Why is Pixoto potentially dangerous for your photography?

Typical Pixoto notification after receiving an award.

Some time ago fellow photographer pointed me to an interesting discussion about Pixoto website. If you don’t know Pixoto, it’s yet another images sharing site but it works differently than Flickr or 500px for instance. After you upload your photo it starts to appear in ‘duels’ – it’s displayed side-by-side with one more randomly chosen photo from the same category and other users have to choose which one they prefer. As your photo wins duels it gets points but when it looses a duel – your score decreases. At the end of each day the best photos (#1, #2, 5%, 10% best, 20% best etc.) are given an ‘award’ and your Facebook/Twitter friends are notified about that. Same thing happens at the end of each week (best photos of the week are awarded), month and year. And probably decade.

Now, back to discussion I mentioned at the beginning. One, quite well-known photographer, pointed out the bad things about Pixoto and it provoked me to share my point of view about it. Especially as some other people didn’t agree with him, while I do.

The worst thing about Pixoto in my opinion is that it can give beginners or enthusiast photographers like me false impression that they are already great. And although for some this can be certainly true because some photographers are simply very talented, for the majority it’s not. Photography, as any skill, is about making mistakes, learning on them, improving next time, making more mistakes and so on. It takes time to master it. Years. Life perhaps. BTW did you know that we need approximately 10 years on average to reach proficiency level in a given skill? What’s worse you need talent and not all of us have it.

But when you receive an award on Pixoto you might start to think that your photos are great, almost perfect (they were awarded after all so they MUST be great). They make you believe you’re great photographer and don’t need to learn or improve anymore. You might stop making progress. And one day you might realize your photos aren’t that great really. It might be painful. And the problem is virtually anyone can win some kind of award on Pixoto. Maybe it’s not that easy to win #1 of the day or month award (my best result so far is #2 of the day) but you can quite easily get “10% best of the day” in a certain category (eg. landscapes or some more specific like… cat portraits 🙂 ). Almost every shot I upload gets some kind of award and believe me some are simply not worth it – as any photographer I have better and worse photos. In fact I uploaded a few images I didn’t like just to check if I’m right… and they also won awards.

So if Pixoto is that bad why do I use it occasionally? Because it’s quite fun 🙂 and if you treat it this way you can really enjoy using it (I love voting the image! 🙂 ). It’s not a serious photography competition and you can’t think about it as such. It’s just fun. And despite the fact it’s not a real contest, it’s somehow motivating and make you feel better. I use it especially in the periods when I’m not sure about my photography skills 🙂

In this article I don’t try to say that uploading images to Pixoto (or any other site) is a bad idea or that if you win awards your photos are bad. No. I just mean that you shouldn’t treat Pixoto as some kind of oracle which is always right and tells you the truth about your images.

Finally, it isn’t the problem only with Pixoto. It’s the same with Flickr and 500px. How many times have you seen mediocre (or even very poor photos) images in Explore on Flickr or on top places on 500px? Way too often. I saw people whose photos had score of 99.3 and more on 500px and which were poor from technical point of view (oversaturated or bad composition). Majority of comments were something like ‘great photo’, ‘incredible image’, ‘wow’ but there were a few photographers which mentioned technical flaws in that very image (it was some grungy landscape shot if I recall correctly). Unfortunately photographer didn’t find them helpful, he found those comments offensive (but they were not)!

And remember: the fact that your image doesn’t get a lot of votes, doesn’t mean it’s not beautiful. Art is not about votes or likes.

Daily photo – Tatra mountains

Today’s article is a bit longer than I initially planned, so without further ado here is daily image – painterly high dynamic range photo from Dolina Kościeliska in Polish Tatra Mountains. Hopefully I will revisit this place in a few weeks from now 🙂
Tatra Mountains seen from Dolina Kościeliska

Finally some EXIF info:

Technical details:
Camera: Canon 5D MK III (read my review here)
Lens: Canon 24-105 f/4 L IS USM
Focal length: 24 mm
Aperture: f/8.0
Exposure time: 1/100 s (“middle” exposure)
ISO: 200
Number of exposures: 5
E.V. Step: 1.0
Flash used: no
Tripod: no
Filters: circular polarizing filter
Technique: HDR, tone-mapping, luminosity masking, painterly
Software: Magic Lantern, Photomatix Pro 5 (Details Enhancer), Lightroom 5.3, Photoshop CC, Topaz Simplify