The blog of photographer Kim Ayres

Smug Awards, and the 2nd Anniversary of the Podcasts

Episode 104 of Understanding Photography with Kim Ayres was the 2nd anniversary of my live video podcasts.

As a bit of fun I decided to hand out “Smug” Awards to various regular contributors for things like being the furthest away in the world from Castle Douglas in a particular direction, for turning up regularly, and for submitting photos I'd be really chuffed with if I'd taken them.

I pinned a few balloons to the bookshelf behind me, and Maggie brought me in a wee cake with 2 candles on shortly after I'd started broadcasting.

It was a fun, engaging episode designed to celebrate the achievement of creating 2 years worth of live video podcasts about photography.

And yet, away from the webcam, microphone and comments on my YouTube channel, there's a voice in my head that likes to tell me about all the things I haven't actually achieved with the podcast – like global domination, for example.

I do in fact have people tuning in all over the world every week – from West Coast USA to South Africa to India, and occasionally someone staying up really late in Australia.

However, they have never been at the numbers I envisaged, hoped for, or even expected to achieve.

Far from being a “YouTube Sensation” with millions of followers, so far, after 2 years and 104 episodes, it doesn't feel much bigger than the size of a camera club.

There are a little over a dozen who comment throughout the live broadcast, every week (and a few more who pop in and out less regularly), another handful who watch but don't comment, and the stats seem to show there are quite a few more who watch the recordings, although it's rare for me to reach as high as 3 figures.

The regular commenters, though, do allow me to respond, interact and take the podcast away from being a purely instructional video, into the realms of fun and friendliness with a certain amount of unpredictability.

There is nothing polished about doing a live show with no script in front of me. However, I believe it makes the connection I do have with the viewers considerably more authentic. Quite simply, if you met up with a few friends in a café for a chat and just pulled out your pre-written script as your contribution to the conversation, then I don't think you'd get invited out very often, no matter how interesting or relevant your words were.

If I am looking for the real "achievement" of the podcasts, then it has to be the sense of community that has been developed over the past 2 years.

My frustration, though, is the amount of work that goes into creating the content week in, week out, for so few people to watch and engage with. Ideally I would like to be able to add a good couple of zeros on to the end of the number count.

And a part of the struggle with the content is the continued fear I am going to run out of things to talk about.

When I began the podcasts back in April 2020, I worked out 3 months worth of content. A few weeks in and I realised I probably had another 4 months or so I could add on afterwards. So I was particularly surprised to reach the first anniversary last year and find I was still going.

Over time it keeps getting tweaked and adjusted, with some things becoming more streamlined, and other things being added or removed.

In many ways, one of the biggest achievements has been that I have been able to come up with 2 years worth of content, regardless of the number of people watching.

But while I have been panicking more recently about feeling I really have almost exhausted everything I can podcast about, while I was driving back from a trip to visit my father this week, I had a brainwave for another strand I could start to explore.

And part of that has come from trying to deal with the periodic overwhelm of imposter syndrome.

I don't have a problem with talking with a certain amount of authority when it comes to portrait and narrative photography, but I am not an expert in most other kinds. Landscape, wildlife, still life, macro, street, architecture, product etc. – all these are things where there are many more people who are far better at them than me.

And one of the problems with the followers of my podcasts is, for the most part, they are more interested in improving their skills in all these other kinds of photography.

So who am I to think I could help them improve in anything other than my own speciality?

However, part of the revelation during the drive home from seeing my father, was a good coach doesn't have to be stronger, faster or more skilled – what's required is they have a deeper understanding, insight, and an ability to communicate it.

And I do have that.

I might not be able to take landscape or wildlife or product photos to the level of the experts in those areas, but I do have a deep understanding of light, composition and narrative in photography. This in turn means I understand how the images are taken and why particular technical and creative decisions were made.

Although I don't have the 10,000 photos experience in those particular genres, I do know how to explain them to someone else.

And for most of the people who watch my podcasts, they don't need the top expert in the world – they just need someone who knows more than they do and, critically, knows how to explain it in a non-threatening, easily understandable way.

I remember my mother saying to me many years ago, a good teacher doesn't have to know everything – they just have to be a page ahead of the students. The skill is in the teaching.

This way of looking at things I think is going to free me up to explore photography much more alongside the podcast viewers – I can be journeying with them rather than feeling I always have to be the expert.

