The RPS Postal Portfolio Print Circles use the ‘old fashioned’ method of print to share and critique each other’s works. There are three groups who have between six and ten members in their group and all work in pretty much the same way to share their prints and information.
To start I, as the organiser of Circle ‘C’, will make an A4 print of my chosen subject and complete an information sheet with a title for the print, details of when, where and why the shot was taken together with information on the equipment used in the taking and the camera settings etc.
Details of editing and software are added, with information on printers and papers used, with the reasons why and any other information deemed relevant to the print or processes.
Once completed, the portfolio is posted to the next member in the group who will critique my print with any suggestions on how the shot or print could, in their opinion, have been improved and anything they liked or disliked. They then add their print and detail sheet and forward it on to the next member for their turn.
And, so it goes on, critiques and prints are added until, eventually, the portfolio returns to me. I then add my second print and detail sheet, critique all the prints now in the portfolio and send it off again so the process becomes self-perpetuating. By having two prints in the portfolio all members are able to see everyone else’s prints and critiques before the first print is removed to make way for the third print when the portfolio, again, returns to me.
Generally, members will take three to four weeks to complete their critiques and add a new print, therefore, Print Circle ‘C’ has two bags of portfolios on the go at any one time. One of the other circles works on circulating three bags at a time. Currently we have bags containing our fourth and sixth prints and numbers five and seven in the second bag.
As we have added more prints to the portfolios and members have got to know each other through their works it has been enlightening to see that members are willing, in their critiques, to be honest and also to try and help each other to improve and look at their work from a different viewpoint. Members are not sending out prints which try to say ‘look at me, what a fantastic photographer I am’, but rather prints that may have received mixed reviews at camera club competitions or ones where the member is not sure and is looking for guidance on how to make a good photograph or print become an outstanding one.
The other, important, fact members have picked up on is the difference the type and quality of paper used for the print makes. There is an awful lot of difference to the look, feel and appearance of the final image. The difference between a scene printed on a run of the mill gloss compared with a quality, textured, fine art matt is difficult to imagine until you actually see it.
To give a feel to what goes on in the Circle, I have selected some prints together with the full information contained on the detail sheets and a selection from the critiques on each print. Although I give credit to the taker of the photograph, the names of those making comment have been kept secret to avoid any comeback! Actually, a lot of the comments are very similar so don’t need repeating.
I hope I have been able to show that some excellent photographs pass round the group and from the critiques, it proves what we all know, photography is a very personal and subjective medium. Not everyone likes every image and we all have our own take on what might be done to improve it in some shape and form.
I think we would all agree the group has helped us improve our photography by being able to look at others’ photographs and learn the effects they have achieved from the information they have given. The way others have viewed our images and their critiques always give good food for thought and suggest ways in which we might improve – all very worthwhile!
If you are interested and would like to take part I’m sure space can be found for you in one of the groups.
Contact Fiona McGowan at the RPS firstname.lastname@example.org who will put you in touch with one of the group leaders.