Michael Sasser Talks About Dealing With Negativity in the Photo Industry

Many of you, like myself, have gone through the journey of putting yourself out there as a creative. It’s a part of the territory that goes into showing people your work: whether that’s having an Instagram profile and networking, or opening up a YouTube channel. Some of us may go even further and begin teaching and becoming a person that others go to for information about our craft.

In my own journey, I was warned that I’ll never escape horrible comments from people who don’t have anything better to do than to try to tear people down. Eventually, no matter what it was, it was impossible to escape the odd comment here and there that fit that description. Unfortunately, this is just a reality we have to accept in our industry. Even writing for photography blogs, we saw them in moderation where quite a few adults could not control themselves and act like decent humans. With that being said, there were also quite a few great ones, but it’s always the bad ones that stick out.

Recently Michael Sasser made an Instagram story that really connected with me. He shared the comments he received and he started making screenshots of them. Here are a few:

His strategy was was to put comments into two groups: Those who critique as a way to help you, and those who critique as a way to tear you down. Knowing which is which allows you not to waste your energy on those people who only want to see you fail.

We decided to speak over the phone and talk about it in-depth! Not only did we speak about haters in the public but in our private circles as well. Here are a few key takeaways:

  1. Are the haters paying your bills? Are they your target client? If not, focus on people who ARE going to hire you. If you shoot boudoir and a 50 year old man says your pictures aren’t worth what you charge. Who cares? He isn’t who you are catering to.
  2. Negative comments are often a projection of their own personal issues.
  3. When it comes down to success of business, there may be jealousy at play. For instance, they may believe their work is amazing, and seeing someone who they don’t respect as much do better and get more clients can cause them to lash out as a form of projection. Quality of photographs don’t often reflect the prices of a photographer because that is only one aspect of a successful business. They use the wrong metric to decide why someone is worth their rate.
  4. The hate not only comes from the outside but from family as well. When it doesn’t align with their social or moral views, they may lash out at times. Their own personal values instill their feelings toward a topic without taking the time to understand and ask questions. This knee-jerk reaction is unwarranted usually. It also opens up the opportunity to reach out and talk to them about it rather than being reactive.
  5. With boudoir photography, we spoke about how even after trying to educate close friends and family about the industry, he mentioned how some have said that “women shouldn’t need those services to feel validated”. They may never truly understand and that’s okay too. Don’t let that be a reflection of why what you do is valid. Your journey does not require everyone to understand. You can only be available to give them the opportunity to understand.
  6. Speaking of which, fear also plays a role. Their own fear of not being able to pursue their own path causes them to project and judge what you do in hopes it makes their unrealized efforts valid.
  7. You also have to remember why we started, it wasn’t for the likes or comments. Whatever your reason was, keep reminding yourself of that in order to keep going through it when these times test you.
  8. When you really look at it, we all usually receive more positive comments than negative ones even though it may feel quite the opposite. Keep those thoughts in mind and put more weight on them and keep going.
  9. The person leaving negative comments often does so as a form of taking out what they are going through on someone else even if it has no relationship to the comment itself. They will often forget what they said moments later when they move on to the next thing they get annoyed with. So to let it linger on you longer than it is within them is useless.
  10. Even when dealing with clients, negative comments often aren’t attacks as much as they are comments that help them reach the goal of getting a great end product.
  11. People are usually non-confrontational so when it comes time to be confrontational, the initial message usually comes through with high energy that gets amplified when we see it. Similar to what people experience in customer support. They are used to raising their energy to get change. But you can absolutely change the energy of the interaction based on how you respond. This is useful in client situations in particular. It also works when someone is just being horrible, responding positively puts them in a position to reflect on it and adjust their tone too.

Ultimately you end up becoming numb to them or you figure out how to manage negativity in a way that doesn’t impact your drive. Negativity comes from all angles but how we manage it and learn when to expect it can be the key to success.

I hope you found this useful, and thank you to Michael for getting in depth with this topic! It’s much needed. Be sure to follow Michael on Instagram.


About the author: Pratik Naik is a photo retoucher specializing in commercial and editorial work. To see his work, head over to his website or give him a follow on Instagram and Facebook. This article was also published here.