When I was in college, I started taking color slides. When I would get the slides back, a group of friends would look at them with me for the first time. I didn't get a chance to throw anything out first. As you might recall if you are old enough, you don't get to tweak anything in post. It was a great discipline for me, in addition to the limitation of 24 or 36 pictures per roll and my limited finances. At the time I had a Yashica rangefinder camera with a 45mm lens, so zooming was not an option.
None of the friends were photographers. Some were heavily involved in other arts, visual and otherwise, so they brought a range of aesthetic sensibilities. They were my fans, but didn't just say nice things. If anything, they were harder on me because of their high expectations, including that I learn and grow and bring more creativity to my work. Clearly they made me a better photographer.
I was a much more serious photographer in those days. But I hope that my travel photos and my messing around taking pictures otherwise now will continue to reflect that background.
One member of that group died a few weeks ago after a progressive respiratory illness. He continued to be an encouraging critic and fan of my photography he saw posted on the web right up until the end.