Handling Criticism

  • Ask Anything

Well, thankfully this is a post I haven’t really felt compelled to write until now. People warned me… “Katelyn, growth doesn’t come without a price”. Our mentors have been telling me this for years. One in particular once told me that if you’re not being criticized, that could be a sign that you’re not taking enough risks. We have hit a place in our business where we can post the most well meaning content and somehow… despite all efforts to cover our bases and state disclaimers…. people will still find a way to be offended.

That’s just the world we live in! The more you grow, the more people you reach, the more likely you are to offend someone. Since I’m the “feeler” of my family and always have been, this poses an interesting scenario for me. When I get a pretty harsh blog comment that judges my character, my natural reaction would be to 1. Tell Michael 2. Have a little pity party for myself and then 3. Over analyze everything I’ve ever written, shared or taught.

Welp, at this point in my business, you can’t respond like that! I’ve recently had several “Get it together Katelyn!!!!!” moments over the last several months and I actually think I’m making progress in this area of my life! And because Michael Hyatt always seems to have timely podcasts that directly relates to my life, I thought I would share his take on the subject!

He shared in a recent podcast that sources of criticism come in three main forms:




This was revolutionary to me! After hearing him explain each one, I can totally see how this has rang true in my own life! :

  •  Friends: Allow them to speak into your life. They love you and so their criticism is through the lens of love. They want what’s best for you so don’t shut them down and tune them out!
  •  Critics: These people have a strong opinion.  They may come across as harsh, judgmental and just plain rude but some aspects of their critique could be helpful. Sometimes critics speak respectively but have no relationship or knowledge of you personally and so in some cases they may not have the credibility to make accusations.  Michael also shared that if someone is willing to sign their name, it’s worth reading.  If someone leaves a FAKE name and email and can’t even stand by their comment, I’m going to toss it out.
  • Trolls: Just straighter HATERS. They aren’t offering criticism to see a change, they are just plain hateful! … I have nothing further to say about them…. except that they should get a life instead of wasting theirs by just being MEAN! Seriously?! What a waste of time and energy. End rant.

So…. how am I trying to handling criticism moving forward?? Here are some steps I’m constantly trying to walk through when the harsh comments come rolling in:

  1. Identify what type of criticism this is. Is it a friend? Is it a critic? If it is a critic, do they have credibility? Or is it a Troll that needs to shut it and go live under a bridge somewhere.
  2. Walk away. DON’T START RESPONDING…. at least not immediately. I may have a soft, sensitive side but if someone attacks my character, something wells up in me and I enter into “defense mode”. You should NEVER write a response in “DEFENSE MODE”. Not a good idea. Wait it out and calm down before responding. If it’s a Troll or Critic with no credibility, I wouldn’t even respond.
  3. Share with a trusted friend. If you’re going to respond, share the situation with someone you TRUST before clicking “send”. I can’t tell you how many times Michael has saved me from sending emails in need of editing.
  4. Pray about it. This is just my way of dealing with these situations but I’m telling you, it’s a game changer. Deep down, while you may feel annoyed and angry… your heart is actually the part of you that is hurting. Giving this stuff over to God and praying for peace will only help.
  5. Remind yourself that YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE. You know what you’re about… you know what you stand for… you know your intentions… you know your own heart.

I know anyone can slip into selfishness and priorities can sometimes fall out of line but that’s where your “friends” come in. If I need an attitude adjustment, I have close friends that I have trusted and allowed to speak into my life. Those are the people (and Michael of course) that can be critical of me and actually have an impact on my decisions. I wish I could say that those were the only people that impacted my feelings but I am human! :) Ultimately, I have a great support system who keeps me in line… almost like a “Board of Supervisors” if you will! And as long as I have those people there to share constructive criticism, I don’t need to pay attention to anyone else!!

So if you’re someone who has dealt with or is currently dealing with critics and this post resonates with you in some way, share it and tag a friend who you know is struggling with this topic!! The sooner you realize what kind of critic you’re dealing with, the easier it is move forward!!

xoxo, Katelyn
61 Comments Ask Anything, Education
  1. Autumn reply

    Thanks, Katelyn! You always know what to post right when I need it!

