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As a photographer, you have to put your work out there – online, in physical spaces or both – in order to get noticed and help create a personal brand. Exposing your work leaves you prone to criticism, and quite possibly rejection. When a person or gallery rejects your work, it doesn’t feel good and may cause you to question the quality of your art. In some cases, this may be a valid concern, but in many cases it probably has more to do with not being a fit for a particular exhibit or project. The bottom line is that one person (or group of people) didn’t appreciate your work, or felt as though it didn’t fit their current physical or online exhibit. It is important that you do not take rejection personally, and that you continue creating art for yourself. As with many things in life, you must be persistent and keep pushing forward to create meaningful work 🙂

Suburban exploration photos that were rejected
10 “suburban exploration” images that I submitted to a popular photography blog, where they were rejected 🙂 Click on the image to see a larger version.

Last month, I submitted ten of my images to a photography blog. I didn’t hear anything back for nearly a month, then followed up and asked the editor if he had received my submission. He replied with a simple message containing a short sentence, followed by an incomplete one: “Yes I did. Respectfully decline.” I’ll be honest, I didn’t exactly know what to make of it, and a wide range of thoughts crossed my mind. Getting rejected by one person made me start to question the quality of those images, and whether I should submit them elsewhere. I let that rejection take up space in my head for a few minutes before I let it go, and saw it for what it was – one person saying “no.” No big deal. If I let one rejection hold me back, I will never make much progress. Like I wrote earlier, people are different – some appreciate a particular style of art, others don’t. The important thing is that I create artwork for myself, and through persistent action, produce a body of work which accurately displays my unique perspective.
 

Artistic Judgment is Subjective

People have varying taste when it comes to a wide array of things – food, weather, sports, hobbies, cars and much more. This is especially true with art. Some people see a piece, and think it’s the most amazing thing they’ve ever laid their eyes on. Others may see that same piece and think it has no artistic merit whatsoever. When submitting your work, keep this in mind and you’ll be much better off. Just because one person (or small group of people) didn’t appreciate your work does not mean that there aren’t a ton of people who will see immense value in it.
 

Not a Good Fit

Sometimes a gallery, juried exhibition or online art competition may be looking for a very specific type of art. In these cases, a rejection likely has nothing to do with the quality or subject matter of your art, and everything to do with the style or theme that is wanted for a particular exhibit or series of artwork. Also, you have no idea how the person judging your art is feeling. Maybe s/he is having a bad day and rejecting your work “just because.” There are a number of factors that can affect how your work is received, and you may never know why your work was rejected. Don’t fret over it too much and just move on.
 

Rejection Does NOT Mean your Work Sucks

Having your art rejected does not mean that your art sucks or is unworthy. It can be easy to interpret rejection in this manner, but you have to realize that this is not the case. Try to dismiss all negative thinking and don’t listen to your inner voice, which may tell you that your work does suck. Disregard any self-doubt and keep moving forward. Taking rejection personally will only hold you back, and keep you from achieving your true potential as an artist. Some people may not understand or appreciate your art, and that is perfectly fine.
 

Be Persistent

If you remain persistent and submit your artwork to enough places, you will eventually get a hit. From the get-go, you should know that some people will reject your work. It is par for the course in the art world, as it is in life. You should expect rejection, and be prepared for it. If you don’t have high expectations, you won’t be too bothered when your work is not accepted. Get out of your comfort zone and put your work out there for people to see. Publish your best work on a website, share it on social media and art/photo sharing sites. The more exposure you get, the greater your chance of being published. Make sure you are putting your best work out there – your focus should be on the quality of your art, not the amount of it.
 

In Conclusion

If you are an artist who hopes to make a living from your passion (or even supplement your income), you will have to expose yourself to criticism, and most likely rejection. There are a number of factors that can contribute to your art being rejected. Keep your expectations low, and learn to expect rejection. Taking this “low expectation” stance, you will become more and more immune to harsh criticism and rejection over time. Eventually, you won’t even think twice about it. Don’t take it personally or let it prevent you from continuing to create and submit your art to other places. Also, see trolls for what they are – people who try to get a rise out of others because they have nothing better to do with their time. Don’t feed them, and they might go away 🙂

Have you had your art rejected before? Leave a comment below with your experience, or any questions you may have. I will respond to them as soon as possible.

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