Obviously there are sites like flickr, 500px, instagram and youpic to name but 4, but they are a bit of a hit and miss affair. On any day your images will get subsumed by the outpourings from other photographers, making it difficult for your image to rise above the inevitable noise
Of course there is always Facebook. However unless you have a page dedicated to photography you're audience will largely be formed from your friends and relatives. While likes are always nice, they provide little in photography critique.
Somewhat better are the photo contest websites such as Photocrowd or DPReview's challenge pages. Here the problem is the lack of immediacy of feedback. It can take weeks to get any metric on how well your image has been received
I have however in recent months been using to twitter to show off my photos.
Now twitter has its issues, but it had the advantage brevity and simplicity and immediacy. It allows you to join a community of photographers from beginners to professionals.
There are also a number of competition twitter feeds that you can send your images to. All you need to do is tag your post with specific hashtags. Every week one of the selected images are chosen for a shortlist and an overall winner. The advantage here is that feedback is quick and in some cases there are even prizes for the winning image. Best of all your photos are shared and seen by the wider community of photographers following twitter.
Generally the photo are required to be entered on a Monday and the image must of been taken in the previous week which has a number of advantages and disadvantages for me.
Since most of my photography occurs at a weekend, it can be a challenge to take, process and filter photos by Monday. On the plus side it means any images do not sit on the hard drive for too long. Another bonus with these contests is that it pushes you to go out and provide images each week, so stopping you fall into apathy
I have been doing 3 specific competitions ones for a few months now with the hashtags
The contests attract a good number of very fine photographers and Wexmondays has a rolling leaderboard.
To be honest the fun has been taking part and I had little hope of getting anywhere in them. What was more gratifying was the compliments and likes from many photographers I admire.
This photo got not only shortlisted on Wexmondays, but actually won sharemondays (Unfortunately the prize for the latter is to judge the next Mondays entries, which is actually a quite terrifying prospect)
Here is the back story about the image
As I said weekends are generally the only time I can take regularly photos and almost all the weekends this year have been disappointing. However this time the Saturday forecasts promised early mists, so I decided to make a special effort to get out early and for once the forecast was accurate and the area was covered in mist, with just a hint of the sun trying to burn through.
The next problem was where to go. I had decided to head for some local woods lying on top of a hill in the hope of getting some misty tree shots. However by the time I arrived, the mist was already burning off, so I was forced to locate somewhere at a lower altitude where I hoped to take some images of the sun shining through the mist creating fingers through the trees, but there was nothing really happening, apart from a few daffodils caught against the mist.
I then noticed a patch of stagnant water in the woods. I played around taking a few images of the trees reflections and as I did so I tried adjusting my polariser to increase the contrast. As I did so, I noticed that the fallen leaves from last Autumn were slowly were appearing making it look like the leaves were on the reflected bare trees branches.
, I thought
I took a few more shots of this, decamped to some other locations such as the local river and the local power station, and went back home. To be honest at this point I was a little disappointed with my mornings work, feeling I had not made the best of the conditions.
However when I started flicking through them on the computer the reflection one stood out as more interesting than the rest. I flipped the image and, cropped it and increased the saturation of the leaves.
On Monday I had to decide which images to put forward. I always find this difficult, but one thing I found is to go with instinct and not second guess yourself. Fortunately since it was late Monday I had little time for self doubts (I am one of these people who needs a hard deadline as a motivator).
In the end It came down to a choice of playing safe or trying something a little different so went with the latter (there is no reason why I could not choose 3 different images, one for each contest, but I had no time that night so the same image went to all three twitter feeds ).
|I almost sent this one in....|
I did not think anything of it until Tuesday afternoon when my phone started buzzing with the tweet responses and I had one of those double take moments as I realised one of the photos taken was mine.
With hindsight, In many ways I am pleased that I chose this photo because it reinforces a decision I made 6 months ago. I felt that my images were becoming too 'safe'. I had decided I wanted to improve both my wildlife and landscape skills, so started taking images that fitted both genres. While I had some limited success, I was not really happy with the photographs I was taking. I felt in some way they were derivative and fake, trying to be someone I am not In the end there is only one thing worse than people not liking your images, and that is if you do not like them yourself.
So I decided to stop trying to please other people, and start making images that I felt reflected me even if that meant I would have less in success in club photo competitions. Ironically, these twitter contest successes has in someway justified my decision.
So the lesson here is becoming good at photography is more than just producing pleasant images ,but it is forming your style that that identifies and defines who you are as a photographer. These image may not always be appreciated, but they will always be yours.
In that I don't think I am alone as this great talk by Valda Bailey shows