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Dear Over Opinionated Photographer

Dear Over Opinionated Photographer,


I’d like to tell you a story.

It’s about a bucket and a dipper. Have you heard it before?

The story goes that everyone – yep even you – has a bucket and a dipper. Within each of our buckets is a different level of water. For some, it is full and for others it is empty. How we feel; our mood, our abilities to handle what life sends our way… Well, it can all be traced back to how empty or full our bucket is.

Have you ever woke up to find your favorite song playing on the radio? Or has someone offered you a genuine compliment that you really needed to hear? Maybe you’ve opened your email box to find a glowing reply from a client who just saw their sneak peak or had a friend just step up and help you without you even having to ask?

I truly hope you’ve gotten to enjoy some of these blessings in your own life. Each of these are examples of when someone has added to your bucket.  We all need help filling our buckets, we can’t do it on our own.

Our dippers can only add to or take from another’s bucket. We need others to fill our buckets for us. They do it through genuine kindness, compassion, love, friendship, service and thoughtfulness. In contrast…

Have you ever asked a question because you were excited and eager to learn more, only to have someone make you feel like an absolute idiot for not already knowing? Or have you had your faults painstakingly pointed out as if you weren’t already aware that you’re not perfect?

Perhaps you’ve had a “friend” point out that they would never shoot from that angle, or with that gear, or in that light, or edit that way, or take on those type of clients…  ‘But hey, they’re ‘just say’n’!

Or have you ever read a tangent comments on your own Facebook wall or your own Blog that made you just want to curl up in bed and cry… All from someone hiding behind a monitor in who knows where, who seems to think that they knew everything and that it’s their responsibility to offer enlightenment to you. When in truth all they’ve done is  leave you defeated, defenseless and feeling like you have nothing left to give?

These are examples of other people reaching into your bucket and taking from you. To many people want to take. They believe that when they take it helps release a little of their pain. It doesn’t… In fact, it does the opposite. It allows bitterness to fester.

We are all trying. None of us are going to get it all right – all of the time. None of us are perfect and I still haven’t met anyone yet who thinks they are the exception.

I think that we are all pretty clear on the fact that we have room for improvement and most do a pretty good job of self deprecating without needing any additional help. And yet too many are overly eager to offer up their unwanted and uncensored opinions.


You may have had your own bucket dipped out of so many times that you feel like your bucket is on the verge of empty and you desperatly need someone to share with you. If this is true, there is no better and faster way to get your bucket filled then to actively start looking to add to someone else’s. As you begin making deposits in other’s buckets you will find that your own bucket has become full.

No matter where you are right now, contentment is possible. And if you decide to try it, it will open up your eyes to thousands of blessings that are hiding right under your nose. – Lori Smith
I hope that we can all be a little kinder to each other, be a little more willing to share and be a little less prone to excusing bad actions… I hope your bucket can be full soon.


P.S. I would love to hear your thoughts – post a comment and jump in on the conversation! 

Image Source: Frank Heckers for Real Simple



  1. Robin says:

    Thanks for this message. I am finding that some of the photographers that are out there and have gone pro from MWAC sometimes seem a little snippy at those just start out. I think they forget that once upon a time they thought it was just as easy as taking some good pictures with a great camera and fixiing them in photoshop. Most of us know it isn’t that easy but sure would be nice. I guess my point is… it is important to help others and like you said… fill the bucket a little now and then. Once upon a time the over opinionated photographer was JSO themselves. Lest we forget what it was like…

  2. Kate says:

    Thank you so much for this post! Wonderful timing, and so true!

