critque night with Zack and Meghan Arias

I like to hide.

You’d think it were a favorite past-time of mine.

Because, at the end of the day, I like to live in a small little world I create where everybody loves Amy.  Where there are only nice things to be said about me.  And about my work.

The problem?  There’s not much room for growth in such a world.  Though it’s cozy and friendly and almost Disney-esque, it leaves me without hope of ever becoming the best that I can be.  We need people to come along and strip off the blinders.  People who can show us where we’ve failed and show us how to move forward.

Last Thursday I heard that Zack and Meghan Arias (or should I say Meghan Arias and her husband Zack…) were doing a critique night.   Judging from the fact that my heart nearly leaped out of my chest with anxiety – I knew I was supposed to go.

I made chocolate chip cookies, put on “real-person” clothes and headed out the door with my camping chair.

Originally, I convinced myself that just going would be fine.  I could learn a ton from the other artists present and the critique that Zack and Meghan had to offer them.

I was right.

The only problem?  I knew I was a wiener.  I was hiding.

So…I did my gut check.  I realized that if I really want to get better (which I do with all of my heart) I had to throw my name in.  Even though my website is in the midst of a re-design.  Even if everything is far from perfect.

A little bit later I watched as Meghan typed in my web address.  (which is changing soon.  Hallelujah!  It’s time to drop the whole “Amy P” thing and be Amy Paulson.  Stay tuned…)  I instantaneously wanted to pee my pants, start my half-marathon training in the OPPOSITE direction and begin explaining that I just moved, have three kids, hired professionals who are re-doing my website, was dropping that whole “Amy P” thing and every other defense I could offer.  Somehow my legs guided me over to the hot seat, my mouth shut up and my insides steadied.  “This is what you need.  These people can teach you so much.  They’re doing this because they care,” my mind repeated over and over.

I kept my mouth shut.  And my ears open.

Through a mix of hilarious comments, straightforward talk and INCREDIBLE insight Zack and Meghan helped me see where I can improve, where I bombed and gave me a feel for how to move forward.  I could not have been more grateful.  That is PRICELESS.  That honest truth – well – that is going to make me better.  And then they gave me a B&H gift card when I should have been hugging them for all the knowledge and honest feedback they gave me.

I’ve already made a few changes and more are on the way.  (Meghan – the music is GONE.  Completely and utterly GONE.  Pinky swear.  I double checked this time!)  And I’m ready to work harder, get better and continue to MAKE honest feedback a part of my life.  (Yep.  I used the word “make”.  This kind of thing isn’t just going to happen.)

I do believe Zack and Meghan will be hosting more of these critique nights in the coming months.  If you’re a photographer anywhere near the Atlanta area – you’ve GOT to go.  The people I met were awesome, his studio is inspiring and even just learning from the other critiques and being inspired by other artists can help you grow.  And eventually – work up your courage and throw your name in.  They are there to help you grow.  To get better.  Sure, they may point out some things that hurt, but it’s all with the goal of helping you get better.  And we have to ask ourselves – do we want sweet happy comments or people who care enough to show us where we’ve missed the mark?


  1. Kevin says:

    Great post! Thanks for sharing how the critiques were done and how it felt.

  2. Irene says:

    HUGE kudos to you!!! I have watched Zack and Meghan’s previous critiques and they are brutal……but they are also honest, down to earth and amazing. I love them both, although I would be hiding too!

    It is tough to hear the brutal truth…but I completely agree with you – do we want happy sweet comments? They are definitely nice, but they aren’t going to help you grow and improve.

  3. Wow, Amy! Way to go! I HATE that gut feeling you get when you desperately don’t want to do something and you know in your heart it means that more than anything you have to…so familiar! How’d you find out the dates for the feedback sessions? ~Hilary (J* Fix)

  4. Okay, you’ve inspired me to go to one of Zack’s mixers, Amy. I’m trying to get over my shyness and hate “networking” type events, so I always avoid them. If I keep that up, I’ll miss out on lots of opportunities to grow! That’s great that you got up the courage to throw your name in the hat. Thanks for sharing your experience and showing that you survived!

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