When I posted ‘Rooftops‘, quite a few days ago, I said that I would be revisiting it. This was because I wanted to discuss its ‘likeability’, either to photographers and the public in general or to trained photographic judges. I kept that post intentionally brief, apart from inviting readers to state any reservations that they may have had about the image. So far, maybe disappointingly, I haven’t spotted any really negative comments, but that is probably because you are all too polite. That said, I liked the image before I captured it, and I still like it now. Here it is again.
When I spotted the different textures and colours of the houses and their roofs, I felt that a photo had to be taken.
Now I hope anyone who has read my previous posts will recognise that I am a pretty humble amateur photographer who knows that he has a long way to go to achieve the skills of many of you who post here. This post is very definitely not searching for praise. It is to try to explore what it is that makes an image ‘likeable’.
As I already said, I liked it. My wife Dee liked it even more, in fact she liked it enough to ask me to print, frame, and hang it, albeit only in the downstairs toilet, and this may have been only because the colours matched the decor.
Encouraged by my wife’s enthusiasm, I decided to enter it in one of the Camera Club competitions. Now Photographic Judges always admit at the start that it is only their opinion, so don’t be disappointed if they do not score your image highly. They may sometimes admit to their favourite genre, and sometimes this may show in their judging, but generally this is not the case. Unlike some of my fellow club members, who are always grumbling about judges, I generally hold them in high esteem. This is because I have learned a lot from them since joining the club and entering competitions. They are usually pretty consistent in their critique, but normally let us down kindly by finding something positive to say about our pictures, even when they are not great. That’s enough about judges though, back to this image.
On the night this image was judged, there was not much discussion about any merits that it might have had. From memory, I think that the judge’s critique went something like this: “Nice enough photo, but no real focal point”. I can remember being somewhat disappointed at the time, but because of my regard for judges, I took note of his comments and vowed to try harder.
A while later, while I was browsing the internet checking out the reviews of some of the latest cameras, I was looking at dpreview.com, which I think is one of the best sites for detailed camera reviews. I spotted that they also set photography challenges, and as one of the the challenges at the time was titled Roofs and Covering, I thought I would enter this image. Imagine my complete surprise when I received an email saying that my image had been placed 1st. These challenges are not, however, judged by trained judges, they are judged by dpreview member votes and some clever statistical algorithm is used to take account of the fact that not all voters will view all images. In other words, not necessarily a valid result.
I sometimes buy the magazine ‘Practical Photography’ and their website, Photo Answers also provides some quite useful tutorials. For these reasons I joined their forum and uploaded a few of my images to their gallery. Rooftops was one of those images.
When I was browsing the September 2011 copy of Practical Photography, I found on pages 28-29, in an article titled ‘Creative Viewpoints’, an image that to say the least, looked very familiar. It wasn’t mine, but it was so similar that I had to do a ‘double take’. The rendering of colours was a bit different, the time of day and maybe the weather were different and some of the houses seemed to have been repainted, however the viewpoint and crop were nearly identical. This article was teaching us how to choose a viewpoint, so I thought that maybe I hadn’t done so badly after all. I was prompted to write to the magazine, but I received no reply or inclusion of my letter.
Was it worth writing this? I don’t really know. Quite a few people like the image. One judge, and a knowledgeable reader of the original post, have identified the lack of a focal point as a shortcoming. My still unanswered question is “does an image like this really need a focus?”. Ironically, there was a red van in front of the garage, nearly at the intersection of the lower thirds, but I removed this at I thought it out of place.
I guess that the only conclusion that we can draw from my experience with this image, is that if you like a picture yourself, then that is a good start. By all means listen to critique from experts, and try to follow their advice, however don’t be hidebound by it. Even the experts at a magazine like Practical Photography can get it wrong!