Visual Literacy

//Visual Literacy

Getting Feedback on your Photography

Roughly translated, ‘Visual Literacy’ means a person who can tell you exactly why your image is shit. When you find people like this, listen to them. When you find clients like this, buy them dinner and get them to draw you a flow chart with image references. Today a client gave me some feedback about all the images I delivered and the job as a whole. Tomorrow I’m going to buy him a burrito and a frozen margarita to say thank you.

Ridgeback puppy laying down on green grass

Oh gosh. Life is preeeeetty hard as a puppy. I think I need a burrito

Visual literacy is actually an important skill for photographers to have. We probably just don’t need to make it sound so wanky. It’s important not only so you can critique your own and others’ work but also because sometimes clients don’t know why an image makes them feel ecstatic, indifferent or unhappy. They just know that’s how they feel. It’s up to us as professional image makers to try and draw out of them what gives them that feeling. I’ve learned it’s even more important before the job begins because without this skill you cannot possibly hope to collect a detailed, informed, insightful brief from your client.

Here’s why my client earned his burrito.

Rosie the ridgeback with mouth open waiting for some food to be placed in her big mouth

I’m ready for my burrito. What do you mean ‘dental exam’?

It allows you to see your blind spots

If you’re photographing something for a client they usually know the subject matter intimately and know how they want to feel when they look at an image.  My client told me he appreciated the images most that had wide expanses of space, room for all the elements in the image to breathe.  My natural style however is to get up close and fill the frame with things.  Neither approach is wrong or right but I naturally gravitate towards structure, form and relatively tight compositions.  Blind spot.  That means I need to pay more attention to getting these images when I’m shooting.  Particularly if someone identifies it as a priority.

Rosie caramel coloured ridgeback dog laying down, yawning

Okay I’m reaaaaadddyyy for the burrriiiiitttoooo. Just here please. In here. Mum. In here.

It gives you an understanding of how you REALLY interpreted the brief

When another photographer critiques your work they’re measuring what and how you shot the job based on what you tell them the brief was. But this is second hand information. The client knows what the brief was, they gave it to you. So to get feedback on how you actuallyinterpreted a brief helps you understand if there are any holes in your information gathering process.

My client told me he was ecstatic with most of the images from the job, but two important ones were not quite right because the light wasn’t perfect, and I missed an image. I wholeheartedly agreed. And am very grateful for the feedback. We’ve got another session booked in next week. I’ve given you cute pictures of my dogs because I’m going to do a before and after next week, once we’ve reshot a couple of images.

Rosie caramel coloured ridgeback dog laying down on her belly

Nope. You are NOT looking at my teeth without a burrito first. Nope. Nopety Nope Nope Nope.

Caramel coloured dog licking the inside of mottled cattle dog mouth while yawning.

and… and… and then she put this thing in my mouth like THIS except it wasn’t a burrito!

Two dogs laying on the lawn one with eyes closed.

‘I can’t believe it Rosie, no burrito?’
‘No. No burrito.’

Caramel coloured dog looking straight to camera

Hello! Do YOU have any burritos?