How do we improve our photography? How do we take better pictures? How do we get past the point we are at? I ask myself this all the time? As a teacher I know the best way for my students to improve is by getting high quality feedback and in today’s digital age that should be easier than ever. But is it?
How do amateur street photographers get feedback on their photographs? The answer is that probably most don’t. I read a statistic yesterday that 80% of people think they take excellent photographs. That is a shocking statistic. The stats come from Canon’s inaugural “2016 Photography Trends Study,”. What does this tell us? That people are getting high quality critique? Or that people are deluded? If you watch TV talent shows you will know that it isn’t uncommon for people with absolutely no talent to enter. Convinced that they are going to be famous.
Chris Farling of The Observe Collective saw a gap and set up Street Crit. A Flickr group with the sole purpose of like minded individuals sharing their street photography images and giving and receiving critique. The site flourished for a while but due to a variety of reasons has started to decline in recent years. This is a massive shame as it could be an amazing tool for improving our work. I have, this week, agreed to moderate the group and I hope that we can restore it to its former glory.
I previously posted about the fact that we aren’t born talented but need to work at it with 10,000 hours being the figure which was discussed. This caused a lot of chatter on the forums with lots of different opinions. One being that you could do 10,000 hours and never get any better. This is truth is we need to seek to improve. The problem with feedback, on the Street Crit group and other forums is that it is often not of very good quality. Good ‘togs have left due to unfair comments and criticism.
After looking around the web I found this formula for critiquing an image. This could be applied to one of our own images or someone else’s.
- What am I feeling when I view this image?
- Is there an idea being conveyed?
- Do I form a connection or relate to this image?
- Is there a story being told?
- Is this story conveyed well?
Now, you may notice that this doesn’t talk about focus, corner sharpness, layering, light, clipping or any of the technical side. Now, these can be important but not always. I’m a big lover of photo books and I’ve bought or received as gifts a number over the years. I was looking through, “Magnum: Revolution” last night and realised that a number of images were blurred due to camera shake or focusing error. Did this make them less powerful? Of course not. If we tell the story well it doesn’t matter at all. These were though pieces of journalism not pieces of fine art so the ‘rules’ are perhaps slightly different.
Let’s take this image of mine.
What do you feel when you view it? Is there a story? Can you relate to it? Did I tell the story well?
Technically, I have focused slightly to the rear and the stag is not pin sharp. I considered throwing this shot away at first but to me it tells a story. Someone commented that it was like something from a fairy tale. Let me know what you think.
Or this one:
I love this shot. The light gives it a film noir feel. The expression on his face tells a million stories. Technically? The case at the front is a bit intrusive I guess. I’ve been told that I don’t pay attention to edges of my frame and this is totally true, there’s something creeping in on the right of the frame which I hadn’t even noticed until I got some feedback from Adam Bonn. Other feedback I got was less helpful, “Black and White looks contrived”, “the photo is too simple”
The other problem is, we aren’t always good at taking criticism. It takes a thick skin to listen to people rip apart your pride and joy but it is important. It is how we grow. I would encourage as many people as possible to get involved with Street Crit. It was a thriving community at one point but has now dwindled meaning that the quality and quantity of critique has dropped. View the image pool. Leave some critique. Vote KEEP or DITCH (Only the strong must survive!) Upload an image and hopefully improve your photography. But, leave your pride at the door and bring your thick skin!
Click here to view the group.
P.S. All the images I have posted on this thread have appeared on Street Crit and all (apart from the deer shot) have been relegated to the Dark Room. The room 101 of street photography.