Rules are meant to be broken. Remember that when reading over the next post about critiquing your work. It’s hard not to think of the criticism as being negative because it sort of is. Looking at your photography critically will shed a beam of light on all of the things that you can improve upon to make it better. See, the thing is you’re analyzing this yourself right? So, be honest, be harsh, and pay attention to what you don’t like and what you do, this will only help you.
The best way to follow this guide is with paper, pen, and an actual print (or some other piece) of your work. I personally like having something tangible in front of me rather than looking at it on a screen. Just write down and answer each question honestly. Stick the paper in your bag for next time as a subtle reminder of this exercise.
Let’s get technical.
Is it in focus?
Unless it’s intentional, having a sharp image should always be your first priority. In some instances getting the shot is more important. If you had enough time to set up the composition and set your camera correct, and didn’t – well that’s when you should be worried.
How is the exposure?
Is it too light or too dark to see the details? If blowing something out or silhouetting the subject was your intention, great! If not consider that your subject should always be property exposed. You won’t always be able to avoid under or over exposing some part of the picture, and that’s fine, so when you are presented with a choice, get the exposure right on the subject.
How is your lighting?
We talked earlier about white balance to control a major color cast due to certain lights and how to correct it. Take a look at light for a few minutes? Is there a color cast? Is the lighting to hard or soft? If you changed it would it improve the photo? Direct light, especially in portraits can cast unwanted and ugly shadows.
Did you follow any compositional rules?
I’m talking the basics here: rule of thirds, golden ratio, leading lines, etc. Could you have followed any to make the picture more interesting? Will cropping the photo improve it? Is there too much negative space or clutter? How could have you composed the shot better? A personal rule of thumb: If it adds, don’t subtract. (Yes, I really do make up these silly little phrases and still make me chuckle.)
It’s time to get emotional.
What do you feel?
Open your mind and look objectively at your image. Does it make you feel happy, sad, or angry? Was that your intention? What can you change the mood to what you want? Can you apply a different technique or perspective?
Is it interesting?
So often we take pictures that are meaningful to ourselves or the people we know but what about the masses? What about the photo would other people enjoy or find interesting? What could you do to improve its interestingness?
Are you intentions clear?
Is the message you are trying to convey or the story you are trying to tell obvious? The more thought-provoking your image is, the more easily people will be able to identify with and enjoy it.
So now that you’ve looked over your work and critiqued it, go out and shoot again. Bring the knowledge with you. Before you know it you’ll be answering these questions before you snap and will be happier with your results.. and it’s rewarding.