My research into photographic judgement came to quite a startling conclusion: photographers who have gained a non-academic qualification such as Licentiateship or Associateship of the Royal Photographic Society do not – in general – intuitively recognise creativity or narrative power in an image. I was only able to assess a very small number at fellowship level so I cannot make a judgement with respect to that group.

There is another striking feature of this group results and that is the presence of a ‘spike’ in the data around ‘exposure’. This is an isolated spike with no corresponding response in those areas where an underlying understanding of exposure is required: the use of light and the use of colour/tonality. My interpretation of what is going on here is that a significant number of the qualified test participants are using the quality of the exposure of an image as a heuristic device.

To put it another way, their intuitive judgement of the twenty images is being stalled by an acquired mental short-cut. Is the image within the dynamic range of the camera? If so, they uptick across all the other quality parameters except for two: narrative power and creativity, which both appear to have a significantly lower impact upon their intuitive, non-conscious judgement of the images.

There is an obvious point here: perhaps the twenty images are – as a set – low in creativity and narrative power and this is being recognised by those with qualifications and not by others. There are two responses to this challenge: first, the ‘others’ include many photographers of high professional standing but who have not sought these types of qualification and, second, even if there was a deficit the analytical procedure employed compensates for any over- or under-representation of any constructs.

So, here are the issues: first, how are those who go through the qualification route acquiring reliance upon the exposure judgement as their yardstick of quality? Second, why the deficit in their non-conscious judgement with respect to narrative power and creativity?