  2. Tatyana reply

    Not having gotten big enough to worry about this just yet, I mainly worry about MYSELF as my biggest critic, and how to stay positive and motivated during these growth stages. Thanks Katelyn!

  3. Dana Brawley reply

    Fantastic post, Katelyn! It was timely for me too! Thanks so much for sharing and reminding me of what (and who) is important! Love you both! D

  4. Elena reply

    Katekym thanks for your post! I read many of your blog posts and enjoy them. I have nothing negative to say, I think sometimes when people get very successful they tend to brag although they disguise it in different ways or justify it. Nobody has the right or reason to be a troll or rude. I think you and your husband havea nice business but I always try to see the whole story. Some people may take some excited posts as bragging. And nobody in this world should brag because everything is God given and also can be gone tomorrow. Some people react wrongly to what they perceive though and that is wrong on their part. Don’t let them bother you but also always be analyzing what you put out there to be sure the human nature of conceitedness doesn’t slip through to readers… Not saying it does or does not! Just saying…

    • Katelyn James reply

      Hi Elena! Did you not see the post from Monday? If not, definitely read it if you can! :)

    • Matilda Husher reply

      Elena, Im sure your intentions are good… however you are being a troll! Maybe troll is a little strong, but you are definitely being a critic with no credibility. You obviously have not followed Katelyn closely enough to see that her heart is for using EVERY gift, talent, resource, ability, moment and blessing she has to show Christ to people and love them well. She just gave away $30,000 to a deserving couple for crying out loud. And you obviously did not read her post from Monday. Don’t voice your opinion calling into question the intentions of someone else when you have no idea who they really are or what their intentions are. Katelyn JUST shared that she has trusted and valued people (aka close friends and family) in her life to give her that type of advice and to make sure her intentions remain good and in a Christ honoring posture. She has not asked or invited you to be one of those friends…

  5. Rachel reply

    Thanks, Katelyn… I really needed this reminder today. <3

  6. Linda reply

    Great post. Thank you so much. I have been upset lately by criticism, and it is comforting to realize we are all exposed to criticism no matter how hard we pray we are doing the right thing each day! Can’t imagine YOU being criticized! Thanks again for sharing your advice! God bless you.

  7. Bethanne reply

    Hahaha! Loved this post, and your comments about Trolls made me laugh! Haters are always going to hate, and I love that you have and trust in Michael to help you out! My husband does that for me; whenever I get some type of comment or a cancellation or just something that bums me out, I just talk to him and he brings me back to Earth! :) Husbands are the greatest in business, yeah?! Love this post! :)

  8. Chandra Yarter reply

    Aww I heart you guys! I call trolls “cotton headed nini muggins”! Lol I think we might be twins though bc I’m the exact same way in every part that you listed!! But I seriously will karate chop someone if they are being mean to you! Ugh hugs to you! xoxo

  9. Heather Dean reply

    Hey Katelyn,
    I have been reading your blog since you shot at my cousins wedding almost five years ago and have always enjoyed reading about how much you value people and your relationships with friends new and old. You are a great positive role model. I’m so glad you touched on this topic and I’m sure after that big give away people are saying to much without thinking.
    I’m a 6 foot tall lady who is not afraid to dress up, walk tall and smile at people and often times negative comments are made by random people i have never seen. It’s not always easy to walk away with confidence and often times their comments stick with me but i pray that they find a more positive place and learn to appreciate differences.

  10. DIGNA TOLEDO reply

    This is totally awesome Katelyn. Thank you!!!!

  11. jane ford reply

    great post! Over the years, I have had to recognize the difference between constructive and destructive criticism. I can deal with constructive criticism but not destructive criticism since it stems from jealousy and envy.

  12. Ashley Durham reply

    Well put! <3

  13. Kalina Duck reply

    What a great blog…. I definitely learn a big lesson on reading your blog today!!
    Thank you so much for sharing with us.
    You are a truly a blessing in so many people’s life the ones you know and even the one you don’t.
    Have a great weekend May God keep blessing you always!!

  14. Danielle Blocker reply

    Katelyn, I just love reading your blog! This line is one of your best yet + I agree 100%!!! “Or is it a Troll that needs to shut it and go live under a bridge somewhere.” It added a great comedic note to this topic.

