Creators and Critics

Creators and critics exist in all walks of life and industries. This article explores some of the fundamental differences between them. Obviously there are shades of grey that can exist when assessing differences between things. This posting takes a binary view which is more black and white in nature.

It can be important to differentiate between the aggressive and attacking behaviours of  internet trolls and people who provide thoughtful, balanced and professional assessments of various products, services, and other types of creations. This article is primarily directed at the activities of internet trolls and other individuals who engage in mindless, hurtful criticisms of others.

All creators must determine for themselves the relative value of well intentioned feedback that they receive about their creations. Some creators may choose to adjust what they do based on the feedback that they receive. Others will pay it no heed at all. My sincere thanks to one of our readers, John Colborne.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge. Photographs have been added to serve as visual breaks.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 37 mm, efov 100 mm, f/8, 1/60, ISO-160

When we look at the world around us the first thing that we observe is that there are far more critics in the world than there are creators. Being a critic is easy, safe and lazy. Being a creator is difficult, risky and takes effort.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/6.3, 1/320, ISO-4000, Handheld Hi Res Mode, subject distance 300 mm

Choice of Life Path.

One of the biggest differences between creators and critics is their choice of life path. Creators are on a journey of courage, self-discovery, expression and growth. They shape their life story through their creations. They contribute by making things.

Critics choose a path of fear, mediocrity and conformity. They stay mired in pools of self-pity and whine about their circumstances. Criticising others creates a facade behind which they can hide from their own inadequacies. They resign themselves to what is, and make no attempt to affect positive change.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 212 mm, efov 424 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-250, subject distance 5.6 metres

Importance of Approval.

Creators recognize and understand that the opinions of others are subjective and transient. They know that seeking approval of themselves and their work from others is self-limiting and restrictive. They never allow the opinions of others to stand in the way of creating new things. At their core they create for themselves, not to appease others.

Critics seek the approval of others by conforming to the opinions they observe around them. By agreeing with the criticisms of others they can create a feeling of acceptance and belonging to a group. Even if that group may be comprised of malcontents.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 46 mm, efov 124.2 mm, f/8, 1/160, ISO-400

Contribution to Society.

Creators add quality to the lives of others through their work. Their creations can inspire, help or entertain others. Creators demonstrate what is possible and break boundaries along the way. They can help us aspire to create a better world by way of their example. They are a testament to the resiliency of the human spirit.

Critics contribute little to society. They accept the limitations set by others, and can be destructive by trying to tear things down at the expense of others. Their world view is one of a zero sum game. They gravitate to the lowest common denominators of human existence.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 381 mm, efov 762 mm, f/8.7, 1/1600, ISO-2500, cropped to 2525 pixels on the width, subject distance 3 metres


Creators are fully engrossed in the game. They are willing to commit their time and energy to their creations. This commitment could involve hours, weeks, months or even years depending on the project. Creators are unafraid to show their work. They accept responsibility for their lives and what they produce. They continually push the envelope through their creations.

Critics sulk on the sideline and throw stones at the effort and output of others. They are afraid of personal challenge and waste their time on trivial pursuits. They choose to bitch rather than build. They often live under the illusion that the world somehow owes them something. Critics follow the path of least resistance, and have little awareness of where that path may lead them.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 30-110 mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 77 mm, efov 208 mm, f/5.6, 1/20, ISO-3200, 20 mm extension tube used

Self-Identification and Emotions.

Creators have a good level of self-awareness and self-confidence. They continually seek to learn more about their personal potential and to use more of their abilities. Creators are aware of their weaknesses and accept failures as important parts of the growth process.

They manage their inputs effectively and avoid those that drain their creative energies. Once they create something, they move on to the next project based on where their inspiration and instincts lead them. They do not dwell on past successes or failures. What’s done is done. Creators tend to be open and even tempered. They strive to make the most of their moments of now.

Critics are not fully aware of their personal potential and seldom, if ever, challenge themselves in a meaningful way. They are afraid to put their work in front of others as they fear criticism. They have a weak self-image, and allow themselves to be defined by the opinions of others.

