisa Smile

It is a truth universally acknowledged that of the millions of images uploaded to the internet every day, an awful lot of them are rubbish.

We are drowning in a sea of photographs with no beacons to tell us where the safe havens are, and, to quote another photographer, there are no maps either to warn us of where dragons abide.

Over the last week or two, I ran an experiment. I put the same image into a number of different places and waited to see what would happen.  The result was mixed.

One group gave it hundreds of ‘likes’, but there was not a single positive or negative comment about it.

Another location generated a bit more discussion, but not about the image, it was about how I’d achieved a technique, and then busily compared it with other photographers doing the same sort of thing.  Partly useful yes, but not terrifically helpful if I’d been looking for genuine critique.

The point I’m making here is that oftentimes, you don’t get real image feedback from social media, because mostly you don’t know who the people are who are ‘helping’ you.   So the good folks who ask questions such as “which is best, the colour or the black and white?”,  frequently don’t get a satisfactory answer at all.

There’s no harm asking for opinion, provided you ask the right people.  So who are you going to ask – who is going to tell you the truth about your pictures?  Who is going to be brave enough to tell you, to your face, that what you have made is truly terrible?  

I think that as image makers, what we really need to know is this…..what is it about this image that really works, or alternatively doesn’t work, and what can be done to make it better?

What should our response be when someone tells us our work is bad?  This is a delicate thing and massively depends on who is telling us, because the work may truly be bad, at which point you should listen to what they have to say.  On the other hand, the image may really be good, but it just doesn’t appeal to that individual or their aesthetic. 

Another issue is that you might be told what they would do to make it better, which in turn, could turn it into their work, and not yours. Discovering what others do, or don’t like can help you to expand your own creativity.

All of this, of course, has to be tempered with an understanding of who is giving the feedback.  You, listening to it, have to decide if you trust and respect the person offering it to you.  

So to the people asking whether the colour or black and white is the better one, think of this….. did Leonardo ask which smile he should put on the Mona Lisa?  Did he ask hundreds of total strangers what they thought of his painting?  Probably not – he relied on his own self worth, and it was more likely that ultimately it was his students who asked him how he created that smile. 

Author: Diane Seddon ARPS AFIAP CPAGB BPE3* - D Seddon Photography

I am a retired freelance photographer, based in Louth, Lincolnshire.

4 thoughts on “The Mona Lisa Smile”

  1. Leonardo shows the Mona Lisa to his local art club and receives helpful feedback from a fellow member: “Nice try, Leo, but you’ll never get good results with that 12 MP paintbrush!”


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