10 levels of a photographer…

So, I got a bunch of flak from folks at the dpchallenge.com site which I’d joined recently and voted on some photos entered for a competition. The subject was “What is this Pencil?” – essentially, photographs wherein a pencil was in use, but not as a writing implement. My average vote for the 110 photos was 3.3 – this is a very low average score and most folks seem to have a considerably higher average voting score. I wasn’t trying to be harsh / mean. I just used the entire range of the rating available. After the results of the voting were published, I noticed that most folks voted in the 4-7 range. I fail to understand the point of having a range of 1-10, but people using only some subset of that. Doesn’t it simply skew the results?

Anyhoo, one of the members, Rina, messaged me, very nicely, that the flak was probably due to the low average score which reeked of trolling. Since the message had a very warm tone to it, it was appropriate that I explain my rating system. And so I did. Below is my response to Rina from which the 10 levels of a photographer can be gleaned:

Hey Rina,

Thanks for the email. I appreciate the warmth greatly. I primarily see photography as a form of art. As with any art form, one needs to transcend the medium to go from being a technician to an artist. Mastery of fundamentals is an essential first step in the journey of transformation into an artist.

The pencil challenge is the first one that I decided to cast my votes for. Based on generally high quality of images entered in challenges, I arrived at the view that a fair portion of the images that were entered in this particular challenge were below average.

The chopsticks idea is an obvious one – so, of course there were multiple photos that showcased it. But some did it well and others not so well.

Perhaps I’m missing something, but images that stand out for poor photography technique should not be entered in a competition. By technique, I’m talking about some very basic things like focus, depth of field, shadowing due to light sources, color levels, appropriate cropping without losing bits of the image, etc. Those images that were lacking in the basics are the ones that I reserved my scores of 2 and 3 for. I only rated a handful of photos as 1, since they were essentially just plain jarring / ugly / lacking taste – not just for serious technical deficiencies.

4 and 5 are the average photos – ones that don’t cause me to barf coz they have the basics down pat, but to which I probably wouldn’t give a second glance were I to see them anywhere else.

6 is for those photos where the photographer begins to show signs of no longer being restricted by the camera – the rudimentary signs of art start to become evident.

7 & 8 – here’s where the photographer really starts to escape the medium and is starting to express him-/her- self well. The person is mostly an artist but the mind is still yet not completely unfettered by the medium.

9 & 10 – there is no subject, there is no camera, there is no photographer. There is only art.

Thanks again for your email. It has given me the opportunity to clarify (even to myself) my criteria for rating photos.

I think I’m going to post my rating system to my DPC profile.

p.s. I consider myself to be at a level 4 or 5 for the most part and with occasional sparks of inspiration (1 in every couple of hundred photos), I manage to reach a level 6. No false humility here, but I suspect that the highest I will ever get to in my life (and very seldom) is a 7 – probably not 8. 9 and 10 are out of my reach. Se la vie. 🙂

DPChallenge <message@dpchallenge.com>  to me
 show details  6:51 pm (2 hours ago)
DPChallenge user rinac has sent you the following private message:Hiya Vijay and welcome to DPC!

Just thought I’d drop you a line to say that most folk here are really nice, and if you get some slack initially, it’s just a defence mechanism 🙂 Your average vote cast is 3.3 and that tends to ring all the “troll” alarm bells, if you know what I mean.

Hey, if you need help with anything, feel free to get in touch.

Happy commenting!

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