Photographers are usually not very open to criticism and negative feedback concerning their photographs, and this is evidently seen when they deliberately defend their photographs, countering any comments with whatever reasons and justifications they can come up with. Now, lets not go too far into the entire world of photography, lets just narrow the scope down to street photography alone, for simplicity sake. I often hear many excuses given by photographers, some genuinely honest, some were just blatant lies to cover-up their flaws and mistakes. To be fair, there really is no right and wrong, but when challenged, anyone can suddenly put up an invisible force field surrounding them that anyone who attempted to penetrate that force field will be zapped into the high voltage of intimidating counter attacks.

I myself too, sometimes would come up with ridiculously silly answers to defend myself, only to realize the embarrassment I have caused myself at that moment. Is it that difficult to admit flaws, mistakes, or imperfections? Aren’t we all imperfect to begin with? Why do we have to show others something that we are not? Believe it or not, all those imperfections scream out loud in your photography works more than you would want them to. People who see them, will see, and know.

Here are a few examples, which I am sure many of you can relate.

1) Why is your photograph out of focus?
Excuse: It was meant to be out of focus. I purposely created the out of focus effect on the main subject. Don’t you find all photographs which are sharp boring? Why must all photographs be sharp? Why can’t they be blur?
Truth: Camera’s focusing was slow and can’t keep up with subject’s movement.

2) I don’t see anything interesting in your photograph.
Excuse: That is because you do not know how to read my photograph. You are not seeing hard enough. There are layers and layers of meaning, which you have to think from many directions.
Truth: There really is nothing interesting in that photograph.

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5, ZD 11-22mm F2.8-3.5 and Sigma 30mm F1.4.

Public Seat

Looking up. Dramatic Tone Art Filter applied.


Different directions


A friendly gentlemen

He was so friendly, I went in closer. I think I like this shot better.

3) You are not close enough to your subject. May I suggest you move closer next time.
Excuse: I do not want to go too near, to scare them or create an unwanted response. Sometimes, I prefer to shoot them without them knowing my presence, or reacting to my camera and give me that “What the F***” look in their face.
Truth: Not daring to move closer, fear of being rejected.

4) Your photograph is so grainy and full of noise. I find that very annoying and distracting.
Excuse: Grain adds grittiness to street photography. It makes it look more real and appear stronger. If you refer to (insert a famous photographer's name of your choice)’s work, you can clearly see that he also uses grain to add impact in his photographs.
Truth: Mistakenly set the ISO setting too high, or forgot to change the ISO setting when the lighting condition or scene changed.

5) Why are there so much motion blur in your photograph? Even the main subject is blurred. It seems like your shutter speed is not fast enough to freeze action.
Excuse: Motion introduces drama to the photograph, which will otherwise appear static. Dynamic photographs are more powerful. Again, why must everything be sharp?
Truth: Forgot to watch the minimum shutter speed to freeze motion. Or, a failed panning attempt.

6) Why don’t I see you shooting much these days? What happened to your “commitment” to improve your street photography?
Excuse: I do not go out and shoot blindly. I let inspiration come to me. I shoot when I feel like it. Only then I will make good images.
Truth: Too lazy to pick up the camera.

7) What is the story you are trying to tell in this photograph?
Excuse: The photograph is open for interpretations. You can see it whatever way you like. The story is yours to create and imagine.
Truth: The photographer did not even know what he was taking in the first place.

8) I find your photographs to be photoshopped too heavily. I think that you have overcooked your photographs.
Excuse: I present my photographs the way I wanted. That was how I envisioned them, and how I wanted my viewers to see them.
Truth: The original photographs were bad, and salvaged only through heavy post-processing.

9) I see that your photographs are mostly straight out of camera JPEG. They look fantastic, and I love what you have done in camera. However, I think your final output can be improved further with slight touch-up.
Excuse: No, I believe in straight out of camera only. I do not waste time post-processing. Post-processing is only to mask the mistakes and telling lies.
Truth: The photographer did not know how to use the photoshop, or stubbornly refuse to learn.

