This is really such a simple concept and one which applies to your task no matter what that may be - photography or writing. But what impression are you making? How do other people see your work product? Are you that "wow" factor and they can't wait to see what you've posted? My "impression" in the eyes of others, their image of who I am, is formed both by my work AND my behavior as a person.
Where your work is concerned, display only your best. I repeat this phrase often and yet still I visit forums where people post photographs that are poorly composed, not properly exposed, or blurry.
Impressions can be either positive, negative, or what I will dub "meh" (those are the ones you can most easily pass over). Positive impressions, those that linger in the memory of the viewer, are formed by consistency. My favorite photographers ARE my favorites because they continually turn out excellent work. You'd think that would be a given, except that it isn't.
What makes for "excellent" work? Again, this comes down to uniformity of work product and also to staging. How do you stage yourself? The photo below is ONE of many I took as a pair of Peregrine Falcons circled in the air over my yard. It is the ONLY success of the dozens I took that afternoon. It is important to notice that I have not posted the failures.
This becomes hard for some people when they don't really have a successful shot. (For the purpose of this article, a "successful shot" is one in which all the elements - sharpness, exposure, and composition - are present.) So you have a photo of a rare bird, but it is dark, there is a branch across the bird's eye, and since he was moving and your shutter speed was too slow, it isn't completely sharp, probably you shouldn't display it. (People say, "Once in a while, doesn't hurt." But I have noticed eventually once-in-a-while becomes every day!) All photographers take some "half-baked" photographs. By consistently displaying only those that are my best, I form a better impression.
Always remember that impressions can be negative as well. The more you share "poor" shots with me, the more likely I am to begin to skip your work and eventually what you have to say about photography.
The term "netiquette" was formed as it became apparent more and more that there were certain behaviors on the internet that are just not acceptable. The famous "reply all" email snafu comes to mind. It is especially important to watch your online behavior. Always remember that most of the people you will meet online (a) don't know you and (b) can't see you. If I am being completely truthful, which is the only way I know how to be, I have met people online who I really didn't like. And their bad impression formed in my mind when something of their behavior set me off in a negative direction. (This despite having never met them in person.)
I am really not the most forthright person. I much prefer to never say anything (which I know is hard to believe when I write so much) and I hate being pushy. There is something to be said for being kind and also for developing a thick skin. Stay aware that, though you don't know that person, they are nevertheless still a person, and people have feelings. If someone asks me for an honest critique, even then I temper it with as many positives as negatives. If there aren't any positives, then I say nothing at all. I once had a pastor who would say, "If you can't say anything nice, tell them they have nice teeth." I have always remember that statement and it has stood me in good stead.
Take the time to read the rules of whatever forum you are visiting. Pay attention to any "unspoken" rules that might turn others against you. If you find it just isn't the place for you, then by all means leave, but do so SILENTLY. Your absence will speak more volumes than any "hissy fit" you pitch on the way out. That will instead leave a negative impression that you definitely don't want.
I have met some of the greatest people via the web. This column itself is a direct result of that. I have also met with some real turkeys. I have meet people with "meh" work who are just so very nice, and people with outstanding work who, again, fall into the turkey category. In order to make a good and lasting impression, we must present both our work AND our behavior in the greatest amount of light. Hold back some of the photos that aren't top notch and hold back some of the words you shouldn't say. You never know who is there watching and listening. It might get you a sale or even lose you one.
Suzanne Williams Photography
Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.