Why and How Judging a Photograph Subjectively

When judging photos, whether personal or those of other photographers, you certainly use so-called objective criteria.

But why would not you use purely subjective criteria in some cases?

Why not add new tools to your toolbox?

In this article, I will explain that subjective criteria are also an excellent way to judge a photo.

Photograph in black and white of a manta ray in Maldives during a night dive. Photograph by Amar Guillen, photographer artist.
Manta ray in Maldives during a night dive: elegance and curiosity are the words that best describe it.

Another Article About Photographic Judgment

Reading the contents of this article, you are probably thinking "another article on photographic judgment".

You are right. I have devoted several articles to this theme. You can find it on this page.

If I wrote this article it is because I believe that photographic judgment is an essential act in our creative and artistic activity.

Whether it is you or me, we are always judged as photographers by neophytes, non-photographers, or photographers we come into contact with.

I often get messages saying, "I like what you do", "I like your nature photography", "I like the way you approach photography".

Of course, all these comments are positive. They are nice to read. They encourage me to continue every day. I did not put examples of negative comments because I never get any.

I am lucid. It is only because people who do not like my photographic creations do not contact me.

But I am sure there are as many people who appreciate what I do as there are people who do not. Everything in our world is about balance.

What you must remember from these few lines is that photographic judgment is as important as the act of creation itself.

It is as important as the definition of your photographic approach.

If I write so many articles on the subject it is because personally, every day I have to judge my pictures to propose for galleries.

I also have to judge other photographers' pictures to find new ways of inspiration!

Whether it is you or me, we spend our time judging whether we are aware of it or not.

This article is intended to provide you with new tools for your creative box to make your photos even more interesting.

It is included in the same way as the articles concerning framing, composition, bouquet management, photographic identity, etc.

Photographic Judgment Is a Salutary Act

As a photographer, you are always in a state of judgment.

When you create photos in the field, you are the judge of your own photos.

When you participate in an exhibition or view other photographers' photos on the Internet, you judge the photographers' images.

When you think you are still giving your opinion on photographs.

You do it mentally or orally. You cannot stop doing that. It is a perfectly normal attitude. Indeed, judging allows you to progress, to advance in your quest to create interesting pictures.

You want other people looking at your pictures to give a judgment that pleases you. You are going to be happy, satisfied. You are going to be encouraged. You will continue to create more photographs and submit new ones to your audience.

It is this virtuous loop that we all seek as creative human beings.

Photographic judgment is the basis of everything.

That is why it is so important.

If you do not exercise your photographic judgment, you will not be able to find inspiration. You will not be able to improve. You will not progress. You will stop photography.

To judge, but above all to know how to judge is a salutary act. You have methods at your disposal:

  • Using objective criteria.
  • Using subjective criteria.

Objective Criteria

Morals and ethics make us think and require us to apply objective criteria for judging.

I agree that to judge photos during a competition, it is absolutely necessary to establish a ranking with a clear, homogeneous, objective grid. All participants will thus be on an equal footing.

I have detailed in various articles methods that allow to make objective judgments here are some links.

Methods using objective criteria are perfect for judging photos for contests.

But are they suitable when you judge a photo you want to buy or display at home on one of your walls? Are they suitable when judging a series that you are going to propose to a festival?

The answer is no.

You must adopt a method of subjective judgment.

Definition of a Subjective Judgment

Before continuing, it seems important to me to give you again the definition of the adjective objective.

In the dictionary, subjective is defined as:

Specific to a particular person, to his or her affectivity.

A judgment is subjective if it belongs to the conscience. It depends on you. It is a particular point of view.

It reflects your passions, prejudices, and personal choices. When you judge subjectively, you judge with bias.

Application to Photography

Subjectively judging photographs means that you will judge with your personal tastes, your experiences, your ethics, your morals.

You will judge simply by your soul.

It is quite exciting because you are going to give an opinion that will reflect what you have deep down inside.

But beware, because there are shortcomings and a terrible trap into which you must avoid falling at all costs.

Why Judge subjectively?

Subjectively judging photos allows you to give an opinion based solely on how you feel.

You can use your general culture, your emotions to explain the reasons that make you love a photograph or photographs.

This is a different method than objective judgment.

Judging subjectively allows a debate to be initiated and animated. This is not possible with objective judging criteria because normally they are consensual.

When there is debate, there is an exchange of ideas and views on a given subject.

These exchanges will allow you to hear, to listen to arguments other than your own. They will open new creative photographic doors for you.

You will listen to comments that will give you new ideas either to improve your photographs or to create new ones.

The adversarial debate is always fascinating and interesting.

It can help you confirm your opinions or change them.

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For example, if you are a nature photographer who only likes close-ups and you have to judge landscapes in wide shots, you may be able to understand why and how to use wider focal lengths with greater depths of field.

If you like wildlife photography only with close and tight shots to freeze animal expressions and attitudes, participating in exchanges will give you a glimpse of how to use landscape photography to showcase animals.

Judging subjectively also allows you to better understand and analyze yourself, to conduct introspective research.

When you look at photographs, if you let yourself go in your comments you will talk, think, reflect, and say how you feel about the subject photographed, the framing, the composition.

These reflections and judgements will help you to better define, refine and complete your photographic why and your photographic approach.

That is a real plus and an asset for you. Indeed, you go far beyond the I like, or I do not like.

Finally, judging subjectively will help you create more interesting photos and go further in your creative research.

How Judging Subjectively?


I Want to Help You to Create Interesting Photos