We all shoot them: pictures that are almost there, but not quite. This thread is prompted by KeithLeslie's pic of the man with the beard, http://www.amateurphotographer.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?119066-What-is-wrong-with-these It's almost a great shot, but not quite. I've already made my comments, but here I want to make a few general points. First, we can't all photograph everything. Almost all good photographers are to some extent specialists. Competitions can be a way of improving our skills in areas we are interested in, or they can be a will o' the wisp, trying to turn us into jacks of all trades and masters of none. Second, criticism hurts. It doesn't matter how good you are. If anyone is genuinely unhurt by adverse comment, it's a fair bet that their ego is greater than their talent. Cheer yourself up with the thought that you aren't the only one who is hurt -- and read Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland, http://www.tedorland.com/artandfear/ Third, sometimes we just fail. This may be luck, or lack of talent, or lack of skill. But never neglect the role of luck. Nor should you neglect the fact that even "failures" are a part of learning. No-one has a 100% success rate. All you can hope for is to push your success rate higher. Fourth, who defines "success rate"? You do. You can produce a picture that is praised to the skies -- and still be dissatisfied with it. Or you can produce a picture that is panned, and still be proud of it. Admittedly your pride may be based on ignorance and low standards -- I look back on many of my old pictures and shudder -- but it may also be based on knowing that you came close to what you intended, even if it wasn't perfect. Fifth, beware of gurus, and (as it were) take all advice under advisement: as I say in Gurus and Why to Avoid Them -- http://www.rogerandfrances.com/subscription/ps ignore gurus.html Photography sometimes attracts people with a very high opinion of their own expertise, and a predilection for bossing others about. and Never trust anyone whose vocabulary does not include the phrase, "I could be wrong." Cheers, R.