In Defense of Average

A few weeks back, a lady friend of mine, actually, a dear photography friend of mine, asked me if I wouldn’t mind giving her some “portfolio” advice.

It’s not really my favorite this to do for reasons which will become apparent here.

But I did it anyone.

When ask for critiques, from other photographers, as I often am, first and foremost, regardless of the overall tone and timbre of the collection under scrutiny, I begin each conversation by trying to find something positive and encouraging to say about the work.

But for this friend, that was even a challenge.

The work, honestly, at best, was average.

Average subject matter. Average compositions. Average lighting. Average locations. Average exposures. Average emotional resonance. Average impact.

Average, average, average.

It got me thinking quite a bit about how the majority of work I critique in the present, shot by mobile devices, and have critiqued in the past, shot with dedicated cameras, is, sadly speaking, average photography.


I don’t want, at all, to sound depreciation or dishonoring here, to others who work so diligently at their craft, but the truth of the matter is, photographers, especially at the beginning and middle parts of their journeys, are average.

It’s more of an exception when you see, consistently, across the board, above-average work.
Remarkableness and memorableness, in photography, the counterpoint to being average, comes from two places- the gift of nature and the grind of nurture, our DNA genes and our blue jeans, the stars in the skies, and the stars in our eyes.

I’ve always loved this quote from the inspiring Zig Ziglar- “attitude plus aptitude equals altitude”.
As I look honestly and objectively at my own body of work, I see moments, plenty of them, of below average, moments of average, and moments of about average.

Seriously, photography is grit and grind.

To get really good at it, so that you consistently live in the above-average space, you need unrelenting and indefatigable drive, discipline, determination, thick skin, and an indomitable spirit of rinse-and-repeat curiosity.

Back to average for a minute.

Maybe it’s time to redefine average in photography, to use the limitations inherent in its very definition and description, not as a negative but a positive, to just be content with our current skill set, do the best we can with the tools and talent we have, and celebrate, even in our averageness, those glorious and grande moments and memories of life, that only, through our own unique eyes, are visible and valuable to each of us.

To my lady friend-even though your photography, right now, needs a bit of help and hope, be of good cheer, because your unswerving smile, energetic personality, and tireless sense of kindness to others, is so beyond average, in every respect, that it will take me, anyone, years to catch up to your sheer greatness.



Jack Hollingsworth