On the floor


Squat, Sit, Walk

Legs in the air



In the market

10) You seem to be struggling in low light shooting. Why not use flash?
Excuse: I believe in available light photography. Flash destroys the essence of the image. Natural light is the best way to go.
Truth: Not well versed with flash photography.

11) So you use zone focusing. How about shooting under heavy shade? How about shooting subjects closer than half a meter away from your camera? Don’t you want bokeh in your photographs?
Excuse: We do not need to shoot close ups all the time. And why shoot under the shade? Find subjects under the sun. Bokeh is overused, and boring.
Truth: When you use zone focusing, you cannot shoot under shade, because the shutter speed is too slow. You cannot do close up shots, because mostly the setting is half meter to infinity focus zone. Also, you cannot do any bokeh, because everything is in focus.

12) I only see a dozen photographs from today’s session. What happened to the other few more dozens?
Excuse: I only show my best works.
Truth: And hiding the failed ones. (applies to me too, hahaha!!)

13) There is too much distortion in your photograph, even the lady at the corner of your frame has her face stretched out looking like an alien. That is not good for human photographs
Excuse: I like distortion. I purposely make it look that way. I want to emphasize on this quality to create something unusual out of the photograph.
Truth: No idea how to use a wide angle lens. Just because some famous street photographer mentioned that use of wide angle lens is necessary in street photography does not mean you can simply snap away with one.

I do think that we have given more excuses than we should. I do agree sometimes the comments we received (especially from those vicious photography forums) can be rather demeaning and destructive, instead of encouraging us to improve further. However, if we keep giving ourselves excuses, I don’t think we are moving anywhere further either.

Lets just shoot, and let the photographs speak. They may be full of flaws and imperfections. Let them be. Photography is never about perfection. Art rarely is either. I guess at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself, do you enjoy shooting? What part of photography do you enjoy the most? If you have had your answer, the negative comments and feedback won’t bother you too much.

So what is your excuse?


  1. Wow! Such insight! Truly inspiring!

  2. Robin,

    i'll forward people asking stupid questions about my pics to this article. Well done and i love the photos. Dramatic tone in B&W rocks!

    :-) Sabine

  3. Hello Sabine,
    Glad that you can relate to the article !

  4. Thanks for holding up a mirror!?!

  5. "......I myself too, sometimes would come up with ridiculously silly answers to defend myself, only to realize the embarrassment I have caused myself at that moment......"

    This is called Defense Mechanism in Psychology. Go to Wikipedia and search for defense mechanism for further explanation. It is built into every human being mind during socialization since childhood, also partly born into it. The purpose is to cover up the embarrassment and insecure feeling in order not to let other to see or feel it.

    Very well presented about your thought. It is good for everyone to read it, not only for photography.

  6. Robin,
    #6- I'm so scare my buyer will ask 'How many shutter count already?'
    hehe..will this happen ?

  7. Hello Jack,
    LOL, do you look pretty in that mirror?

    Hello Kelvin,
    Yeap, defense mechanism indeed, and we all have them. Sometimes, I find photographer's defense mechanism to work in overdrive mode, which can be really scary. I guess that borders to the line of ego already.

    Hello Awang,
    Hahaha, my shutter count is even scarier!

  8. 14) What do you mean by "A friendly gentlemen?"
    Excuse: We live in a pluralistic society.
    Truth: I make those grammatical errors all the time, but it is easier to spot someone else's.

    Great picture as always, Robin!
    (There, I just made one).

  9. Hello Santo,
    LOL !! That cracked me up really bad. But yeah, I do have bad grammar, not exactly a good writer myself haha.
    but very true, it is easier to spot someone else's mistake !!

  10. I think you forgot the word bokeh. It's a fabulous excuse for all sorts of blurriness and unsharpness that isn't bokeh. :)

  11. And so here we are again!

    Now I understand much better why I'm drawn to this blog: psychology!


    (no kidding, actually, as you probably remember from one old post about shooting strangers and how fearful I -still- am in doing that!)

    Take care

  12. Hello Michelle,
    Oh dear, this blog is not meant to have anything to do with psychology !! But then again psychology has everything to do with life. So I guess in the end it is all interconnected somehow.

  13. Woooow!
    very well written!!