The blog of photographer Kim Ayres

Who's judging? - and Episode 24 of Understanding Photography with Kim Ayres

 If last week's blog post was about how can we judge whether a photograph we've taken is any good or not, this week I want to look at how others judge our work.

Perhaps I'm just rehashing the same argument, but it's an area I'm rather obsessed with at the moment. I guess the fact I'm offering help to people on how to improve their photography has something to with it – to “improve” something is to automatically judge it wasn't as good as it could have been.

But when in the comments on last night's podcast, Stacy wrote, “I sometimes feel that some aren't qualified to judge” I shot off on a 4 minute tangent/exploration/rant on what more or less amounted to how we can judge who's judging us.

It's very tempting to think that we create is objectively good or bad, but this throws us into confusion every time we get more than one verdict on our work. 

This person said it was amazing, but that person was indifferent to it! Who was right? Whose opinion should I value more?

So when we know how much time, effort and skill we put into creating our work, but it doesn't seem to be recognised or valued by our intended audience, it's very easy to feel they have got it wrong. 

Especially when other people seem to be favourably judging what we can see is clearly an inferior image.

Perhaps they didn't spend enough time studying our photograph; perhaps they are corrupt and are going to award the prize to their wife's cousin; or perhaps they are an imbecile who wouldn't know a good photo if it slapped them in the face!

Or maybe my judgement skills are completely off, and my work is just so crap, and I'm so crap, that I should just give up now and leave it to people who are better than me.

How can we make sense of it?

Well the first thing we have to do is get rid of any idea of some kind of objective truth to it all.

Quite simply there are multiple agendas, and any verdict on our work is going to be based on a particular set of criteria that will vary from place to place and person to person.

I've talked before about how I can put up what I consider to be one of my best pieces of work on Facebook only for it to receive less than 20 likes. And yet a quick selfie of me and my daughter can gather over 200.

Is the selfie a better photo?

Well, it's a better photo for Facebook, where images are judged on social content rather than technical expertise.

Recently I was in conversation with other photographers about online competition sites like GuruShots and ViewBug, where after a while you start to realise subtlety is utterly lost. The loudest, more obvious, and most cliched images tend to do best. 

So should I make my photography more contrasty, more saturated, and more mainstream?

Frankly, if I want to do well in those competitions, then yes.

But that same criteria would work against me if I was entering my photos onto sites like 1x or One Eyeland.

Exactly the same photo can win one competition yet languish in the bottom 10% of votes in another.

In his comment on my blog post last week, Keith talked of the success of an image being based on whether it achieved it purpose. 

So understanding the audience is the key to gaining recognition from that audience.

If I want to impress that set of photographers, then I need to develop my technical skills.

If I want to win more prizes on competition sites where there is crowd voting, then I need to abandon subtlety.

And if I want to impress on Facebook, then I need to do more selfies with my daughter.

Most of us want some form of recognition and praise for what we do, but for that we either need to adjust our style to suit particular audiences, or we have to seek it from those who already share our tastes and values. 


0.00 - What's coming up
3:00 - Introduction to the Pip and Ell photo shoot 
14:30 - Using Pinterest Boards for working with clients
16:00 - Critique of images submitted to the Facebook Group, "Understanding Photography with Kim Ayres"
30:20 - Who is qualified to judge your photo?
1:35:00 - Coming up next week

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