As much as I like to claim that I take my photos for myself and care not for what people think, I have to admit that is not entirely true. While I have my own viewpoint, I do enjoy when others like what I’ve taken and take the time to tell me so (usually with comments on my photos).
Over time I have come to get a feeling for what people like of my photography. I haven’t really modified my own way of seeing or taking photos, but I do tend to be encouraged in what I show off publicly. Essentially, what I mean is that having gotten a feel for what people like to see, I tend to show off those photos I think are going to meet with approval.
I have been using a Pentax camera since I decided to become serious about photography and one of the perks Pentax provides is a peer reviewed photo gallery to show off your best. Members of the gallery vote on each entry, and you are allowed to submit 10 entries to be voted upon each week. It may take six weeks or more for each photo to be accepted or rejected.
The gallery doesn’t publish the method it uses to determine which photos are eventually approved, but it is known that once a photo passes a certain threshold of positive votes it then enters a queue to be finally approved by a set of professional judges.
The bottom line though, is once the voting is done and approval granted, those photos have gone through a review process where peer approval is granted. And although I do get a sense from comments, on my website, of the images people tend to like, the Pentax Gallery approval process is even better at making it clear.
As one of my friends likes to point out (frequently) the Pentax Gallery is a marketing exercise. And he is quite correct, and as such it is safe to assume that their standards are not going to be true art gallery standards, but none the less it is a review system and making submissions does not automatically entitle you to approval.
I started submitting images in June 2009 and be the end of that year I’d had only 5 approvals. I had gotten quite upset that I had been submitting what I thought were my best images and consistently having them rejected. So I stopped submitting for a long time.
Then in the second quarter of 2010 I realized that while I don’t need peer approval to know what I like to photograph (or to validate me personally), some sort of validation process is valuable in helping determine direction, so I started submitting again. I was quite successful too, before 2010 ended I’d had more than 100 new approved images and had gotten much better at judging what images would be likely to be approved.
I have no doubt that the more challenging images will be rejected (as they almost always are) but every so often I am surprised at what gets approved. It appears that, sometimes, I can produce images I consider challenging, which are also crowd pleasers.
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