Who screens the screeners?

The poor screener gets it in the neck every time, no matter what they do they are caught between a rock and a hard place. They reject a picture because it is not up to site standard or they give it the benefit of the doubt and then some one starts shouting about falling standards. They just can not win.

I’ve been following a thread on an on-line aviation photo database since it inception and it boils down to the contributors having a damn good moan about their photos being rejected, taking the screeners rejection comments to heart, screaming blue murder because of a perceived bias or comparing a photo already on the database to theirs. It’s the same old story, no matter which on-line aviation photo database… (I going to abbreviate this to data base) one contributes to, Hell I even done it myself but I never forgotten the anger over the seemingly stupid rejection reasons that were given and having been a screener I can say that now I can understand what it is all about.

There is, nothing more fragile than a photographers ego.

We photographers seem to posses an ability to believe that what we create is so perfect that other photographers will fall at our feet in awe of our creations, when in reality what you have produced is a pile of crap, it’s just that you don’t know it… until it gets to screening.

Photographs are like ones children, one can love them to bits but all to often fail to see their shortcomings.

One must be able to look at ones photographs in the cold light of day and decide for yourself if they are any good or not before you post them onto a data base. To this end I try not to post any picture until it is a month old, all my pictures for uploading and there are some 300 in this file sit there until I decide to bring out a batch for uploading, when they are reviewed with a fresh set of eyes before deciding to stick them into another file for uploading. That is, the photos for the database, I upload my pictures onto my own Flickr site too rapidly at times but then I am responsible to that sites content and can easily remove an image should I wish to do so.

Screeners are not some kind of super beings, they may think they are but in reality they are only someone that has basically conformed to the site requirements becoming good at what they do. Most I am willing to bet have never done much other than aviation photography nor do I think they have much technical knowledge to back their judgements up but they get by because all they ever need to know is what they have become good at and that is uploading photos that conform to site standards before saying yay or nay to the image as it flashes up on the screen before them.
It’s not an easy job, screening is a tedious process, sometimes mind-numbing and it destroys ones soul to reject one bad image after another.

So you are on the receiving end of a string of rejections, your ego has been hurt and what do you do…. start complaining, start making insults towards the screeners, start blaming everyone else bar ones self. I know I came up through the Airliners ranks in my early years and have never forgotten that experience… nor do I ever wish to repeat it.

No one is actually forcing you to upload your photos to that database, so this may be the point when you consider your future with that site, so you have two clear choices.
The first choice is to throw a tantrum and pull all your photos from the database, throw all your toys out of the pram and go down in a blaze of glory… that’ll teach ’em!  WRONG!
All you have done here is shoot yourself in the foot, you worked hard enough to get your pictures on that database so why pull them?
Sure they are your property but who will be able to see them after you delete them?
Why not look at it as free hosting you will do no harm leaving them there and the few photos that you have would not make that much difference if you kept them there or not and you never know at some point in the future  someone may want to use that photo.
The other choice is to knuckle-under and and conform. Do what the screeners tell you, jump through the proverbial hoops, eat humble-pie, do anything in fact to please the screeners and eventually your photography will improve so that your rejection rates will come down but you have achieved there is to conform. If that’s what pleases you then well done, you have made the big time.
But remember one thing all you have achieved is being good at conforming to that sites standards, so don’t consider yourself to be an ace photographer because now you are one of thousands of other such contributors to the databases.

If you really want to improve then I would advise you to find a friend, someone who will tell you the truth, not someone who will say nice things for fear of upsetting you, someonewho can show you the way to improve your photography, otherwise you will have to start self educating yourself and the first things that I would urge any aspiring photographer to do is understand the relationship between aperture, shutter speed and ISO and then how to read a histogram and expose to the right then finally understand how sharpening works, not how to sharpen but understand how it works because most rejections are either down to exposure and or sharpening.

REMEMBER THIS – no one wants to look at a bad photo and screeners have a job to do. You have to accept this because otherwise it will be your undoing in the end.

Like I said before, sometimes screeners make mistakes, this is where the appeal process comes in. Apart from being abusive, another thing that will win you no friends at all, is to compare your picture to another already on the database. No, the problem lies with your image, that is the only image under question here, so don’t be distracted by that argument. A poorly worded appeal will do you more harm than good because screeners chat amongst themselves and while there is no such thing as a black-list bad behaviour does work against you if you start being insulting towards screeners.

Learn by your mistakes – don’t repeat them!

That’s all from me for now but there’s one thing for sure…

As a Post Script,

I decided to leave AP at the end of 2013. Things had been deteriorating steadily for the past year. I began to loose respect with my fellow screeners, whom I realised were making some pretty ill informed decisions based on a handful of seconds worth of screening time. While the Management of the site seemed very happy with this arrangement and were happy to trade mistakes against a short screening time, I wasn’t.
AP needed a set of screening standards, not rules but standards, something for screeners to base their judgements upon and maintain some form of consistency with but try as I may, I just could not get that point through.

AP needed someone to control those screeners making poor decisions but there was no one. My one lone voice of dissent was lost and I “wasn’t a member of the team anymore,” which was fine by me because the team was not really people that I wished to be associated with anymore. No one who tries to buck the status quo has ever been taken seriously.

No one seemed to pick up on all those Members who felt dis-satisfied by poor screening decisions had a point and that perhaps the screener was out of order.

So in the end  I just stopped uploading and walked away from my duties as the database editor, which was a thankless task at its best.

I take my photographs for myself and I have never really wanted to conform to anyone’s set of rules either tacit or implied, especially those which could be summed  up as “All that Airliners” crap. I do my own thing now and I have never been happier.

There are far too many bloody stupid rules in aviation photography propagated by those who do not know anything better other that snapping away at aircraft.

The truth is aviation photographers don’t need all that crap from the aviation photo databases, they just want you to conform, in the end there is nothing to differentiate your photo from someone else’s, same standards same composition and brutally, the same bull-sh1t.

It really was nice when it lasted but my future is better without them.

Mair tae come


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  1. #1 by Omar Alex Saffe on April 28, 2014 - 4:40 pm

    Very interesting. Thank you and I really hope the maximum screeners and up loaders get a chance to read it. cheers.

    Alex – Jp.net

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