Friday, 16 May 2014

Come over here if you think your good enough...

There comes a time in every budding photographers life when they wonder whether the photo's they are taking are actually any good.

Unfortunately we are generally not very good at assessing our own work. Either we are too modest and think our work should never be shown outside the confines of our own home, or (and probably worse) we have an inflated opinion of our abilities and force our nearest and dearest to invent more imaginative platitudes, whenever forced to sit through our collection of electricity pylons from unusual angles.

However without fair judgement I challenge anyone to improve their photography.

So how do we achieve this. Of course you could just grab strangers in from the street, but apart from the likelihood of the police getting involved, how do you know whether their opinion is both balanced and worthwhile? The same goes for friends and relatives. While they maybe willing to express an opinion(sometimes too willing), they may struggle to tell you why they like a photo or be critical enough to correct faults.

One option is to put your photos on photo sharing sites suck a flickr . Unfortunately while a good way to share photo's, it is not really set up for criticism. You may get some comments, but not in the quantity required to make a meaningful evaluation.

A better option is 500px. Not only does the site allow other photographers to comment, like or love your photos(and in doing so ranking your pictures) but it is a great place to see what other photographers are doing and get ideas to try

You can see my 500px page here  under the moniker hammarbytp. There is something gratifying about watching other photographers decide that you work is not a pile of foetid dingo kidneys and could in fact have some promise.

However as good as the site is, it is limited by the amount of feedback it provides. Yes it will tell you which picture may not be total turkeys, but it will not tell you how to improve it  or what was good/bad about it.

For that you really need to go to the next stage and join a photographic society. It took me a long time and a lot of pontificating before my wife pushed me out the door to one. Finally I joined the Melbourne Photographic society and I must admit I have benefited greatly from the advice I have been given and the ideas and criticism I have gained from other members.

However to truly benefit from such organisation you must at some point put your photo's into competition.

This is not a step to be taken lightly and it is at this point that you realize that underneath the friendly exterior of a society, there is a deep level competition that a new part-time photographer may not be ready for.

I made the mistake of putting my 1st photos into the mix when choosing photo's for an external competition.

I agonized for days about which photos to show. I even  dragged my family into discussions. However on the day the photos were given short shrift and did not even get on the 2nd consideration pile.

In hindsight I realise that because this was a club external competition, I was putting my photos against the best photos of the society that year, so I was really out of my league. Saying that however, it did not stop me feeling hurt on how quickly they were dismissed. Did they not realise that these photos were my children, each lovingly raised? How dare they just cast them out without a backward glance!!

In fact the pain was so bad I almost did not go back again, but in the cold light of day I realized they were right. The photos were OK, but not to the standard required for the society's to rest it's reputation on. This was a necessary step in becoming a better photographer. Indeed my next entries for an internal competition were better received, although again did not get to the top table. Close, but encouraging.

The lessons here is that however good we think we are, we all need criticism if we wish to make ourselves better photographers. However we must be prepared for the disappointments that the criticism will inevitably bring.

I also learned another lesson. For the 1st competition entry I used my family as my judges (wisdom of crowds etc). But I wasn't happy with their choices.

The 2nd time I chose my own. Now I am not saying that things would of been different if I had been brave enough to choose my own photos in the first place. But sometimes it is better to fall by your own sword than to rely on others.

These are my first competition photos

and my second try

 Strangely this one got 16 and the other 15.....
But I prefer this one. Judges eh. Can't live with them etc....

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