    It’s so sad there are so many negative people out there who spend time + effort to bring others down instead of being positive + helping to lift them up. Keep your head held high + know that your heart shines through all the words you write!

  15. amanda veronee reply

    I love how you broke down the types of critics. That definitely helps give perspective in ANY situation. It’s easy to get caught up in a critics comments, but breaking down the who and why helps to know if it’s a comment to toss and ignore or to take seriously! It’s easy to get wrapped up into critques from sources that don’t get it and ignore praise from those that know our heart!

  16. Lauren Martinez reply

    New reader here, I loved this post! So well put and an encouraging reminder. Oh my gosh, I adore your puppyyyy! Is he a cockapoo/cavapoo? Love!

  17. Tiffany reply

    Thank you for the encouragement and perspective Katelyn! As you said at Pursuit, Reflection not Perfection. All we are asked is the we love the haters and live a life, defined by none other than Jesus.

  18. Katrina reply

    Another great post! This was so what I need to hear right now. I can’t even imagine you having haters. I have had the pleasure of meeting you once at UNITED a few years ago. 1 I was immediately upset because I hadn’t heard about you sooner. 2 your presence and spirit about you was so pure and I could tell you were coming from a very good place. 3. I could tell you genuinely wanted to help others and was not their for your own ego boost. in the words of Taylor Swift “Haters going to hate, so SHAKE IT OFF”

  19. Sarah Beth Tapanes reply

    Katelyn…this is SPOT ON. I am NOT a gracious handler of criticism- in every area of my life. I’m totally not big enough to receive a substantial amount of criticism in my business- but when it does happen, I tend to fall apart a bit ;) I also want to say- that I am continually so impressed by YOUR grace. I think you have been an AMAZING steward of the gifts you have been given- as well as the platform you have been given. It’s something that truly inspires me, and I hope you know that for all the haters you have (which is crazy to me)– that you have trillions as many LOVERS. <3

  20. Colleen Delaney reply

    Ohhh Katelyn! I just ADORE you, you as a human, aside from the fact you take wicked AWESOME pictures! You as a truly incredible person on top of the wonderful gift you posses. Just two of the reason I just HAD to have you shoot our wedding! It’s why the date was based off of you! You as a person! :) I read a comment and I am SURE you know which one and I immediately wanted to jump down her throat. However then I would be defense mode responding, because I feel SUPER defensive over those I care about and get very upset if I ever see them attacked. So I am going to take some time to think of the proper words. It breaks my heart to see you say people have attacked your character. I don’t like it, I don’t appreciate it, and I will take each one of them on ;) I wish I had more powerful words to wipe it away. I am honestly BLOWN away that anyone could criticize you, I just don’t get it. You have a heart of GOLD, your love for Jesus, and your care & compassion shows through every post, every story you share, and every picture! I don’t know what else to say but love you, love Michael, love Bokeh and love everything you all stand for! You are an inspiration to MANY!

  21. Katie reply

    Love this!! So true that you have to really consider who criticism is coming from when you hear it!! I have a tendency to take things very personally, but John always sees things in a more balanced way…so I’m really thankful for him! Thanks for writing this post!!!

  22. Kendra reply

    Love this post! Very well put. :)

  23. Nicole Salter reply

    This hit home girl. I’m the understatement of the “feeler” too and my high school career was so difficult because of that. A lot of things come easy to me so I had a lot of haters because of it. I’m so scared for that point in time to come that people criticize my photography but I keep telling myself that this means I am somewhere and I’m going somewhere. My natural reaction, too, would be to 1. Tell Max 2. Have a little pity party for myself and then 3. Over analyze everything I’ve ever written, shared or taught. I will forever be working on this in my life, but it’s nice to know people as amazing as you are still there ;) So thank you.

  24. Danielle Campbell reply

    New-ish reader here! :) And fellow photog! While our photography styles are much different, I admire greatly, your business sense, tenacity, positivity and genuineness. I have been reading your blog, on and off for a few months now, and I must say, it serves great purpose. While people can assume when quickly glancing at one of your posts, your intentions (this is where the trolls come in), its not until you truly READ this blog, that you begin to understand how you operate your business, your life, etc. Its truly refreshing! Thank goodness for technology and the ability to post on a blog and the opportunity to be able to connect with so many, in one place. Someone once told me to use negativity as a stepping stone, for greater things. Its hard to overcome adversity, and its kind of shocking when people can be so hateful. But what they think of you is none of your business! ;) Warm regards. :)

    • Katelyn James reply

      Thank you for this Danielle! So encouraging. We really appreciate your comment! As well as all of the other comments!! So thankful for those that truly READ our posts and see our heart behind our work.

