Can you run with the big dogs? That’s always the question isn’t it. Almost every creative person I know asks the question: am I good enough? Do I measure up? Photography is no different. I break photographers down into four basic categories: beginners, enthusiasts, advanced-amateurs and professionals. In the two upper tiers I find very little difference—basically one makes money with their photography, and the other one doesn’t. I have seen many advanced-amateurs that can shoot rings around so-called professionals (myself included).
In this day and age of political correctness it is very difficult to get an honest critique of one’s own work, and that is a shame. Nobody wants to hurt anyone’s feelings. But it’s only through constructive criticism from knowledgeable peers that we can learn and hopefully improve. Family and friends provide positive feedback and loving support, but lack the experience (and oftentimes the confidence) to be truly honest about our work. It “feels good” but provides no practical help relative to improvement.
I have withdrawn from almost every photography group I’ve ever belonged to. The reason for those withdrawals remains fundamentally the same: the sites are typically “feel good” sites where you can post your photos, and have people exclaim ooh and ah. If you count the ooh’s and ah’s you can get some small sense of a particular photo’s worth, but no real technical criticism and feedback. Throw in the politics, egos and cyber-bullying—well, it’s just not for me. There are some great photography groups to be found, but they typically fall short of what I’m personally looking for. I love sharing my work with friends on Facebook, and on this blog, but I’ve been craving validation (not necessarily praise) from photographers at my level or higher. Also, Facebook and other public sites are clogged with snapshots posted by beginners and enthusiasts—basically hobbyists. Some want to improve their craft, but the vast majority don’t and/or won’t make the effort to study and learn.
Mind you, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Photography is a great hobby. But for a serious photographer the quest is never over, we’re always searching for better understanding, better tools, improved skill and for some of us commercial success. I look at literally hundreds of photographs almost everyday, not so that I can copy or plagiarize the images, but so that I can learn. I read constantly and view online tutorials and interviews—anything photography related. And I practice. I practice a lot, by shooting thousands upon thousands of images every year.
I’ve recently come across a website from the United Kingdom for the advanced-amateur and professional photographer. It is not for the faint of heart. The members are serious, often world-class, photographers. Competing with these folks is definitely running with the big dogs. This is not Facebook, Flickr or some other “feel good” group for those seeking praise or moral support. This site is for those of us who want to up our game, and reach for the next levels. It is a participatory group—you have to provide feedback and criticism to receive feedback and criticism.
For an image to be published on the site it must go through a rigorous selection process. Only 3% of all submitted images are selected for publication. Every image submitted goes through the membership gauntlet, and we each have the opportunity to vote Publish or Reject, and submit a detailed critique of the image if we want. Final selection is determined by 11 curators (founding members), and only the finest images make it to the end—remember, only 3% get published. Like I said earlier, not for the faint of heart. I invite you to click on the link below, and to visit this unique site to see some wonderful photography. If you’re a serious photographer (no beginners or enthusiasts), and have the guts, consider becoming a member.
Old Habana (Havana), Cuba