Advice for the grade conscious photo students

Andreas Gursky’s photo Rhine II–auctioned for $4million +

I procrastinate, I drag my feet  when I have to grade student’s photos.

Don’t misunderstand me, it’s not because I’m lazy.

I find assigning a letter grade to a picture extremely  arbitrary at times.

You don’t agree?

Would you pay $4,338,500 for this picture?

Well, the picture on the left has the distinction of being the world’s most expensive photograph ever to sold at an auction.

Maybe you might consider this version to be worth more?

If I were Andreas Gursky, I would run all the way to the bank as fast as I can to cash the check.

I’d be worried the buyer changed their mind after suffering a bout of buyer’s remorse.


Students should understand that in a classroom setting, they are learning technique mostly.

If they get a very good grade, then possibly they favor the same subjects as the person grading their work, their instructor.

If they execute a technique exactly as I showed or asked, they should get a perfect score.

A good example is, if I ask they take 2 pictures using the same subject to illustrate depth-of-field.

In that instance, it’s an assignment all about technique..

Other than the example with Depth-of-field,  I don’t believe in giving a picture a 10 out of 10 in a classroom setting.

That implies the picture can’t be improved, it is perfect.

There are few instances when a picture is actually perfect.

Those tend to be sports photography because timing is everything and there are no do-overs in sports photography.

That’s why I always lived by this simple rule:

While in school, the grade I received at the end of the semester is not as important so long as I added some really strong pictures to my portfolio.

As long as I wasn’t failing my photo class and I’m learning something, that is really all that matters.

That grade I receive is tainted by what the professor likes especially when the subject is open-ended.

How about this to put things in perspective?

If I took all my “A-graded” pictures from college and made prints of them, would anyone buy them if I started selling them at swap meets and flea markets?

So the next time you get a low grade for an assignment, maybe you should ask the professor if your technique is flawed or clarify the parameters of the assignment.

If specifics were given, e.g the assignment called for late evening, and you shot your picture at noon, then you shouldn’t expect to do well simply because you didn’t follow directions.
Peter Phun Photography

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