Critics lack self-confidence and do not effectively manage their inputs. They seek validation from other people. As a result they are easily swayed by the opinions of others. Rather than focus on the future, they relive a small number of past achievements. This can lead them into a retrospective life experience. Critics are often cruel, mean spirited and narrow minded.

Creators and critics differ in their basic outlook on life, with creators taking a more optimistic view. They experience problems as things to be solved and as opportunities for growth. Critics are more pessimistic in nature. To them problems are excuses they can use to justify their weaknesses.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 800 mm, efov 1600 mm, f/13, 1/800, ISO-6400, Handheld Hi Res Mode

The Fundamental Divide.

When examining the differences between creators and critics the fundamental divide is found in how each assesses the world around them. Creators seek to understand. They ask questions. They observe. They separate their emotions and apply critical thinking. They seek to discover the root cause of issues. Then set about to find solutions.

Critics are quick to make assumptions and rush to judgement. They are ruled by their emotions. They cast blame on others. Justice to them is solely dependent on whether they got what they wanted. Ethics, morals or consequences are of little concern to them.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 58.3, efov 157.4 mm, f/8, 1/25, ISO-160

The Daily Challenge.

Being aware of our approach to day-to-day life events is critical for us to maintain a creator role. It is incredibly easy to fall into the judgement trap.

Years ago when I used to facilitate a 2 day personal effectiveness seminar I would give attendees a simple challenge at the end of Day 1.  That challenge was to drive home without criticising or judging anything along their journey. They had to report back on the results of their challenge at the start of Day 2.

After conducting this seminar many times across the country I don’t recall a single participant who made it home without criticising or judging something along the way. Most didn’t even make it to the 5 minute mark.

Decades later I still use this daily challenge with myself. It is one of the small things that we can do to encourage ourselves to seek understanding in our lives, and avoid falling into the judgement trap. Or, at least fall into it less often.

Belvedere House Gardens & Park Ireland, Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 22 mm, efov 59.4 mm, f/8, 1/25, ISO-800

Technical Note

Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process. This is the 1,035th article published on this website since its original inception.

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8 thoughts on “Creators and Critics”

  1. Hi Tom!

    Because of negative bias, most people are prone to being judgmental and nit-picky. A room that’s 98% clean is most likely not to be noticed for its cleanliness but for the 2% dirt that remains after cleaning.

    It’s not easy being a creator and putting your content out there. Conversely, it’s easy to hide behind the anonymity of the internet and bash somebody else’s work. Understandably, this can hamper the creative expression of people who want an avenue or outlet for their creativity. In any case, let it not be the case as there are different strokes for different folks. My take on this is: if your work caters to all tastes, maybe it’s too generalized, too accessible, or worse, too diluted to pander to everyone’s likes.

    Constructive criticism can sting but it builds on your skills and talents. On the other hand, plain and simple bashing kills creativity.


  2. To not judge anything in anyway is unhuman. Of course your first challenge from the seminar was never met. To criticize is another ball of wax.
    I too agree that internet trolls don’t add relevance to discussions.

  3. Whereas I don’t see myself as a critic, there are some points to develop as a creator. To be proud of my photographs and let them stand for what they are: my way of seeing, after observing, and expressing it.
    Very thoughtfull words. Thank you.
    Keep safe. Best, Claudia

    1. Thanks for adding to the discussion Claudia. I have adjusted the article to better define ‘critic’ to mean the attacking and aggressive behaviours of internet trolls.


  4. Thanks again. I love your site! Very Few ( if any ) photogs post pix or articles with 1” sensors and few with MFT. It has lead me to put away my APS-C gear and I now only use Nikon 1 and LUMIX MFT. I’m older and a small bag with 2 Nikon 1s ( V1 and a J5) with some lenses OR 2 LUMIXs (GM1 and GX7) with some lenses is 1/3 the weight of 2 older Sony Alpha APS-Cs and lenses. Results are excellent and I renewed my enjoyment of photography.

    1. Hi Ray,

      Great to hear that your smaller sensor cameras are doing the job for you! Small sensor cameras don’t meet the needs of all photographers, but for those of us that are well served by small sensor systems we have the benefits of smaller, lighter gear.


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