Are My Pictures Any Good?

by Tim Hancock.

How do I know if my photographs are any good?

This is a really tough question to answer in some ways, and very easy in another. It is not glib to say that a photograph is good if YOU like it – this is a hobby for us after all, and we all have different tastes. Knowing you took the picture yourself also adds something intangible but valuable as you remember the occasion, atmosphere and whole experience – something unknown to an observer – but something which adds another dimension to the simple visual image. Maybe you recorded a specific event, family related or society related. This narrative is so valuable in photography, recording your memories and society history, which is in the making all the time.

If you are looking for feedback on the aesthetic only of your photography, the easiest way is to enter one of the competitions at the club. When it comes to judging night, a judge from the Photographic Association of Great Britain ( PAGB ) will give feedback on your photograph completely anonymously. Whilst this can be a bit daunting the first time, confidence soon builds – especially if you get a good mark or even win a club competition. These competitions are really good ways to learn, as you get unbiased feedback and a good judge will give advice on how the image can be “improved”. The downside to all this is that the PAGB and therefore its judges, have a pretty set view on what makes a good photograph – almost a checklist if you like. Is it sharp where it should be, is the exposure correct, are there any “burnt out” white areas or black shadows where there is no detail at all? Is there a centre of interest, is the composition good, does it have a “wow” factor? And so it goes on. These competitions are a great way to improve – but they do come with a health warning. Judges differ in their views of course and so consistency is almost impossible, and the PAGB does have its prejudices and fashions, so don’t take it too seriously!

Beyond club competitions, members of cameras clubs can seek distinctions with the PAGB and / or the Royal Photographic Society ( RPS ) and enter salons both in the UK and internationally seeking acceptance for their exhibitions. PAGB and RPS distinctions can be obtained by submitting 10-20 photographs, dependent on the level of distinction sought, which will be assessed by “experts”. Both organisations operate a three tier system of increasing difficulty, but differ in one key aspect. PAGB images are adjudged one by one based on how the judges view the work, whereas the RPS requires a panel of images to be submitted which is viewed as a whole and single body of work.

Salons operate both at the UK level ( British Photographic Exhibitions ) and internationally through the International Federation of Photographic Art ( FIAP ) and the Photographic Society of America (PSA) . These salons will review your submitted images ( for a fee ) and if accepted points are awarded which go towards distinctions with their organisation. Whilst this can be very satisfying it is an expensive route to travel.

If you want more information on distinctions, browse the internet for information and rules / conditions etc, or just send me an e mail if you would like a bit more background.

The ultimate test of what is a good photograph is however, simply, do YOU like it – if so then that is all that really matters.

Tim Hancock ARPS

August 2018