Perhaps the real achievement is being able to dismantle another part of my ego that lives in fear of being found out to be “less than.”

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Below you can enjoy Episode 104 ofUnderstanding Photography with Kim Ayres, with the dishing out of Smug Awards.

If you decide to click through and watch it directly on YouTube (rather than here on the blog), then you can watch the Live Chat Replay and see the comments people are writing in real time as the podcast progresses.

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2:06 - Welcome to the SMUG AWARDS - 2 year anniversary of the podcasts
4:10 - An anniversary cake!
4:47 - comments and greetings
7:26 - what podcasts are usually like, but why this is different
6:12 - Greetings and comments
8:39 - Smug Award to my wife
9:27 - Smug Award to my biggest fan
11:30 - Smug Awards to most geographically distant from Castle Douglas, Scotland
15:18 - Smug Awards to those who turn up every week, barring emergencies
19:00 - Smug Awards to those who are less regular visitors, but still contribute and make their presence felt
20:35 - Smug Awards to those who turned up to the live version of today's podcast
21:50 - Special Smug Award to Pat
23:08 - Special Smug Award to Viji
25:27 - Special Smug Award to Robert
26:55 - Special Smug Award to Alex
27:47 - Special Smug Award to Ben
30:25 - Special Smug Award to Rose-Marie
31:49 - Special Smug Award to April
34:57 - Photos I've been hugely impressed b
37:10 - Photography Smug Award to Alex
37:53 - Photography Smug Award to Anne
40:26 - Photography Smug Award to Ben
44:17 - Photography Smug Award to Bennitito
46:14 - Photography Smug Award to Garry
49:06 - Photography Smug Award to Jacqui
51:39 - Photography Smug Award to Nicola
52:50 - Photography Smug Award to Robert
55:29 - Photography Smug Award to Viji
1:01:44 - Coming up next week - Critique
1:03:22 - End

5 comments

neena maiya (guyana gyal) said...

Congratulations on reaching two years, Kim. Don't worry about not reaching the big numbers as yet. Most of the "influencers" who have reached big numbers worked at it for years before they got there. It seems as though they've had instant fame, but no, not so. You will get there.

I like this: "I can be journeying with them..."

Viji said...

Congratulation Kim. Your mother is absolutely correct. Narrative photography, requires great expertise and it includes nature, architecture, street as a backdrop. Macro and still life you are already mastered too. I strongly feel you are an expert in all these genres. I am excited about upcoming challenges and Critique section.

Kim Ayres said...

Neena - while some people do work at things for years and eventually succeed, there are also many others who work at it for years and never get there - and it is this latter group I worry I am a part of...

Viji - someone wrote to me recently saying that while they can find a lot of online tutorials about camera settings and different genres of photography, hardly anyone ever seems to mention narrative. And yet, it is the driving force behind any successful photo. I think understanding this is probably the real key to photography

Ben Craven said...

I think you're completely right that the best coach doesn't have to be a total expert in the thing they are teaching. In my teaching of product design engineering students, I have found that the best projects *aren't* the ones where I know a lot more than the students about whatever it is that they are trying to design. In such projects, I find myself discussing with students and knowing exactly what it is that I think they ought to do, but not wanting to simply tell them, because that wouldn't help their education. So it's all a bit false. It's much better when I'm a stranger to the topic myself, and what I offer is a broader experience of how to approach problems when you can't simply look up the right answer, which, in the end, is the skill I'm trying to develop in my students.

So if I were you I wouldn't have the slightest hesitation in offering opinions on unfamiliar genres of photography. In fact, here's a podcast suggestion: take a genre about which you know as little as possible, do not do any research or look up the work of well-known practitioners of this genre, and spend some time having a go at it, bringing all your other knowledge to bear. Then show us what you produced and talk about the thought processes and learning that went on as you did it. I appreciate that this may be too big an imposition on your time to actually be practical, but it's a thought!

Kim Ayres said...

Ben - your thoughts and comments are always greatly appreciated!
I meant to reply to this comment earlier this week - apologies for the delay.
In today's podcast, I'm putting into practice one idea I had.
And while it's not exactly the same as your suggestion, it is about looking at one of my weakest subjects - Architectural Photography.
However, what I have done is asked a photographer I know to send some sample images and advice, which I will go through in the podcast before setting an Architectural Photography Challenge - and I will take part in the challenge myself :)

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