The blog of photographer Kim Ayres

Understanding Photography with Kim Ayres - Episode 5 – Getting easier, but where are the submissions?

There is no doubt that Episode 5 of Understanding Photography with Kim Ayres felt smoother and less impeded by my technical limitations.

Sometimes it's felt more like an article of faith rather than having any direct evidence, that it would get easier, and I'd spend less time getting caught up with not knowing which button to press next, or remember where I'd put the file I now wanted to display on screen.

But it was noticeable when I came to edit it afterwards for YouTube, all I had to do was trim the start and the finish (the recording starts a minute or two before the live stream does), without having to crop out long sections of me staring off-screen going, "Errrrrrrr......"

Another step forward was a little more interaction with the people watching live and putting messages in the comments. This time I checked in twice as I was going, and once at the end, and was pleased to see some encouraging words.

My biggest concern, however, was I only had one submission for the Critique section.

I shot off a message to a friend of mine who sent me a couple of his images to give him feedback on, but it felt like cheating.

It's something I don't quite understand.

Any photographer who is trying to genuinely improve their photography, needs proper feedback from someone who can help them past their own blind spots.

It is almost impossible to look at our own photos objectively – they are gateways to our memories.

When we look at a photo we took, we remember the situation we were in, the people who were out of shot, the sounds, the smells, the way we were feeling. So even an out of focus, badly composed photo can make us feel good.

But when we show it to someone else, they have no access to those feelings and sensations. It is only if the photo triggers something in their own memories or imagination that they might be able to connect with it.

So if we are wanting to advance our photography past the point of a memory jogger to our own experiences, and on to creating images that other people can enjoy too, we have be able to try and be objective, which is extraordinarily difficult.

This is where feedback from someone else becomes invaluable.

But it has to be the right feedback, from someone who knows what their talking about.

The big problem we continually have when we post our photos on Facebook and other social media, is people will "like" it, even if the standards and quality are pretty low.

Either they are not skilled enough to be able to tell the difference, are unable to communicate in a meaningful way about it, or just want to be encouraging and tell us nice things so we'll feel better about ourselves.

And because those who don't like the image don't leave any feedback, we end up with a very lopsided sense of our own ability, which of course impedes our progress.

There was a point several years ago where I belonged to an online forum that gave really good critique. However, sometimes it could be brutal, as there were some members who were on massive power-trips. But if you could get past that, often there were brilliant insights to be had, and I learned a massive amount. Over the course of a couple of years, my skills and understanding of photography leapt up several levels, and I learned how to constructively critique other photos too.

Unfortunately due to various conflicts, it stopped being the incredible resource it once was and became more or less useless.

I've been looking for something to replace it ever since.

So when I decided to do the Understanding Photography with Kim Ayres sessions, I knew I wanted to offer this powerful tool to others who were looking to improve their skills – but without the brutality I'd sometimes been on the receiving end of.

Certainly a couple of people I know who run camera clubs seemed delighted with the idea and said they would be promoting it to all their members.

And yet, take up has been very slight. Each week I've averagely had between four and six submissions, and this week it was only one I didn't have to ask for.

So is it:
a) it's not really something anyone is particularly interested in?
b) the way I deliver it is off-putting and not appealing enough?
c) people are too terrified of putting their images in a public place to be criticised, not matter how compassionately it's done?
d) there are vast numbers of people out there who would chew their arm off for this, but don't know about it – in which case I need to stick with it until I have built more of a following and some of them have found me?

The truth is, at this point I really don't know the answer to that, but I probably will keep going for the moment, just in case there are people who genuinely want my help in this.

So here is Episode 5 of Understanding Photography with Kim Ayres. In this episode I talk about the shoot I did with Sparo and The Yahs for their album cover, the compositional technique of leading lines, as well as the Critique section.

0:00 - Introduction - what's coming up
0:59 - Story behind the photo shoot for Sparo and The yahs
4:15 - How the photo developed - 17 images in the set before we got to the one that worked
19:45 - Leading Lines as a compositional tool
32:49 - The difficulty in getting useful critique on your images
35:30 - Critiques of submitted photos

If you've not done so already, please subscribe to my YouTube channel - – to help me build the numbers.

And, or course, if you would like to submit a photo for feedback, or just ask a photography related question, then do join my Understanding Photography with Kim Ayres Facebook group and I will put it into the following podcast:


Keith said...

Hi Kim

First and foremost, and without wishing to appear sycophantic, I am really enjoying the Tuesday night sessions. There is lots of interesting and useful information and the hour or so passes very quickly.

I can understand your frustration at the lack of "critique" material and would make the following suggestion. If you were perhaps to ask for examples of a particular type of image e.g. a portrait of a person/pet or a still life, then folk might be more willing to post something up. We could also flag this up through the camera club connections.

It is worth mentioning that three of the camera clubs (Abbey, Stewartry and Loreburn) are running a weekly online competition and that a significant number of the entries are coming from the families of club members. Indeed the majority of members of these clubs are not, as yet, taking part. This could be for a number of reasons and suggests that some photographers are just not engaging with their hobby at present. This in turn might explain why relatively few have so far engaged with your sessions.

Hope this all makes some sort of sense!

"See" you next week.

All the best,

Kim Ayres said...

Keith - many thanks for taking the time to comment and give me some insights. It wouldn't have occured to me that many camera club members have stopped engaging with their photography, but on some levels I can kind of see why.

If your photography is the thing that gets you out the house - wildlife, landscape, street, etc, then you're going to feel pretty demotivated if stuck indoors.

And yet for family members, who perhaps haven't traditionally done much with photography, it's all something a bit new and exciting to try out.

Maybe I'm just getting carried away with a bit of pop-psychology, but I appreciate your observations.

Do let the camera club family members know about the Tuesday evening sessions - perhaps they might be more responsive just now :)

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