How to Judge a Photo and Why

In the article entitled "Why and how to analyze a photograph", you will learn about both my method and my reading grid, which enables the photographer to systematically and objectively analyze a nature photograph.

In this article, I propose a method that allows the photographer to easily and systematically judge a nature photograph.

Although both of these methods have been applied to nature photographs, they can certainly be used in other photographic fields.

Black and white photograph of a landscape of Antelope Island in the state of Utah in the United States.
Black and white photograph of a landscape of Antelope Island in the state of Utah in the United States.

The Definition of "Judging"

I strongly believe that it is very important to define “judging” in specific terms, since it is at the center of these methods.

To judge is to form an opinion of something or someone.

In judging, you assess the person, object, animal, etc. that is the subject of your gaze.

Application to Photography

In the context of photography, judging consists of providing your opinion on photos. You communicate your appreciation of photos made by others. You form a value judgment, thus enforcing the idea that the action of judging is subjective.

Why Is Judging a Photograph Important?

Learning to judge other photographs is an essential act for you as a photographer. It allows you to better judge your own photographic creations, because your eye is attuned to precision and effectiveness due to your experience.

Knowing how to judge a photo will allow you to better understand how your photographs appear to others, and what makes them unique.

Photographic judgment is as essential and natural as breathing.

Why Do Many Photographers Find It Difficult to Judge?

During my nature photography workshops and lectures, I have realized that many photographers are afraid to judge others’ photographs.

  • The first reason for this inclination to neutrality is that the photographer may not feel that they personally the legitimacy to do so. They may feel that they do not have the skills, importance, or level of fame to judge another’s work. But where does this feeling of insignificant worth come from? Is it because we believe that we create less important photos? I do not believe that these feelings contain truth.

    A well-known photographer is first and foremost a photographer who knows how to sell his work. He knows how to propel himself towards success. His creations may or may not be interesting. Regardless, he still knows how to attract loyal followers through his work. When these followers share his work with their connections in the media, a buzz will erupt around the photographer, and he will experience success. However, this would not occur if other people had originally judged the photo and deemed it insignificant. Everything would have been different.

  • The second reason that some photographers feel the need to judge is that, like you and I, they find it hard to recognize what really constitutes us.

    We too experience weaknesses, anxieties, fears, and cowardice. Nevertheless, we refuse to consider these things as part of ourselves.

    We focus on other positive qualities, refusing to recognize our defects as limitations that define us.

    Photographers who negatively criticize their own performance project their attributions onto those around them, creating an environment of falsity. They attribute their failures to others, instead of admitting that they themselves are actually to blame. I think this second reason is fundamental and essential.

    It is always easier to judge others than oneself. Years ago, I also went through this stage. It is not easy to overcome. But with introspective work and self-questioning, it is not as hard as you might think.

Judging a Photograph Allows You to Better Know Yourself

Judging the photographs of other photographers will allow you to better understand your vision, your style and your photographic approach.

Judging the photographs of others is prepares you to judge your own photos. In truth, you can explain your creations better than any other person could.

For example, if you think a photograph is built with too many photographic elements and you cannot read it, it certainly means that you are attracted to minimalist photos.

Proper judgment is simply an identity mechanism.

Judging the Photographs of Others is a Beneficial Act

I think that every photographer usually judges the photographic approach of others. We have certainly done so.

While some may hesitate to share their opinion, others will not.

Photographers belonging to the second category are afraid to displease anyone. They fear being disliked or misunderstood. They are especially afraid of being judged harshly. In general, they want to avoid a conflict.

But I think these photographers make a very serious mistake. They begin to believe every judgment that passes by. They attach social value to themselves and their work based off of others’ beliefs. They fall into the value judgment. This is the worst thing about judging photographs, that it could potentially limit your opportunity for growth.

Criticism Is the Consequence of Judgment

To criticize a photograph is to engage in an examination to identify its qualities and defects.

Criticism is therefore a consequence of any judgment you make.

By examining the qualities and defects of a photograph, you can help the creator of the photo correct problems. When you naturally provide a solution for his future photo, you are demonstrating constructive criticism that is positively focused on a goal.

But above all, you refine your look on your own creations.

To Judge Correctly, You Must Always Use a Grid with Rules

To judge a photograph well and to avoid cookie-cut judgments, you must define rules with specific criteria that you will apply each time. This is absolutely essential.br>
In this article, I talked about using positive and negative spaces to judge. In this other article, I explained how to define a good photo.br>
Photo contest juries each have their own rules. As I mentioned in this article, it is better to fully understand these rules before participating.br>
Personally, I use the following guidelines to judge a photograph:

  • Impact
  • Light
  • Story
  • Technical quality
  • Creativity
  • Composition
  • Interests
  • Use of colors
  • Style
  • Presentation

This grid is easy to implement and remember.

If you wish, you can define your own grid with your own criteria. It's an interesting exercise.

Judging and Understanding Other Photographers Makes You

With time and experience, I have realized that in learning to judge other photographers' photos, we can be less obstinate and more forgiving. This allowed me to open new creative doors and go further in my artistic process by refining it. I think it will be the same for you. Judging will allow you to explore new ways of inspiration. Of course, it is an endless quest. It can limit your mind and your imagination. Regardless, it is an absolutely necessary step as I wrote in this article.

Finally

By learning to judge the photographs of others, you will perform an essential act. You will develop your artistic creativity.

If you want to create interesting and different photos, do not hesitate to make objective and consistent judgments with your personal analysis chart.

But do not forget that judging cannot be improvised. It takes time. You will see spectacular results on your future photos from this process.

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