Learning how to review your own photos

Posted by on Mar 23, 2015 in Techniques | 0 comments

Learning how to review your own photos

In the last couple of blog posts I have been discussing how to review other peoples photo and how to accept feedback on your images, this week I would like to talk about learning to review your own photos. In a lot of cases this will actually be the hardest step out of all of the three discussed, as we often need to go beyond our own personal feelings for a photo and look at it with a more critical eye. Learning the ability to review your own photos goes a long way to helping you to improve your photography, it is also essential if you want to enter photography competitions (either through a photography club or a more national style of competition) or entertain any type of commercial use for your photos.

Everyone has favourite photos in their collection, a shot that might have been especially tricky to get or a picture of a favourite relative or friend. These pictures are important as they refresh the creative spirit and they keep you enthused about your photography but they sometimes are not the right photos to represent your skills to other people. Everyone is different in what they see and like about their photos, this applies to how they view other peoples photos as well. So when reviewing your own photos it is important to it approach it in a manner that helps you to learn and not take away from the pleasure you have from the photo already.

With speed_KD

Some keys areas to consider when reviewing your own photos:

1) Disconnect from the photo capturing emotions – Photographers put a lot of effort into making just the right photo, it might have been a particular rare bird that you found after weeks of trekking through a rainforest or you waited for hours on a hillside until the sun and clouds formed the perfect backdrop. Whilst the resultant photo will always resonate with the photographer as they recall the trials and tribulations involved in making it, unfortunately another person viewing that photo does not have the same emotional bond. When showing your photos to other people (or using in competitions/books etc) it will need to stand on its on right, can the viewer still appreciate the photo without having the background story on hand.

2) Does the photo tell a story by itself – The photographer has the benefit of viewing their photos from within the context that they were taken, that is you are looking at a single photograph but you might be considering how it fits with the other photos taken at the same time. To be of interest to other people, your photo will need to be able to stand alone without the other context that you know.

3) Photo technical aspects – Is the photo well exposed? Has your combination of shutter speed and aperture worked together to produce the exposure level that suits the subject and story you are trying to tell? How is the composition, are there distracting elements within the frame and make sure no flagpoles are sticking out of someones head. Check that the correct part of your image is in focus, sometimes it is easy to miss a focus point and whilst you may be forgiving of that in a particular image, other viewers might not be so.


4) Overdoing the post processing – With a special or favourite photo there is a temptation to do some extensive post processing of the photo in Photoshop or Lightroom to get even more out of it. To often you will find that this becomes the undoing of the photo, when it comes to working in the computer I always recommend making a series of small steps to achieve your desired outcome. When making changes always refer back to the original photo so that you can see how far you have come and when you think you are finished take a break from the photo, come back later in the day and see if your work still holds up. Big massive changes to the photo for settings like saturation might look great at first but will often feel garish and overdone upon reflection.

5) Think about the “what if” scenarios – Whilst you are reviewing your photo it is the ideal time to have a think about the other options that might have been open to you at the time of making the photo. What would the scene look like if you had moved a few steps to the left or right, got higher or lower? How would that action have looked with a faster or slower shutter speed? Doing a few of these simple exercises will help you to build up a visual catalogue in your head, items that you can mentally refer to next time you are in a similar scenario. Using your photos to build this catalog, helps the information be a lot more relevant to you personally e.g “this is scene is the same as that photo from last month, I should try getting lower this time for a different perspective”


All the way through this series on reviewing photos I have emphasised one key factor, a review is one person’s opinion. In the long run the most important opinion is yours and you can choose to take onboard or leave aside anyone else’s opinion. Photography is an art form and as such it is completely subjective with no right or wrong answers. You will find that certain conventions (often termed rules) will help to make your photos more pleasing to other people, and these items will need to be considered if you are presenting your work. The biggest benefit that any photographer gets from the reviewing process is the ability to learn more about the craft. It may come from hearing different people talk about your photos or from having to provide feedback to someone else about their photo but most importantly it comes from the ability to look at your own photos subjectively looking for the things that could be done differently next time.

Ken Dickson is an Australian based photographer with nearly 30 years experience. A regular contributor to international competitions, Ken holds honour levels both within Australia and Internationally. He started in photography when travelling the world with the Navy using both film and slide film. Moving to digital in 2004, Ken has embraced the available technologies to continue his artistry. With a love for sharing his knowledge and experience Ken helped to launch Ozlight Photo Adventures (www.ozlightphoto.com) providing courses and practical workshops in all aspects of photography.

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