The blog of photographer Kim Ayres

The results are in... and Episode 74 of Understanding Photography with Kim Ayres

Last week I set up a poll in the Understanding Photography with Kim Ayres Facebook group. The idea was to try and get a sense of which aspect of the podcasts were most enjoyed or, perhaps more importantly, which aspects viewers might not be enjoying at all.

I'm very aware of the importance of critique in growing our photography skills. Without decent feedback, how are we ever going to get past our blind spots? It's too easy to put our images up on social media and enjoy the praise, but growth is only possible if we can discover where our limitations are, and how to improve.

The same thing of course applies to my live streaming video podcast – except I have no idea how to get decent critique for it. Even though a huge industry seems to be building up around audio podcasts, I struggle to find useful information about my video one, and it's impossible to get knowledgeable feedback.

So it's constant guess work, and second guessing guess work, and trying to find my blind spots which, unsurprisingly I can't see because I'm blind to them...

There are 4 key areas to the podcasts:

  1. the critique section
  2. the challenges
  3. the introduction to the challenges, which includes tips tricks, insights and possibilities to explore before submitting photos
  4. the stories and decisions behind some of the more interesting or challenging photo shoots I've been involved in

Different weeks contain different combinations of these things, but what I wasn't sure about was whether there might be one or two which everyone skips past to get to the actual bit they're interested in.

If I was to judge purely on response rates, then it's been noticeable for a long time that the weeks I do the Challenges I generally get more submissions, more viewers, more chat and interaction, and more coffees bought for me at my online tip jar,

On the weeks I talk about the photo shoots, it's usually quieter with fewer people turning up and a lot less chat.

And for the Critique section it's not uncommon for only 2 or 3 people to submit anything. I've had occasions where I've reached the limit I can include in a single podcast – about 6 or 7 – but it's quite rare.

The conclusion based on these response rates then would indication I should just do Challenges each week and scrap the rest.

But that doesn't feel right. The fact is I'm doing this to help people improve their photography, and Challenges alone are not enough to do that. It also doesn't take into consideration those who cannot join in live but avidly watch the recorded versions.

So last week I put up a poll asking people to let me know which of the 4 key areas they enjoyed (they could vote for more than one) and of the 29 people who responded the results were as follows:

  • Critique got 24 votes
  • Ideas and techniques for challenges got 21 votes
  • The Challenges themselves got 20 votes, and
  • The photo shoots got 18 votes

This paints a different picture, that in some ways seems quite contradictory. 

The Challenges, which get the highest response rate, ranked 3rd in the poll, whereas the Critique section which can sometimes be a real struggle to get anyone to submit for, was ranked highest.

However, the stories and insights behind the photo shoots got the least, as I kind of suspected.

And yet, it's not quite as straightforward as that, because when I drilled down into the votes, they were not evenly spread. There were some who voted for the photo shoots only and nothing else.

Additionally, I had a few people message me directly, which gave me a deeper sense of how they felt rather than just as a number in a statistic. One, for example, said "Hearing your professional thought process in setting up a shoot gives us something to aspire to. Please keep this up, even if you can't do it weekly"

So it appears that the different aspects are appealing to different people on different levels.

I think while the Critique section is something most people find really useful, it can feel quite vulnerable to put your image in to be reviewed in front of other people, so they would rather watch someone else's. Of course if everyone thinks that then no one sends anything in and the Critique section ceases to exist.

And there have been weeks where that has almost happened and I've had to nudge one or two regulars to ask if they are going to submit something so the podcast isn't going to be over 10 minutes after I start due to lack of content.

For some, the Challenges are something they don't mind submitting to as it's more about smug points than Critique. However, there are a few viewers who will still never feel confident enough in their work to submit, and I know at least one who doesn't even take photos but enjoys the stories and interaction.

For others the insights into the photo shoots are the most valuable part of all. I know myself that there comes a point where nobody's really going to be able to tell you much about lighting, composition and camera settings that you don't already know.

Certainly I know for me, the thoughts and decision making processes of other photographers is something I find absolutely fascinating and can't get enough of.

And in the end, there was only 6 points difference between the highest and the lowest, which isn't that much.

I get the feeling that if I scrapped any one of them, even though some wouldn't miss it, others would.

So my conclusion?

I think it has to be that unless or until I get a new bit of feedback to change my mind, I'll just carry on the way that I have been, but feel less worried about whether I'm getting it all wrong.

Meanwhile enjoy Episode 74 below, where I review all the images submitted to the Cup Photo Challenge, and dish out smug points for my favourites...


2:00 - Welcome, what's coming up, greetings and comments
6:17 - Introduction to the Cups Challenge
08:35 - Reviewing images on the theme "Cups" submitted to the podcast, "Understanding Photography with Kim Ayres"
1:30:35 - Reflections on the podcast poll
1:34:25 - Coming up next week
1:39:25 - End

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

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