Are women better photographers than men? As a woman and a photographer my natural instinct is probably to say “yes”. Women are said to be more empathetic and better colour aware than men.

Whilst women are fewer in the profession and in the hobby of photography, they seem to win more than their share of prizes…and I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been told, when visiting a photographic club, that “in Men versus Women competitions, the women usually win” and this is in spite of being outnumbered greatly by the menfolk and in spite of most club judges being male.

But in total there must surely be more successful men in photography than women.

Anecdotal evidence leads me to think that more men than women are likely to get hung up on the hardware of photography, the need to have the latest camera and the latest software and perhaps that women are likely to be more intuitive in how they approach photography and more tolerant of out-of-date equipment. But the technical aspects of photography can’t be ignored. So, could the desire to master all things technical make men more successful at photography than women? As I’m an exception to the “general rule”, a woman who is just as hooked up on the technical aspects of photography as the artistic, I am nevertheless still astonished, when I visit the big trade event in Birmingham each year, at how much I am outnumbered by the male of the species…from the big queues of men at the Canon stand, desperate to see the latest toy, to the ranks of male photographers gazing passionately at some new piece of software or kit. I also question sometimes whether it is mostly my own obsession with technical matters and software that has allowed me to achieve the very little I have up to now in the photographic world.

But what about the appreciation of the art of photography and how much does this come into play? When it comes to measuring art appreciation, a study was undertaken in 2009 where electrical responses were measured in the brains of men and women while they were viewing art. The men used only the right parietal lobe, a part of the brain associated with spacial awareness, when looking at pictures. The women were found to use both left and right parietal lobes, thereby “contextualising information” more effectively and paying more attention to detail. The scientists who carried out this study, at the University of California Irvine, believe that these differences evolved millions of years ago when men were hunters and women stayed home with the offspring. They think that this different way that men and women visualise the world influences the way that they understand art too.

But, someone else might put it more simply by saying that “Men just aren’t interested in curtains!”.

So, does a better understanding of art lead to a better photographer? I think that it might, probably does, but only in part. Parietal lobes can’t be the only answer and there are still (infuriatingly) far more famous male photographers than female ones that I can put a name to. So, what makes more men rise to the very top of the profession if they are hampered from the beginning by only using half their brains? Is it that their obsession and ability with all things technical outweighs the empathy and intuition that women can bring to the subject? Is it that men still have more opportunity, even in this world of “equal opportunities”. Is it that they have more drive and more ego than women? Are they more dedicated or are they simply better at the business of photography?

As always, I’ve provided too many questions and not enough answers. The whole piece is a little bit “tongue in cheek” and perhaps, in the end, it doesn’t matter all that much, but I’d really like to see what you think…so, please take the poll.


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