  3. Brandi says:

    I have absolutely been in this exact position. Specifically, the “friend” who is “just sayin'” I’ve actually had to end a friendship because of it. It’s so sad to see fellow photographers that have to put down other photogs for the sake of making themselves feel better. When I view others photos, I try to focus only on the positive. I feel if you tell someone what you LOVE about a photo, then they may be more apt to do that again in later photos, while leaving out the things you’ve made no comment about. You do not have to be negative to tell someone that there are only certain things you like about a photo. I have been downed so badly by that “friend” at one point, I actually told my husband to put my camera up for sale, because I just didn’t want to do it anymore. I didn’t like feeling worthless, depreciated, or like less of a photographer. Needless to say, I rid my life of that negativity, and continued with my photography, thanks in large part to my husbands support and encouragement. Everyone should take a few seconds to say something nice about someone else’s work, rather than a few minutes to say something bad. Thank you G4P for your constant continued support of us “little guys/gals” and for all you do to help us advance our skills. You are truly an inspiration to us all!

  4. Loved this post Leah! At the beginning of the year, I had a wedding client post a review on my wedding wire page that she was dissatisfied with my service. The frustrating part for me was that I had no idea she was unhappy. I talked to her several times and never once did she let me know she was disappointed in anything. So the review came as an absolute shock to me. What topped it off is that she ended the review by saying that she and her husband wanted to teach young entrepreneur a lesson. I was frustrated and hurt because I genuinely enjoyed working with this family and if they would have just come to me with their concerns I would have tried to work with them.
    So I totally understand the concept of people taking from your bucket and feeling as though no one is putting anything back. It’s on days like that that I find myself reading reviews from my happy clients and looking through my portfolio and I feel much better. Because while that one client may have been unhappy, I’ve got dozens more who love me and what I do. Sometimes a little reminder is all we need. 🙂

    • Jenika says:

      I’m so sorry that happened to you, Stephanie. How terrible. On the rare occasions that I’ve been unhappy with something I always go straight to the business owner first. They can’t fix things they don’t know about – and no one should ever hear of something for the first time in a public review. That’s ridiculous. Glad you kept going!

    • I’m so sorry that you had to experience that! That’s the kind of thing that puts you in bed with chocolates for a week! I’m so glad you have other (GREAT) clients you could turn to to help fill your bucket back up!

      There is a really good lesson/reminder here that I’m sure you already now know but for the others reading. …Think of this. When you have a bad experience at a restaurant you may be to timid to say something to the waiter/chef/manager…. So you don’t. But the next day when you’re talking with friends you brazenly tell about every detail of what you didn’t like. Raise your hand if you can relate (mine is up).

      Now with the internet and smart phones, people can easily and quickly go to very public forums and spew their disdain while hiding behind ‘foxygirl_99’ and they don’t hold anything back. It’s scary to think about! But there IS a silver lining! We can follow up with each and every client and check that everything met their expectations, this may just save your business from being the target of a very public and hurtful ridicule.

  5. AMEN, sister!! I recently have had a friend (whom I met online and we met up at WPPI) have someone e-mailing her all sorts of nasty comments about her photography. This person used an anonymous e-mail address, didn’t sign her e-mails, etc. She is a coward. I see a lot of photography online that is not so good… but unless it is someone ASKING for constructive criticism, I keep my mouth shut. Who am I to make them feel bad about themselves?? Two quotes come to mind:
    “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
    “It’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than open ones mouth and remove all doubt” ­­- Mark Twain (attributed)

  6. Allison says:

    I had one of those anonymous bucket-takers last week on my blog.. something that started out as a “Hey! My friend sent me to your blog…” and turned into a “don’t you have anything better?” that put me down for days. DAYS. I don’t react well to bucket takers. Thanks for adding to my bucket today! 🙂

    • That’s the thing… Are people really thinking about the effect to their cause? Because yes – it can totally throw you for DAYS! I know from first hand experience!

  7. Amanda Lail says:

    Wow that is a fabulous way to put it into perspective. I think we have all been the dipper and dippee at times . Thanks so much for the nudge . 🙂

  8. Maggie says:

    So true Leah! Very thankful for all the people who have encouraged and helped me along my way, especially those who have been honest, yet kind in their critique of my work. And I want and try to return that help wherever I can as well. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you…

    No matter how I feeling about something, when I turn around and make someone else feel better, it helps us both out. :0)

  9. Kirsten says:

    Well said! Thank you for the post 🙂

  10. Amen! I would add that constructive feedback is helpful, even if it’s not what we want to hear – but there’s a time and place for it. There are too many “experts” out there who only take, take, take. Great post, thanks for sharing with us.

