Photo Challenges - Do they help you improve?

Started 9 months ago | Discussions thread
merops
Senior MemberPosts: 1,254
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Re: Photo Challenges - Do they help you improve?
In reply to Florida Nature Photographer, 9 months ago

Florida Nature Photographer wrote:

I am new to challenges and the ones I entered recently I found of little value in helping me become a better photographer.

... I'm wondering if they are worth my time.

Hi FNP (if I may be so familiar),

I started entering challenges about a year ago when I realised that my photos weren't embarrassinglybad relative to the rest of the competition   (Usually my entries are pretty much mid pack.)

As you yourself point out, you don't get much out of challenges if all you do is put the entry in and wait for the (usually disappointing) email. I've gradually discovered, however, that you can get quite a lot out of the challenges if you work a little to get it. For me there are two main routes:

First, I vote in pretty much all the challenges I enter. Voting means that you have to work out some mental scheme for deciding on the number of stars you give. Once you've finished voting, you can then look at your own entry(s) and try and judge it/them using the criteria you have set up. (This often leads you to be more realistic about your photo than when you first decided to enter.) You can use it to make a guestimate of where you will come in the final ranking. The next stage is to go back and look at the challenge after the results are announced. In my case, my own prior guestimate is often too high (it's getting more realistic ). I then have a look at the entries that came higher and lower and try and work out why mine placed where it did. Basically what I am learning is how to 'see' the strengths and weaknesses in my own photos, and that helps me to get better.

Second, I try and vote in a fair number of other challenges. (Incidentally, when I finish voting, I review my votes using 'My votes', which orders the photos from my highest to lowest. It's then easy to 'tweak' my voting.) After the results are announced I go back and review my votes, which also allows me to compare my vote with a photos final placing. Usually my votes are pretty well correlated with the final placing - but the photos where I voted differently from the majority of other other voters (eg I gave the 70th placed photo 5 stars ) are the interesting ones. As before I try and work out why the discrepancy. Sometimes this is because I didn't notice something about the photo; and sometimes it's because my taste differs from the crowd (eg I don't like highly saturated photos or vignetting added in pp). Again that improves my ability to 'see' what is good and bad in a photo, and helps me to develop my own tastes and have confidence in them.

I'm sure that others have other ways that they use the challenges, but 'learning to see' is for me a major benefit.

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