You Are the Best Judge, Really!
There’s probably only one thing better then spending a day shooting with folks, it’s having dinner with them and reliving the day’s fun! Like any gathering of photographers, be it a large group or just a couple of folks, conversation always tends to head towards the philosophical side of photography. One of the questions that’s been raised many, many times has to do with the image(s) and whether one or others liked this or that image or not. One of the most requested features at DLWS is the crit session, where the participant sits with an instructor and the instructor gives their input into the image. It raises a very important aspect of our photography that I think too many take way too for granted!
I more then understand that getting the opinion of someone who you respect helps your ego, but does it really help your photography? When I see folks go out the very next day and make the exact same mistake we just discussed hours earlier at their crit, I question what’s being learned in the crit process. Don’t confuse this though with the value a crit you might get from an editor, which is totally different because the end result might seem the same, but it by no means is. I’m talking about the peer to peer comments which so many seem to hang on.
When you push the shutter release, as far as I am concerned, the ONLY person you need to please, make happy, entertain and overwhelm is yourself! Photography is not a team sport. While there is no I in photography (sorry, watch too many movies), there is a Y which sounds close enough for me but really should stand for YOU (I know, lame). When we’re at the computer going through our images, who makes the final decision to keep this one image or delete that one? You do, right? That’s because they are YOUR images and you keep those you like and delete those you don’t. You don’t have a paneled jury saying yay or nay, do you?
Your decision to keep an image can be based on many factors. Since they are YOUR images, you can keep whatever you like for whatever reason. Perhaps the image has a sentimental hold on you, it’s a one of a kind, it could be fun or, it simply might be a darn good photograph. That’s a damn good reason to keep a photo (not necessarily why you’d show it to others though, that’s a totally different criteria). Whatever the reason you decide to keep an image, they are your reasons and they are ALL valid! (I have always said that folks delete way too many photographs!) These are all images that you like and that makes them golden in my eyes, keepers!
If that’s the case, why do photographers like to show their images to others? That’s a complicated question, lots of reasons from good to bad but whatever the case the point, what did you want to accomplish with your photograph? Did you want to please yourself, or yourself and the world? We all know how difficult it is to please ourselves at times with our images. It’s no easy feat, right? When I’m editing through my day’s takes, I normally don’t let anyone else in the room with me because I’m muttering out loud, good, bad, stupid, idiot, right on, excellent and many other things. If it’s that hard to please ourselves, than isn’t it reasonable to expect that it’s that difficult, if not at times, impossible to please the world? Damn right!
On a daily basis, sometimes hourly, I’m asked to make a comment on some one’s photos. Some just down right suck and yes, I say they suck (technically speaking). The majority though are in that no mans land of images where the photographer saw something but because of lack of inexperience, they just didn’t quite capture it to express it to the rest of the world. And that’s OK because it’s a place we’ve all been or are at in our photography, and it’s part of the learning curve. Whether I or someone else says they do or don’t like your photo, it should only be taken with a grain of salt. I know personally, there are tons of my own photographs that I love and the world simply doesn’t, and that’s OK. There are some that have received general acceptance and when that occurs, it’s a darn good feeling. When it comes to your photography, while other’s opinions might mean a lot to you, in the final analyze, their opinion won’t make or break your photograph or your photography. Your opinion will though! Take stock in what’s in your head and in your heart when it comes to your photographs. You are the best judge and you are the only judge!