Posted by Claire Wade
Believe it or not, but my photos used to get placed in the top 5 of Photo of the Month fairly regularly. Sometimes, I’d refrain from entering on a particular month due to worry that people might be getting sick of me!! However, this has not been a problem for a looooong time. These days my photos very rarely find their way to the POTM gallery. So what’s going on? Have I lost my mojo? Are my photos getting predictable? Am I just a terrible photographer and you’re all still thinking of a way to politely tell me? Oh no!!!
I’m hoping that it’s because of the increased membership resulting in a lot more competition. I was joking to Phil a while ago that we need to get rid of all the recently acquired new talent so that I could win. He told me plainly that I needed to ‘up my game’.
Upping my game
I like to think that over the years my photography has improved. I’ve had plenty of practice, tuition and practicals at the club, a few private lessons with professional photographers, started an online course, read books and tried to get inspiration from photography on the internet. If I haven’t gotten any better, I’ve wasted a lot of time and it would be most embarrassing. So what else can I do?
It’s just for fun!
POTM was created to be for fun, a way for us all to see each other’s photos and have a friendly bit of competition without getting too serious. But you know, Phil announcing your photo as one of the winners is always going to be a wonderful feeling. On the opposite side of the coin, entering an image that you are really proud of, only for it to get no mention can be very disappointing. And I know that for those who never get placed, it can be dis-heartening.
Lack of attention to your photos in POTM may make you privately question your ability – I know I do – that is, question MY ability, not yours!
Or you maybe wondering what the hell is wrong with the other members of the club, don’t they know an awesome photo when they see one?!! Plebians.
Does it matter?
On Thursday we had a very successful photographer, David Peters, give us a highly entertaining talk on his 45 year career and highly lucrative business. When so many photographers are struggling to earn a living, he’s at the top of his game. But the only thing he ever won in a competition is a Christmas Pudding, and he doesn’t care one iota. He’s far too busy playing golf. However, if he ever questions his ability as a photographer, it certainly doesn’t appear that way. I know that Willfield Camera Club is chock full of great and creative photographers, so no, I don’t think it matters at all.
But I keep entering photos that I think are really good 🙁
So why is no one voting for me? It could be that you recognise my work and don’t like me. Or it could just be you thought other photos were better. I’ll go with the latter.
Know your audience
Where I work we hire a couple of excellent photographers to shoot images to market schools. The images they send to me are always sharp, correctly exposed, with happy children engaged in school. When I send them to the client, they generally love the photos. We’ve captured the essence and spirit of their school, highlighted the exceptional areas and brought out the best in the pupils. Our photographers take brilliant photos, and so they should, they’ve had plenty of experience.
But I’ll bet that if they entered the majority of their school photography in POTM, it wouldn’t get placed. That’s because those photos won’t really mean much to members of WCC, you don’t know the school or the children in it, they mean nothing to you. You’ll see those photos and see some children in a classroom. As photographers, you may appreciate the skill that went into the shot, especially when we all know that working with children can be hard work. But you’re just looking at a photograph of some kids, it’s a great photo, but you wouldn’t want it on your wall.
I could spend four months trekking to the end of Australia to find a duck-billed platypus in the wild. Sitting for weeks in a bog, with platypus’ favourite treats on a stick, patiently waiting, getting wet, miserable and cold, I finally get a shot. OMG, I’m so happy, I got a photo of a duck-billed platypus; honestly I would be so happy and it would get entered to POTM. When the rest of you come to look at the photo, would you vote for it just because of all the work I put into it? Maybe you thought I shot it at the zoo one afternoon and you might not vote for it because it is rather an ugly animal, poorly composed as I only had a fraction of a second to get it. No one who knew the work that went into it would deny that I earned kudos for all that effort, but is it a winning photo? Maybe. Maybe not.
So what does my audience want?
When you find out, please let me know. Your audience for POTM is fellow members, we’re a mixed bunch with varying tastes, so who knows what we all want? The best way to find out is to look at previous winning images (they’re all in the gallery, click here to see it), this is the only indication we have and it’s a good place to start. However, tastes change and a photo that won two years ago may not win today.
It has been noted that new members quite often get placed. What’s that all about? Instead of improving with time, do WCC members lose their ability? We’re cursed!!
It could be that new members bring fresh ideas. The first time you see their landscape photography, you gasp in awe, but a few months down the line, another newbie has joined who knocks your socks off with a bird in flight. Maybe you’ll vote for that bird this time, and will toss those amazing landscape shots to one side, like yesterday’s cold chips.
Gaining new ideas is a good idea
I find that being told to ‘get creative’ is highly annoying. Creativity is not an easy thing to teach, learn or practice in my opinion. So maybe opt for looking at what other people are doing and then try to do something similar that will develop into something new and better.
Even if you don’t win POTM, it could certainly be enjoyable and satisfying for you. Get online, join photography forums and see what images are getting the most positive comments, then have a go at doing something similar. The internet is great for inspiration but it can be a bad thing too. We’ve all seen so many brilliant images in the media, that we’re getting harder to impress. It might not be enough to get a sharp and colourful portrait of a wild bird, these days we want action and drama. People aren’t impressed unless you get a large bird swooping down to capture a mouse from the back of a monkey driving a racing car. Your audience can be demanding. You are part of the audience, so I wonder, when you’re voting, do you go for nice images, or do you go for that wow factor?
Don’t lose impact
I love sharing my photos on social media, anyone connected to me online will have seen my photos on Flickr, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. I wonder if this effects my ability to win POTM? A photo has it’s strongest impact when viewed for the first time. So when WCC members come to view the POTM entries each month, they could possibly whizz past my efforts because they already saw them and any possible wow is last week’s news. Also, it means I’ve lost the anonymity we hope to have in POTM. But I can’t help myself, and I will always put my photos online as soon as I’ve edited the best ones. My bad.
A few weeks ago, Peter Preece came to talk to us about his wildlife photography. He had some stunning photos including ‘birds on sticks’. He told us that generally in competitions, ‘birds on sticks’ are dissed as being passé. So he doesn’t bother with competitions anymore. He gets great satisfaction from his birds on sticks and earns a tidy profit selling them for calendars and greeting cards, thus he also must be giving other people pleasure with his photos.
So I ask you, why are you taking photos? Is it for the joy of the art and the warm fuzzy feeling when people tell you they like your photos? If that is the case, never mind POTM, carry on taking the photos you enjoy, share them on social media and we can all click that we like them. Get creative if you like, but don’t change what you’re doing if you like what you’re doing – you’ll never second guess what WCC is thinking, so why even try? You’re already awesome, you’re a member of the best club in the world!
But please don’t stop entering POTM. I always look forward to Phil emailing out the link for the current month’ s entries, looking through them all, trying to guess who did what and picking my faves. And it’s brill when you see someone get placed for the first time… but not as brill as when you all vote for me!