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I agree with you that you don’t need to be rude to give criticism. When a person is open to the criticism and willing to listed, kind and gentle instruction works great. My original response was a hard truth, but it was delivered without sarcasm or rudeness. I complemented her progress so far, offered correction for her misconception of how much she had learned, and extended an offer to help further.
Unfortunately in this situation, she didn’t want to hear that, and in her response she made it clear that her position had been galvanized. I am enough of a student of human behavior to know that if that shell wasn’t cracked it before it had time to harden, it never would be. There was no malice in my response. She had built a defense against criticism, and that was what needed to be broken or it would have encased her and prevented her from growing in the future. I responded with a carefully gauged level of harshness, forcefulness, and yes, sarcasm in order to shatter that shell, but not to harm the person inside it. But in all that, I never rescinded my offer to help.
It seems to have worked. She came back a little shaken, but calm, collected, and ready to learn. And so the teaching can finally begin. It is my hope that now she can move forward and really get out there and learn and become a great photographer, because as you said, she is talented even if she is not yet pro.
I hope this will help you to understand.
Concerning the idea of not charging for services. Let me use another example that are closer to photography perhaps. Cooking.
If you wanted to learn how to cook and had only progressed as far as successfully making prepackaged meals, would it be right for you to market your services as a personal chef so that you could get paid for learning? That is preposterous. You would learn at home, experiment, cook for yourself and your family. It would cost you time, effort, and, yes, a lot of money. It isn’t enough to produce something edible, in order to charge for being a chef, it doesn’t have to be five-star quality, but you have to cook something home-made, nutritious and delicious with enough variety to fill an extended menu. An how would it be for you if you hired someone to cater your kids birthday party, a family gathering, or a wedding if all they could handle was prepackaged food? If you paid them to make home-made pizza for the party and they ordered the pizza from Domino’s put it on a tray and brought it over, marking it up ten times in the process? You’d be appalled wouldn’t you?
This, of course, wouldn’t work in the real world because people are generally good judges of food because they are exposed to it so much good food and the only people who they could get business from are those with very bad palettes. Photography is different. People aren’t exposed to good photography on a daily basis. They are exposed to snapshots, cell phone pics, memes, and the like. They have no view of good photography because they have never been exposed to it. So they, like you, look at work that is better than their own and assume it must be professional. I do not blame the clients for not knowing any better, and I don’t even really blame the photographer that much. Work of this caliber is only good because the bar has been set so low by the mass availability of photography. But those who claim to love and respect photography as an art form must fight to raise the bar or the art will be lost.
To continue with the food analogy, I’m half Italian and I grew up on a farm where my mother and both grandmothers were amazing cooks. It was a very rude awakening indeed the first time I went over to my friend Tom’s house and had his mother’s “cooking.” I was shocked (silently) at how much everyone at the table was enjoying the prepackaged lasagna while I could barely eat the stuff because it tasted of preservatives. After that day I set out to learn to cook. I am no great cook by any stretch of the imagination, but I cook all home-made food and the way people I know talk about my food you’d think I owned a five-star restaurant. I am not foolish enough to believe that I could walk into a restaurant and be a chef, I thank them for their compliments, but I know very well that they only praise my work because they don’t have enough experience with really good food to know that mine is only OK.