January is a Great Time to Review Your Photos
“Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.” Ansel Adams
I am not crazy about January (is anyone? Well my son is, he loves grey days as much as I love sunshine. He’s even written a little book of ‘Grey day activities that don’t involve watching TV’’ to help other people enjoy them too). So in the absence of having my son’s enthusiasm for this weather, what I like to do to start the year is review my work from the previous year, as this gives me a nice jolt of joy and helps propel me on to a good creative path for the next year.
Why is this a good idea? You’ll find new favourite images
It’s funny how you can have a perception of what you have accomplished, but then you sit down, go through everything anew and really look at your images and this gives you a whole new perspective on your year.
You never know – you will could discover a great photo that you missed the first time round. For example, I missed this image when I was putting together my Paris book. I was flipping through my images one day and said casually to my wife – do you like this? And she went crazy – she both loved it and wanted to shoot me for not showing them to her before and maybe missing the chance of them being in my book. I was saved from her wrath just in time.
Magnum photographer Trent Parke talked about ignoring this image for ten years in the interview I posted last month because he remembered the light was bad that day so ignored the shot.
When he found it again ten years later he saw the power of the image (here is the interview again for anyone who missed it – it’s probably one of the most inspiring talks I’ve heard on photography in years).
It’s important for your development as a photographer
In order to keep improving it’s important to take a cold, hard look at your work. I find doing my yearly review both a joyous experience – I always find photos I’d previously ignored which I now love – but also a little heartbreaking. Photos I ‘remember’ to be brilliant turn out to not be so much. But in an effort to improve your images you have to take a cold, hard look at what you need to work on improving, as well as celebrating how far you’ve come. Perhaps you’ll look at your work and be a little disappointed because you don’t have a lot of great images. Well, that’s just inspiration for committing to your photography more in the following year, right?
Do a review session with a friend
A photographer’s agent I know once told me that photographers are often the worst editors of their own work because they have too much emotion attached to their images. They often think about things like: the circumstances in which they took the photo, how they were feeling or how much they liked the subject – instead of just the image.
Apparently I am also guilty of this.
So, it really, really helps to go through your work with a photo-loving friend or friends. Heck, get a little group together, a few beers and make an evening of it. You will be amazed by what images you skip over that others love, and then they become your favourites, and likewise images you think are absolute killers and they aren’t.
(BTW I have introduced regular group feedback sessions into my Light Monkeys group if you are looking for something more structured.)
Some questions to ask yourself about your images
- Is there a running theme?
- How has my photography changed in a year?
- Are there any new subjects I am passionate about?
- Have I been using my full imagination?
It helps you to prepare your photography for the coming year
Getting into a ritual of a yearly review is an excellent habit because you are giving yourself time to let your work settle. You will have lost some of that excitement that maybe is attached to the work – like the holiday you were on when you took it, or the beautiful sunshine you encountered.
It will help you formulate some desires for your work in the coming year and set some little goals for yourself.
Next week I’ll be talking about this creative goals setting (goals in the loosest possible sense) and how to get a personal project started. Although I am a-keep-thing-in-my-head-kind of guy, and not one for lots of structure around my personal projects, I do like to set a few markers for the year, have a sense of how much time I want to commit to my work every week/month and have an idea of what I will be focusing on shooting wise. But more of that next week.
And finally….share your favourite photos with the world (or at least your loved ones) – it’s an obligation
I think a lot of creative people get nervous about sharing their work with the world. Not only are you putting yourself out there to be judged (scary!) but it also feels rather uncomfortable to self-promote. But I am here to say that not only is it great to show people the work you’ve done because you have something unique to express that only you can say, it also inspires others to be creative. And as many of you know, I believe that creativity is an essential tool for living a good life. Whether your creativity takes the form of cooking, art or reading – it’s something that takes you away from life’s ‘grind’ and helps you enjoy life in a deeper, more meaningful, more connected way.
So do the world a favour – show people your work and inspire others!
I really like Austin Kelon’s talk (based on his book by the same name) called Show your Work. It gives a plethora of reasons why you need to be showing the world your creations.
My top shots
So in my yearly review I picked out some of my images that I really loved from 2014 (with the help of my wife, and it only involved one creative altercation :)) I would love to know what you think of my selections!
And…I’d love to see your best photos from 2014 – either post them to my Facebook page or email me directly and I’ll send you my feedback.
Looking forward to a great year for us all.
Happy shooting in 2015!
Included in my favourite shots are some photos from my Venice project. I stayed on the Eastern side of the city this year and discovered some amazing new places to shoot – abandoned buildings, a lush park and a fortress like entrance that must have been useful for ancient times.
Of course my adopted home city always wins my heart! This was a little ‘snap shot’ I took one morning, and is totally unprocessed. I never get bored of shooting this view. London always offers up something new for me.
And now to Paris, a city I learnt to love over many months, once I had got underneath it’s ‘pretty’ surface…
If I was to sum up what I like to photograph (and I should, we all should, not in a prescriptive way but just as a way to get to know our photography better) it’s probably this – urban landscapes, workers, humorous portraits (though strangely I don’t photograph to be funny) and street details. I love finding ugly, dirty, weird things on the street and making them look interesting or inviting. A quirk of mine I suppose…