Sometime when you're bored and have some time to waste, try this. Go to Flickr. Enter a search term that will pull up some of the kinds of pictures you like to look at. "Birds" or "Leica M8" or "Kodachrome" or whatever. Just something that will bring up any big set of random snaps by lots of different anonymous people.
Set it on "Slideshow."
Then, as every picture goes by, apply one of the following six terms to it:
- Love it
Don't think it over; just respond. Don't agonize. This is just for you. There'll be no quiz. There's no penalty for getting one wrong.
Here's what the terms mean:
Love it: Hits on all cylinders. Perfect for you. Just the kind of thing you like to look at. Scratches your itch. Wish you'd taken it yourself. Bang on.
Fine: Good to look at; glad you saw it. Not outstanding, but still kinda does it for you. Maybe skillful, maybe a lucky catch, maybe something somebody else could love even though you don't, quite. Maybe it's even "so bad it's good."
Informational: Shows you something you're kind of glad to have seen even if the picture isn't anything special. I also stick "not interested" shots in this category...i.e., pictures meant to show something to someone but that I don't care about. For instance, a batch of pictures showing paintball gun parts. I'm sure they are informational for people they are intended to communicate to, but that doesn't include me.
Miss: Maybe the photographer had a good idea even though it didn't work. There was a good photograph in the vicinity, but this isn't it.
Stupid: Might even be a very competent picture, but did the person who took it at any point—either before or after the fact—stop to consider whether it either would or did make for a half-decent picture? Might be a subject you are completely over or that you think is trite or clichéd or overdone, or a picture ruined for you by inappropriate* or ham-handed technique.
Sucks: Bad all around. Just really bad. No redeeming virtue. Cutting room floor. Kind of incomprehensible that this made it past anyone's first edit. Person posting it shouldn't have.
I don't know about you, but I find this surprisingly hard to do as the pictures flip by. I have to stop the slideshow sometimes. (It gets faster as I do more of it.) But it helps me learn my own tastes, and helps me identify what I personally respond to.
And learning your own taste at any given time is as important as finding out about the tastes of savants, experts, scholars, gurus, your friends and family or personal audience, or your fellow photographers.
*It just took me about 47 seconds to type "inappropriate." Also, my worst-damaged finger is my shutterfinger. Still can't believe I did that.
Note: Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site. More...
Original contents copyright 2011 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Nick: "I started a slideshow of the 'Flickr Today' group. After about 10 minutes, aesthetic fatigue set in and I had to stop. In that time, I saw a couple that sucked, a fair number of stupid, lots of misses, one informational, a whole mess of fine (by far the most common category), and exactly three that I loved. All three of the ones I loved were pretty much the sort of photo I try to take (and occasionally succeed in taking) myself.
"I may have to try this with my own photostream: My reactions to the newer pictures probably won't be useful (I still remember exactly what I was thinking when I made them), but it could be very interesting to see how I react to stuff from which I have a bit more emotional and temporal distance."