So, you have the gear and you have been enthusiastically taking photos whenever you can. Next comes the hard part — what do you do with the photos? Even twenty years ago the options were limited. But today, with the internet, there are so many opportunities to share, display and compete with your photos and also to view great photography produced by others.
I have been a very keen photographer for almost sixty years but my photography struggled for many years. It took a significant upturn in 2011, which was the year I bought a Leica
But perhaps equally importantly, I had recently gained access to a high-speed internet connection. This allowed me easily to see great photography on the internet and, really for the first time, I appreciated what I had to do to become a better photographer.
Access to the internet through a high speed connection also allowed me run a blog and use this as a vehicle for sharing my photos with the world. I started down this route ten years ago with my The Rolling Road blog.
In the early years, it was easy and fun. At that time blogs were a novelty and I had plenty of material to post. My blog had a reasonably sized following. Over the last few years, as a result of competition from Instagram and YouTube, blogs have really lost their shine and my enthusiasm and commitment to my own blog have ebbed away along with the number of followers. Macfilos editor Mike has shown remarkable commitment and dedication in keeping Macfilos fresh and running with a usually high standard of content. He has very much swum against the tide.
Instagram, in particular, has really eroded the enthusiasm for blogs. It is a very convenient forum for putting your photos out into the world. I started an Instagram account — therollingroad — three years ago for this reason. However, Instagram has serious limitations. First, the photos are generally viewed on very small screens. I see little point in spending zillions on camera gear to display tiny photos. Second, the whole Instagram viewing experience is very fleeting.
Up comes a photo and then it is swiped it away. All that effort you put into crafting an image and all it gets is a momentary viewing and arguably little or no appreciation. And don’t be fooled by some of the Instagram photography accounts which apparently have thousands of followers and every photo they post gets tens of thousands of “likes”. It’s usually all fake. For an explanation, Google “Click farms”.
Finally the Instagram world is a very large one. There are literally billions of Instagram accounts, the majority of which are posting personal photos or rubbish . Even if you are posting outstanding photos there is every chance that, if you are not a known name and you have not paid for the services of a click farm to lift your profile, your photos will only ever be seen by a small number of viewers.
So I have an Instagram account but I am not at all committed to the medium. More satisfying for me is to make photo books
Also, designing a photo book can be very creative and enjoyable and many amateur photographers build superb books which are as good as, or even better than, professionally produced and printed books. There are dozens of companies offering photo book printing and even the inexpensive offerings nowadays are relatively high quality.
You can also enter your photos into competitions. Before the internet, entering photos into competitions was a tedious process. You had to have a print made, you often had to have it mounted and then you had to post it into the competition. It was not a user friendly process and for this reason mainly only keen photographers, in the main, participated. Now the internet has changed all that and we have online photo competitions which are really easy to enter.
I dabble in a few but my favourite is I Shot It. Leica has a financial involvement with the site, but it accepts photos taken with any brand of camera. The website is self explanatory and it is easy to participate and upload photos. At any given time there are a number of competitions in progress. It cost to enter each photo into a competition but the fees are modest, with 50% of the fee going into the prize pool and 50% going to the site operator.
The prizes (in US dollars) are dependant on the number of entrants in
I first started entering I-Shot-It in 2012 and, within a few months, I won the first of a number of Marks of Excellence. Then, in September of 2017, I won first prize in a Premium competition which gave me a very substantial cash prize. I recycled this money back to Leica by using it to purchase a Leica Q.
Encouraged by this win, I have been entering I-Shot-It competitions regularly since then. I have not won a first prize again but I have achieved quite a few Marks of Excellence, including three in the last two months. At the moment I feel as if I am now always the bridesmaid but never the bride with I-Shot-It, but I am convinced I will get a First Prize again before too long.
The one thing to appreciate about all photo competitions is that the judging is always subjective.
You are at the mercy of the judge’s personal likes and dislikes. I have entered photos which I was sure were good contenders and they did not even see a Mark of Excellence.
Also, I have entered the photo which won the big cash prize in I-Shot-It into other competitions and it has not even merited a mention,
With I-Shot-It you can actually see all the photos entered into a competition as they are uploaded. You can see what you are up against and the standard of most, but not all, photographs is very high.
So if you are considering entering, have a good look at the submissions for a few weeks and critically appraise your own photos before putting your foot in the water. I would recommend I-Shot- It if you want to see some good photography and if you strive to improve the standard of your own photography.
Leica Fotografie International
The final avenue I use for displaying my photos, and as vehicle for improving my photography, is the online LFI Gallery (LFI = Leica Fotografie International). This has been around for many years but it has really grown in recent times. Leica’s own Fotopark could not co-exist with it and was folded up back in February.
I entered photos into the LFI Gallery years ago without success, but then moved onto the Fotopark when it opened. With the demise of the Fotopark I have recently become an enthusiastic participant in the Gallery again. The Gallery is not a competition — there are no prizes but there are levels of recognition. It is easy to join the Gallery and upload photos-which have to be photos taken with a Leica camera.
The panel of Gallery judges assesses the individual entries and then puts them into one of three categories. The first category is that they don’t give them any form of recognition. It doesn’t mean that the photos are duds, it just means they don’t consider them worthy of inclusion in the Gallery. The second category includes them in the Gallery into a descriptive section such as Asia or Landscapes. The galleries are continuously updated and you can view them online at any time. There many very good photos in the Gallery section.
Then, finally, there is the premium recognition class, the LFI Gallery Master Shots. To quote from the LFI Gallery website: “The Leica Gallery Master Shots are a hand-picked selection of the world’s best images taken with a Leica camera.” It’s probably more than a little hyped but the standard is usually very high, although sometimes I do find myself questioning the judges’ choices.
The LFI Gallery receives hundreds of thousands of entries annually so gaining any form of recognition is an achievement. And to make it into the Master Shot category is very satisfying. Since I became active in submitting photos to the LFI Gallery in February of this year I have submitted 51 photos and six have been accepted as Master Shots and quite a few have made it into the Galleries.
I thought I was doing well until I found a photographer from Hong Kong who is a retired banker and who has had over 120 photos accepted as Mastershots since he started submitting photos in May last year.
Even if you are not interested in submitting photos to the LFI Gallery, I do recommend looking at the photos in the Mastershots section. In the last ten years, I have found that looking at very good photography and submitting my own work to be assessed and judged in competitions has really helped my own photography develop.