    • Totally agree… As a business coach I give out a lot of constructive feedback but ultimately it’s all in where it comes from. Is it well minded or cunningly discuised ot be such. We (the offerer) always knows the truth and the receiver can usually feel it too!

  11. Erin says:

    What a fabulous, honest post. And it’s not just for photographers. Leah, you do such a great job of filling other people’s buckets and it keeps me coming back againg and again to read your posts.

  12. Sara says:

    Well said. I’ve noticed more and more that people are just waiting for a reason to rip on other photographers, especially beginning photographers. We all started somewhere. I surely wouldn’t want someone to publicly point out all of the flaws in my photos from my early days.

    I personally think if someone you don’t know is asking for an honest critique, then it’s okay to give one. There are ways to point out to improve a photo, without taking the photographer down a notch, or three. To help them grow as a photographer and an artist. And if they’re not asking for your opinion, don’t give it.

    Words have power. You can either help someone on their way to being a better artist, or you can shame them, but you can’t do both.

  13. Gina B. says:

    Very well put!! It becomes so difficult carrying your entire load(life, family, photography) in one hand while the other hand is spend fending off your “well meaning friends” who are “just saying”. I wish we were able to help each other up instead of pushing each other down. It seems with some photographer friends some have to “lose” so they can “win”. Why can’t we all be “winners”

  14. Angela says:

    I love it! And honestly just reading your articles always seems like just the thing I needed for the day! I have asked those “newbie questions” just to be insulted by the more experienced photographer. In fact it is precisely why I stopped going to that particular photographer’s group. I noticed this particular person liked to insult all newbies. So again, thank you, I will try hard to keep your words of wisdom in mind.

  15. Guess my head has been buried somewhere, but I’ve never heard the bucket analogy. But I wholeheartedly agree! Loved reading this blog post.

    • I only just recently heard it in a book I was reading called Me Thinks by Marry Ellen Edmonds. I loved it and I’ve ben visualizing all these buckets ever since. 😀

  16. Well said! This is such an important thing for all of us to remember, in every situation. What may seem like a throwaway comment to us can actually be the most hurtful thing in the world to someone else.

    Let’s all fill each other’s buckets to overflowing!

    • You are so right Hannah! I think if we could see the effect that our words have on the person sitting on the other end of the monitor… We would care a lot more about what we so hastily type.

  17. You hit the nail on the head with this one! I truly believe that those who “take from our buckets” are trying to mask their own insecurities. Too bad they forget that we are all trying to make a living by enriching our clients’ lives. It would be way more beneficial for the entire photography community if we were all more willing to lift each other and to give praise instead of criticism. “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. Thumper’s Mom (Bambi)

  18. Amen! It’s so easy to say more harsh things when you are typing on a computer . But the person reading those things is the same human as if you were talking to them face to face.

  19. Erin says:

    I say “Amen Sista’!”

  20. Jennifer says:

    Beautifully said! Seriously! Needed this today and loved every word!

  21. Jay says:

    Excellent post and one I’ve been screaming for years!

    This is really bad on most photography forums. As I always point out; the unsuccessful photographers are usually the ones with the biggest mouths. The professional that is truly a professional, is hardly ever one to judge because they realize theres a market for everyone.

    Good stuff

    • Jody says:

      As a young special ed teacher, A very smart person taught me that “if your students
      aren’t understanding.then you need to fix your TEACHING you can’t blame their learning.”.”
      I find that “pros” who are unwilling to share and feel every one else is “ruining”
      the market for them and feel the need to critique are blaming the students …

  22. Always stay away and avoid dangerous people. Dangerous people are those who will tell you now is not the right time, it’s not possible, it’s way too hard and endless variations in which the buried message is… “you can’t do it.” These people are very dangerous.

    Stay off the forums, pick very carefully the blogs, and get close with others who you are certain are exactly where you want to be.


