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Peer Approval.


Red, Revealed

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.

Anyway, I’ve put together a slide show of a selection of the approved images below. The full set can be viewed on my website here. And my official Pentax Photo Gallery page is here.

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  1. Michael Lam says: February 14, 2011

    Nicely written Nik. I must say that I enjoy taking photographs, and I am happy when others display approval of them. I think the reason I blog mine a lot is not so much for approval, but to record my journey and to get approval and criticisms. Not having “studied” or read as extensively as others, I find the this method opens me to the opinions of others and by viewing the blogs of others on the same Journey, I can see where I have passed, and where I should be going.

    Stay on the bus Nik 🙂

  2. kampta persaud says: February 14, 2011

    Hi Nikhil,
    Criticisms as well as compliments should carry equal weight as they allow us to examine ourselves to determine whether to continue on track or to change direction.
    Without welcoming criticisms, we will become like the Emperor without clothes.
    As a young man I enjoyed critique from my peers as it allowed me to improve my performance and to excel.
    Follow your passion my son.
    Uncle, Kampta.

  3. Kim Lee says: February 14, 2011

    Unfortunately, I lack any real artistic understanding and so the pictures always look so good to me. I don’t have an eye as to what would improve it. I am always the most fascinated by pictures of people/faces.

  4. Sandra Marek says: February 15, 2011

    Hi Nikhil,
    Wow what a tantalizing array of images! I remember seeing most of them and I can most definately see why they would get chosen.
    I too believe that criticism is as important as compliments. I have learned a lot more from a properly constructed and well meaning critique than I have a “good job.” Although, I do enjoy seeing a “good job” on my images – LOL.
    Just continue shooting from the heart and doing what you love.


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