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15 June 2014

Criticizing your own work

Most of the time when I shoot, I'm bracketing for exposure. So naturally I'm already tossing 1/3 to 2/3 (or more!) of my shoot on the first edit. Also, on my first edit I'm checking for sharpness. Sometimes, a really intriguing shot leaps out that breaks all the rules, so I'm open to them. 
One of my best shots was a wild motion blur of a fair midway. It was completely unintentional at the time (I thought I finished the exposure and moved my camera early.), but it worked so well that it graces my portfolio back cover. 
Lights on the Midway

Back to the first sort: I look hard at the technical aspects of the image so I don't try to invest emotionally in what would otherwise be just bad technique. 
The second sort (often a day or so later) looks at the artistic merit of the photos. I'm looking for images that "speak" to me. Often, these are the images and impressions I was trying to capture at the time. The selected pictures are deemed worthy enough of my time to perform basic adjustments and cropping. These are then the images I'd present to a client. 
The third sort selects those that I'd recommend to a client. 
The fourth sort selects those that I'd keep copies of in my presentation galleries
The fifth sort selects contest entries and portfolio images. 
So the questions I'm asking at each stage are these: 
First: Is the picture technically competent? If not, is it compelling enough to keep in spite of the flawed technique? (For instance, my motion blurred shot was dead on in exposure.) 
Second: Do the images tell a story? 
Third: Do the images tell the story you want to tell? 
Fourth: Is this an image that keeps drawing you back to it? Do you keep seeing more and more in it? 
Fifth: Is this an image that consistently make you say, "Oh. Wow."? 
That's how I look at my images after I've taken them. 
Granted the 10,000 hour rule still applies for looking through the camera, but you'll find after even 1000 hours that your images are improving, and you'll be willing to take informed risks that will push your work further. 
Really, if all the pictures on your card are keepers, you aren't pushing yourself enough.