There’s nothing like New Year’s Eve to make you take stock and look at the year that has just gone. In fact, I posted just recently about how to review your year from both a personal and professional perspective and blog about it. But let’s get more specific… what about reviewing your photography over the last 12 months? Let’s go over that now because there’s a lot to be learned by looking at your own work, ready for the New Year!
First of all, why should you review your photography from the year just gone? Well, as with anything, it’s a good way to take stock of your work. You can see what worked and what didn’t work. What shoots you totally nailed and what ones you feel you could have done better at. Maybe you tried some new skills or techniques. Then it’s probably good to look back and see whether you executed them well or whether you need to do more work.
Ultimately, the review process is a learning experience. It will show you the techniques and skills you use a lot and therefore probably achieve quite well, which will allow you to take stock and figure out what new skills you can think about learning in the next year.
How to review?
So, give yourself plenty of time for this process – a few hours at least, maybe more depending on how many shoots you’ve done over the last year! Go through each of those shoots and choose 2 or 3 of your favourite images from each one. This is a hard task in itself. I don’t know about you, but I usually find there’s easily 50% of the images on every shoot I do that I would pick as favourites. That’s because I tend to become emotionally involved in all my shoots, so I’m looking at those images with my heart. But take a moment to be brutal in your critique of the images and select just a few that really stand out from each shoot.
Once you’ve done that, you’ll no doubt have quite the collection of photographs to go through! It’ll help to categorise them – portraits, street, nature, architecture, black and white… separate them into groups like those before you begin the process of going through them all.
Once you’re ready, it is just a case of putting an objective head on when you look at your work. Try to see past the emotions behind what you shot, or the why. Try to look at the images from the point of view of someone who has never seen your work before. Try to imagine what they might be seeing, or how they might see the image.
You might see certain patterns forming. For example, I quickly picked out in a lot of my portraits that I favour planting my subjects slap bang in the middle of my image. So, from that, I made a concerted effort to try other compositional techniques where possible. Another thing I figured out is that I am L.A.Z.Y. when it comes to changing my aperture. I used to shoot almost exclusively at f/1.8 but that sometimes meant I missed focus or messed up group shots, which I definitely shouldn’t be doing at this stage! I also realise just how much I favoured landscape orientation shots over portrait orientation. After a little digging, I realised it was because of the way I held the camera when shooting in portrait orientation. A simple change was made and now I probably produce almost an even split of portrait and landscape orientation shots.
There are all sorts of things you can critique in your own work. Do you overexpose? Could you underexpose your images more often? Would that produce a more pleasing result? Do you often shoot at higher ISOs or shutter speeds? Are these something you can look at changing? Do you overshoot? What about challenging yourself to shoot less in the New Year? Or do you throw away 4 out of 5 of your images? Maybe try to increase your “hit rate” next year – see if you can save 1 in 3!
Once the reviewing is over, print some of those images out! Get them framed! Gift them, put them on your walls, sell them. Whatever you choose to do, get them printed and celebrate the good work you’ve done this year!
PS I love seeing other people’s work! I challenge you to post your favourite image over on instagram, if you have an account, and use the hashtag #heartlinesphoto so I can see it. I promise I’ll share your image on my stories!