    • Stephanie says:

      The other issue I have with a forum I’m on is that the leader and the people who have been there for years will post photos that are just not great, all blown out, or bad selective coloring, but they only get praise, but when the newbies post photos that are way better, they get ripped apart. I feel this is due to jealousy and trying to keep those just starting out down, so they don’t become competition. It’s really sad. And nobody speaks up for fear of ridicule.

      • Maybe you need to be that voice? I know that’s scary but imagine what that would mean to all those newbies? Just be careful because often when we take a stand, our heart starts pumping, our palms get sweaty and words can come out in our eagerness to defend that we never intended to let escape! 😉 You can also link in the forum to this post (I know I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that!!!)

  23. Fantastic post, Leah. Thanks so much for inspiring others to be kind to others. Love it.

  24. Thanks, this is a great reminder!

  25. Sarah says:

    This is wonderful! Thank you 🙂

  26. kristian says:

    Unfortunately, I think a lot of them not only think about the fact that it can affect people for days, that’s the actual intent.

    • I guess I have to admit that for you’re probably very right… But I think (maybe I hope?) that maybe they don’t realize how powerful their words are and the reason they don’t see that is because they have a lot of insecurities of their own (hence the bullying of others) that is leaving THEM feeling empty and maybe if they were given a little extra TLC it would stop? But I do know that you’re right in that some people really do seem to get pleasure out of being mean…. It’s incredibly disgusting and I have ZERO tolerance for that!

  27. Alison says:

    I love this story, it is dead on, both in and out of this industry! We are so quick to jump on one another because far too many view it as a competition. I recently had a client come to me after a bad boudoir experience with another photographer. I was pulled in both directions- I would want to know if a client was unhappy with photographs (especially to the point of tears!) and sought out someone else. But it is not my place to be involved. I focused on hearing what she wanted, what she was scared of and building trust and my relationship with her. In turn, we ended up adding so much to each others buckets without turning to snag out of the other persons.
    Mary Marantz (Justin & Mary) says often “If you are busy looking left at what that person is doing and looking right at what this person is doing, you will never ever get to move forward.” If we are busy snipping at each other, we can’t move forward!
    Thank you for encouraging people across the board. It is great to have a place that stays in the positive!

  28. Christin says:

    Great post! I’m not even a photographer and I really enjoyed reading this article. This is very relevant in many aspects of life. We should all make a bigger effort to be bucket fillers instead of takers.

    Thanks for filling my “good feelings bucket” 🙂

  29. P says:

    How apropos at a time when there seems to be an onslaught happening on FB. I was friends with an established photographer and it was through this person that I met someone else, who, at the time, had just posted a very funny clip that in no way hurt anyone. However, over time and the more I learned and watched my FB wall, the posts were hurtful, unnecessary and downright mean. I didn’t want to un-friend people out of fear and starting adopting the “keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer.” I couldn’t take it though and finally cut the cord today. People say that the industry is in trouble because of the newbies, shoot and burners, etc. But, established photographers were once newbies themselves. I think kindness goes a long way… And if someone disagrees, then don’t be mean, offer helpful/constructive advice and at the end of the day you just might go to sleep feeling good about your day…

  30. LOVED this!
    It’s so sad how mean people really can be!
    I find it funny how some people think they are the only ones able to have and live out their dream.
    Isn’t that what all of us new and established photographers are working towards achieving a life long or even just newly found dream of creating beautiful art for everyone and anyone?
    Loved your analogy It’s always better to give then to take.

  31. Ed Devereaux says:

    This is so good. Enough of the complaints about the new photographers, the rude (on a certain photography related podcast from Florida) comments and let each be. Helpful and teaching does not require nastiness or being rude. Seems like most of the takers from my bucket are those who are afraid of change. Every industry is like this but photography and a photographer’s vision is personal. I would hate to be a pro ball player, they deal with it all the time.

  32. Alba Wejebe says:

    You are an inspiration and a reminder of the values I hold so dear. You are helping me believe in myself so much with your beautiful offerings ( I’m a Thriver) and your heart. It inspires me to go and actively pay it forward and make this industry and this world a little sweeter for us all.
    Thanks Leah

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