Some thoughts on POTD

Started Feb 1, 2001 | Discussions thread
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Furrukh Khan Veteran Member • Posts: 3,917
Some thoughts on POTD

Dear Friends, Chris’s (aka Nite, aka nitecrlwr) post, “POTD guaranteed”:

http://www.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1005&message=805588

made me think about some reservations I have about POTD contests. I would like to share these thoughts with you.

Very often people get so involved with these contests that they start making photographs just to win these. They adapt their style just for this contest. This can be detrimental for creativity and self-expression. Some people mistakenly start to believe that the number of POTDs is a measure of how their photography is improving.

In my opinion and experience, the process of learning photography usually goes like this:

First Stage: You start by taking badly composed snapshots, with too much clutter and visual noise, and no message.

Second Stage: You learn rules of composition etc. and your photography does improve over your beginning snapshots. You start blurring backgrounds, you zap out “distractions”, use 1/3 rules, balance your photographs etc.; and you win some POTDs. The biggest hurdle in my opinion is to break out of this phase. It is very difficult to break through from this stage if the number of POTDs becomes a measure of our photography strength. To break through, you have to start violating those rules that made you a better photographer in the first place. To sharpen your self-expression, and focus your vision, you have to go outside the boundaries of rules. You have to experiment. That probably means fewer (or no) POTDs. The danger is that you may think, that since you are not making POTDs any more, and since you used to win them before, then it must mean that your photography is not improving. So you stop experimenting, and expressing your self in creative ways and go back to more rigid formulas to win POTDs. You start choosing pleasing, fluffy, happy, subject matter to win more POTDs. If that happens then there is a very big danger that your photography will become stagnant. You may win more POTDs but you won’t be becoming a better photographer. You could remain stuck in stage two forever! . Another factor that can cement us in this stage is that most of commercial photography uses clichés, and fluffy happy stuff, because the main aim of commercial photography is not self expression, but rater to invoke certain well studied and known emotions in us to sell a product, after much market research. Self-expression comes second, if at all, and only if it can help sell a product or a concept to a certain group of people, with a certain amount of income, and sophistication.

Third Stage: You get bored of rigid rules and photographs that eke out emotions by using sentimental and cliché subjects in pre determined surroundings, and start experimenting with breaking these rules, and putting self-expression ahead of rules. You make photographs with soul and spirit in them, and not just illustrations with good design. You break away from the second stage, and do not worry about POTDs. You look at all the POTDs at these sites, and once in awhile you see a photograph that makes you look at it with passion and emotion, which increases your pulse rate, but the rest look identical to you. You read quality magazines on photography, and look at photographs and books written by masters and scholars of photography. You develop an eye for photography and acquire self-confidence so you can judge the strength of your own photographs and do not need confirmation from the judges of POTD sites. The irony is that to reach stage three, you have to give up the rules, that made it possible for you to break out of stage one. You have to give up what made you better. That is a difficult thing. Giving up is a perhaps strong word, I mean more like use them as guides only, but pay more emphasis on your self expression

I am not suggesting that we do not participate in these contests. By all means we should; provided we keep these words of warning in the back of our minds. And make sure that we do not fall into the trap of equating the number of POTDs we win with the strength of our photography. And of course, good photographs also win POTDs, along with the cookie cutter ones. So I am certainly not implying that if you win POTD then your photograph is automatically “cookie cutter”. I have seen many good photographs form my friends in this forum, win POTDs which were certainly not cookie cutter. I am only trying to warn against the trap we can fall into which can stifle our growth as photographers and artists (IMHO). As long as we do not fall in this trap then POTDs can be rewarding and fun. Just, let us not take them too seriously!

Cheers!

Furrukh

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