Are you the best judge of your photography?


posted Sunday, June 26, 2022 at 7:00 AM EDT


It is challenging to assess our photography accurately. For some, the feelings associated with a particular image can make us see it as much better than we otherwise would. For others, we are so critical of ourselves that it's almost impossible to see a good shot we've captured when it's staring us in the face. Ultimately, are we the best judges of our photography?

Sean Tucker recently tackled this topic in a YouTube video. "I think as artists we always assume that we have the best take on our own work. I mean, it came out of our heads in the first place, right? So, we assume we know exactly what it is and what it's meant to communicate to others," says Tucker in the video below. However, he recently learned that this isn't always true.

In his video, Tucker outlines a photo he captured while he was on the way to capture specific images he had in mind. He was documenting chaotic protests in London a few years back and saw an interesting woman on a bridge. He lifted his camera, grabbed a photo and kept going. It wasn't quite a snapshot, but it wasn't a carefully planned photo. He wasn't even sure if it was well-exposed. He had forgotten about the image completely until he reviewed the images from the day. He decided the image was worth editing, so he did and then threw it online. And that was basically it for that image for a while.

A year later, Tucker was putting the finishing touches on his book, The Meaning in the Making. The text was practically finished, but Tucker still needed a cover image. One of Tucker's friends helped him with the design, and when the two were thinking about the cover, his friend suggested the image Tucker had captured on the bridge, the image that Tucker deemed worthy of at least keeping and processing, but not much else. Tucker wasn't sure that the image really fit the book and presented the right tone.

A month later, the cover still wasn't complete. Tucker's friend suggested the photo of the woman on the bridge again. Finally, it hit Tucker. The image was the right fit, after all. Tucker's idea of the image had been clouded by his memory of the day. Tucker couldn't put himself into the shoes of someone who saw the image for the first time and hadn't been there on that chaotic day. The viewer wouldn't know about the rest of the day or that Tucker had just grabbed the shot on his way somewhere else.

The photo was such a good fit for the cover, so why did it take Tucker so long to see what was right in front of him? It was his work, so why was its potential evading him? "I think we can easily get too close to our own work. By that, I mean that we load our own baggage onto it, that our memories of making it on the day cloud what it actually is that we produced and our heavy intentions that we load on it make us miss how others will actually receive our work," said Tucker.

How we feel about our work is only part of the overall equation. How others view and experience our work is a significant part too, and it's often tough to imagine or understand how others will receive our photographs. Everyone who views your photos approaches them with their own experiences and feelings that affect how they perceive your images. The perspectives of others should be valued, as others can enjoy your images in ways you will never be able to.

"We are not always the best judge of our work and its potential to communicate to others," said Tucker. To overcome this issue and the narrow way we view our work, it's important to share our photos with others and listen to what others have to say. Maybe everyone else will like your photo less than you do, but maybe others will enjoy it even more, and their unique perspectives could even help you see your work differently and appreciate it even more.

To see more from Sean Tucker, visit his website and YouTube channel. You can also stay up to date with his work on Instagram.

(Via Sean Tucker