It is the rainy season in Korea and that means that most days are grey and rainy. There have been a few nice sunsets here and there but during this time of year, you can’t really make a plan to go and shoot as you can never 100% be sure that it will be a clear day or not. This means that I have not been getting out as much as I would like.
Truth be told, I haven’t got out as much as I normally have during this time of year. First, with the virus outbreak and now with the weather. I have also realized that I have just been returning to the same old places that I have been going to for over a decade. Suffice to say that I was feeling like I am in a bit of a slump.
Changing the Angle
For a while a photographer friend Lee Kelly, had been telling me about GuruShots and how much he liked it. I already tried ViewBug and while I shared stuff here and there, it really was not all that exciting as you and 50,000 other people are submitting your best shots to get a 10-year-old camera.
When I finally decided to check out GuruShots, I was pleasantly surprised at how fun the “game” was. There was a big incentive to purchase boosters and whatnot but overall it was more exciting than ViewBug. However, I was looking at these sites all wrong.
It wasn’t until recently when, out of boredom during the 3rd straight day of rain, that I started thinking about shooting for the contests and Challenges. That was when I saw the value. Just like photography, sometimes you have to change the angle or the way you look at something to see the value.
It’s Not the Prize but the Challenge
The shift came from when I first started going back through the decades of photos thinking thinking “I forgot I took this one” or “I could have shot this one better…” and that was where I started to see the value and also get inspired again. It wasn’t about winning anything, it was about the subject and the creativity.
Everyday, new little challenges pop up in either ViewBug or GuruShots. These give me ideas for what to shoot or what to go back through and find. After shooting for so long, I have a few terabytes of photos that have never seen the light of day or that I simply forgot about. These daily challenges helped me dig through and find some photos that maybe I never knew were usable.
The reason why they help is simply that each day different people are coming up with random topics to create a challenge around. They have to be somewhat unique as to not get repetitive. This means that you are constantly getting a new list of things to photograph each day. So they push you to rethink your shots, find new subjects and even re-edit those older shots that still might be salvageable.
Voting Helps You Improve
On both GuruShots and ViewBug, voting plays a key role. I find that especially on GuruShots, voting can help your performance and help boost your rating. It also plays much more of a role for you as a photographer too.
What I have noticed is that as I sift through thousands of random photos and voting for the ones that I prefer, I have taken that same critical eye to my own work. Not every shot is great but after awhile you start to see some common mistakes. This then is in the back or your head when you are editing and shooting as well.
For me, it was seeing a lot of heavily processed shots and other with crooked horizons. I am usually pretty careful with the horizon as it is an easy fix in lightroom but I have become more aware of the processing as well. I say a lot of shots with overly cool highlights from global adjustments and that was something that I sometimes just didn’t care about with my own processing.
At any rate, the more critical you become and the more practice you have as skimming through photos, the better you will be at doing the same for your photos. Once you pick up on the mistakes that seem to keep making you can begin to correct yourself in the field or inside of lightroom.
Forget About The Prize
As I said before, trying to get the camera on ViewBug or winning money on GuruShots is not the way to go about learning from these sites. Chances are that you might win a challenge on GuruShots as it seems easier to climb the ladder than Viewbug, but that is not the point. The thing is that if you are only focussed on the prize, you are going to get frustrated very quickly.
Due to the fact that these sites are both “gamified” there are always going to be people who have figured out how to win. I have been in the top 5 on GuruShots minutes before the challenge closes and by the time it finishes my rank dropped to 1600. To be honest, I have never even ranked in ViewBug. The point being is that chances are that you are not going to “win” that often and it is best to put that out of your mind. Focus on improving your shots and seeing how they stack up against the others.
Also, really look at the winners and not in a “you dirty cheating SOB!” kind of way but really see what elements got them their victory. Was it the colour or the composition. What elements were different than yours? How creatively did they interpret the challenge? These are the questions that will help you improve.
What’s the Difference?
I must admit that I like GuruShots a lot more than I thought that I would. The main reason being is that while you are not going to win a Leica camera, you are going to see… something. that being there is a little more action for all levels of photographers on GuruShots.
With GuruShots, it is a little more “gamified” meaning that you have a number of “power-ups” as I call them which you can boost your exposure and get more votes. This means that you can actually see your photos increasing in rank and level. You also have to meet certain requirements to “level up” and this can happen as fast as you want depending on your participation in the game.
This means that it is a little more exciting as you try and vote to increase your exposure and then watch as your photos climb the ranks. There is an annoying downside and that is that there are a number of “gurus” that really know how to play the game. So if you are thinking that you are going to win frequently, think again.
Viewbug I find is a little more laid back and less gamified. The prizes are better but outside of joining the contests, you don’t really do too much in the way of leveling up or anything like that. There is a point system but honestly, it is sort of meaningless.
That was sort of a big deal breaker for me when it comes to these two sites. What drew me to GuruShots was the fact that I really enjoyed seeing my photos gain points. Then when they were leveling out, I could vote and boost their exposure. With Viewbug, you submitted and are sort of pressured to keep uploading new photos but that is it. You join and then wait for nothing.
The bottomline here is that while these sites may not be for a “professional” photographer, they will help you gain a better eye, make you a little more creative and even inspire you to try something a little different. If you are in it for the love of photography then it is a worthwhile pursuit. However, if you are simply trying to win a camera or become the best photographer in the least amount of time, then you will probably not find much meaning in these sites.