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Are you afraid of the critical eye?

Are you afraid to describe yourself as a part-time photographer? Are you a little intimidated to show off your work? Are you full of self doubt as to your ability? Answer yes to just one of those questions and this might interest you...



For years, when I used to take photographs purely as a hobby and just for my own enjoyment, people used to compliment me and tell me I had a great eye. I'd gratefully accept their kind words of course, but secretly had very little confidence in my own ability. I'd shoot solely in 'Auto' mode, never used filters, in fact most of my early work was shot using a very basic kit lens. I look back on some of these early images and cringe. Whilst I may have had a good eye, my technical skills left a lot to be desired and certainly held me back. Fast forward a few years, and now I find others reluctant to show their work because they are almost embarrassed to...assuming that because I'm a professional I must be so much better than them and their work wouldn't stand up to scrutiny. I can tell you this couldn't be further from the truth, I love looking at other people's photography, it's inspiring to see how everyone views the world differently.

There’s a great online photography competition website called Photocrowd, where people can enter their images in a variety of competitions covering all sorts of photographic categories & genres. I’ve been entering images for quite some time and apart from one or two competitions where I finished in the Top 10, most of my entries have languished down the pecking order, most of the time, barely finishing in the top 50%. I found myself getting frustrated that photographs I thought were really good were overlooked for images that I believed were inferior. In the end I decided I wouldn’t bother with the competitions that were decided by ‘crowd voting’ and concentrate on those that were voted on by ‘experts’ I assumed they would recognise the technical skills I had shown and be a far better judge of my work. Amusingly, my success rate remained pretty poor and there was a temptation to think no-one got me. In actual fact, I had a tendency to flick through my extensive catalogue and find an image that fitted the category which isn't really in the spirit of the competition. The idea is that the category should inspire you to get out and shoot an image that fits not the other way around.

One such competition, that was sponsored by a well known photography magazine a few months ago, invited entries in ‘Compressed Perspective’ (You can see the two images that won below) Those that understand the term in a photographic sense will really appreciate the technical quality of the winning entry. It’s a brilliant execution of the directive, ticks all the boxes and is a really interesting composition. But compare it if you will with the image that won based on Crowd Voting. The contrast couldn’t be more stark. I find it easy to just assume that people are voting for the ‘pretty’ landscape picture rather than looking at images in any great depth but that is probably the point that I’ve missed. The fact is, that photography as an art form is subjective, which means that just because more people voted for a pretty landscape doesn’t mean they are wrong. Equally just because the competition winner is a more thought provoking and considered image (in my opinion) doesn’t mean it’s better or worse than the others. Another example (which can also be seen below) perfectly illustrates my point is the image I entered into 'Farm Animals'. Now don't get me wrong, I recognise that the winning entry is superb, my entry doesn't come close to it in either composition or technical requirement but I thought finishing in 1979th position was a bit harsh and so, it seems, did the judges who actually commended my image and just goes to prove that we all look at things in a different way.

With that in mind, and what I frequently tell myself is, stop caring about other people’s opinions! You can get your photograph judged by an expert if you wish, and they can point out all the technical flaws or applaud your efforts if that’s the reassurance you need but ultimately the only opinion that matters is your own....if you like your photograph and it means something to you then who cares what anyone else thinks. There's too much snobbery that exists in the world of landscape photography, actually in photography in general, too many who think they are better than everyone else and look down their nose at others who may not be able to afford the biggest and best equipment but never ever let them put you off taking photographs. If that happens to be on your mobile so what....have a look on this link and tell me the photography isn't amazing...and these are all shot on Mobile phones.

As well known American photographer, Chase Jarvis, said.....

"the best camera is the one you have with you"

so get out there and shoot the world. There's no better time than right now (even more so given the times we live in) so what's stopping you? I can't wait to see the results!

A :)

** EDIT ** Since writing this a couple of weeks ago, one of my images finished seventh as voted by the judges, and 35th as voted by the crowd...and the winning image, as voted by the judges finished a lowly 760th on crowd voting which supports my argument here! Here's the link..

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