  25. Caroline Logan reply

    Love you! So much! Perfectly said. :):):)

  26. Andrea Brewster reply


  27. Barbara W reply

    Love your attitude. Keep it up!

  28. Robyn reply

    Thank you so much for sharing this topic!
    I’ve been following your blog for about 4 years. We met once in person (Pippin Hill-last fall) and there was no doubt in my mind from that brief in-person meeting and following your on-line presence over the years that you are a very gracious and true-to- your heart kind of person. Not to mention your group of friends that you were with that day… they were all so kind and welcoming to a complete stranger!
    Thank you and Michael for sharing positive, up-lifting and beautiful images.

  29. hannah elise reply

    amen to all of this — thanks for sharing your heart in this area!!

  30. Tabitha Richardson reply

    Katelyn I completely admire and love your work. You are one of my absolute favorite photographers. You and hope taylor stand out to me. I think this is an amazing read and I completely agree. I’ve dealt with some very mean people while growing my business. I’ve tried to rise above it and focus on me and my art and bettering myself. I was also wondering katelyn if you offer mentorships and if so where can I find information on them?

  31. Lacoya reply

    Ahhhh! So…so good!!! Thanks so much for sharing such great insight, friend! Definitely have to start listening to those Michael Hyatt podcasts!!!! :) XO

  32. Kelley reply

    Hey, Katelyn!

    NICE post!!! I would add one thing to your #5 above… Remember who you are and remember WHOSE you are. :) That always focuses the frame for me.

    This post is a blessing. You are a blessing. I actually came by to write you a little love note to thank you for introducing me to J+M Marantz through your praise of them in YOUR workshop last April. I just spent 3 days doing WTAW and received SUCH gifts from their grace and generosity… gifts that I simply could not have received without your intercession and lifting up your friends in such an inspired way.

    All the best to you and Michael,

  33. Kristina W. reply

    Aw, I don’t see how anyone could post something mean here! I love reading all your posts! You’re awesome Katelyn!

  34. Stephanie Messick reply

    This post speaks so much truth!!! My friend was just telling me that I need to listen to Michael Hyatt’s podcast. :) I hate knowing that there are trolls out there to hunt and bring great people down. You’re awesome Katelyn and have a beautiful support system! xoxo!

  35. Brooke reply

    Me too!!! I am the worst at negative self-talk, but I’m working on it!

  36. Brandilynn reply

    Katelyn, this is amazing! Thank you for sharing. It’s very true people will always have “haters”. I’ve learned that you can’t please everyone and that’s okay. I am so blessed to have such a great community of friends who offer real criticism that not only is honest but also shares ways I can improve & not just tearing me down. &&& I just tune into “Shake It Off” when I feel the haters starting to hate. hehe Thank you for sharing!

  37. Lauren Simmons reply

    Katelyn…This post was so encouraging! As a newish photographer, I get more than enough criticism and tons of trolls being not so nice. The first thing I do is tell Josh then I just stew about it for hours! It’s awful! I will be sure to bookmark this post so I can read it again the next time a troll comes a trollin’. See you at Creative at Heart!

  38. Dawn Miller reply

    Love all of your post on your house!! No it’s not bragging. Love your style. Where did you get your “sea salt ” paint? I want to use that paint color. Thanks for sharing all of your cute ideas and inspiration.

  39. Kevin Garcia reply

    this is really great. I’m starting to really grow my social media platform and this is a great reminder on how to respond to some negativity that has been sent my way as of late. Thank you for this encouragement.

  40. rose reply

    We said Katelyn!

    Mrs. Rios

  41. Mandy reply

    I love this post, KK! It’s so hard to handle haters and critics, but I feel like you have spelled it out so clearly, logically, and spiritually in this blog post! Keep using your gifts for Gods glory! It’s for him that you do what you do ultimately, not for the approval of man/woman. You is kind, you is smart you is important! Loved this and love you!!!

  42. Cyndi reply

    Katelyn, Thank you for your heart and sharing your wisdom. As someone new in ministry, I’ve faced criticism at times, some warranted and some not. It’s hard. My insecurities often compose most of my initial gut reactions, but after time and prayer, hopefully something less guttural emerges. It takes a lot of practice to grow the maturity needed to not hit ‘send’ either verbally, in email or in our hearts. I thank you for sharing such great words of advice that I could never have put in writing so eloquently.

  43. Elizabeth reply

    Thank you, Katelyn!

  44. Sharon H. reply

    Great post, thank you! I’ve been following your website & blog since you & Michael were the amazing photographers at our daughter’s wedding. I am not in the wedding or photography business but enjoy reading your blogs and am inspired by your Christian heart and your beautiful images & commentaries. Thank you for being you and allowing God to shine through your heart and art!

  45. ashley link reply

    Girl, you know how I feel about you! haha. You are such a genuine person. Whoever leaves you a *finger point* RUDE comment is sippin’ on that haterade! :) I know it sucks when someone questions your integrity, but if they have to hide behind a computer to do so, I wouldn’t worry about them. You are such a ray of sunshine! I would just pray for them, because they must be really broken to say such hateful things about a kind person. Just keep loving God and loving on people. You have so many people who love and support you. Thank YOU for always being a light in this world. I wish there were more people like you! :) Love you, sweet girl! :)

  46. Billie Teague reply

    This is great advice!

  47. Christa Rene reply

    Thanks for sharing! As a sensitive younger photographer, it’s easy to let those little troll comments get under your skin, and then only wanting to post things that everyone will love you for (which is impossible) so thanks for the encouragement to be genuine and know who to listen to!

  48. Sarah Anne Hayes reply

    Love this, Katelyn!

    Knowing you and your genuine heart and having followed you on this journey from the beginning, it’s hard to think anyone could criticize you or the work you do, but like you said, everyone has haters. It’s frustrating sometimes how the one negative comment can outweigh ten positive ones, but remember your fan club is way, way bigger than your haters will ever be. :)

  49. Amber Montgomery reply

    I just recently came across your blog and I just adore this post. As a graphic design student/new blogger it can be so hard to get past the trolls, even when you know in your heart that you have done nothing wrong and speak truth. Thank you for your genuine heart and this testimony!

  50. Abby Grace reply

    This is such an awesome post, Katelyn! I do the same thing you do when I receive criticism, except one of my gut reactions is also to downplay whatever was said to me instead of processing it to see if there’s any truth to it. Something I need to do MORE of is seek out constructive criticism!

  51. Chelsy Renee reply

    Thankyou, thankyou, THANKYOU!! I needed this post at this exact time in my life. In fact, my sister read it first (I have missed reading your blog lately!) and she knew I needed it due to some stuff I’ve been dealing with on my blog lately, and she told me “Chels, you’ve got to go read Katelyn James’ post on responding to critics!” =) SO glad I did. thank you!

  52. A Good Problem | Personal | Amanda Hedgepeth | Outer Banks Wedding Photographer reply

    […] artists and business owners everywhere instead of competitive Debbie Downers all over the place! One blog post that helped me SO much recently was by my dear friend, mentor and wedding photographer Katelyn […]

  53. Blair reply

    I know this was posting several months ago, but the lessons taught through your words ring truer than true! I recently quit my “real job” to pursue full-time blogging. It’s been a great experience so far, but the critics and trolls are coming in HOT! People who don’t know a thing about me accuse me of the ugliest and most untruthful things! It’s so hard as I am very sensitive as well.

    Thanks for the level-headed words. May what Jesus says about me always be much, much louder and more important than what random people on the internet say about me!

    Thanks for the encouragement! :)


  54. Because the Haters Gonna Hate – reply

    […] Katelyn James, a great photographer and amazing woman of valor, says there’s really only three kin… who are going to be giving feedback to your life and work. By identifying them, we know how to respond. […]

  55. Callie Lindsey reply

    Thank you so much for this Katelyn!! I remember reading this when you first posted it and filing it away for a rainy day. Well that came today and I’m so thankful for this encouragement!

  56. Tanim Hossain reply

    I am a Tuscany Wedding Photographer.

Reply to: