Critique Your Own Work

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This is a shot from Bean Hollow State Park in California. It’s not one of my favorite shots – and it won’t make it to my portfolio or my website. So why am I posting it here? Well – I believe that we can learn as much from images that don’t appeal to us as we can from those that do.

In this case, there are a few things that make this image unappealing to me. The first is that there is no clear point of interest. Where do I want your eye to go? Which element is the most important? Is it the sky? The foreground? Who knows!

The second problem is that the image feels very busy and cluttered. There’s a lot going on here. A variety of colors, tons of textures and details… too much, in my opinion.

And finally, do you see the leading line in the shot? The ridges in the rock seem to form a line – but where does it take you? It certainly doesn’t lead your eye toward any particularly interesting element. Nope. It points you directly towards a rather nondescript, smooth stone in the mid-ground. I just doesn’t work.

The next step is to think about what you might have done differently – and to compare the images you don’t like from a location to the ones that really appeal to you. In this case, I could have gotten down nice and low with my tripod. That simple adjustment would have helped this photo a lot. A lower perspective provides a “foreshortening” effect, which would help eliminate some of the uninteresting mid-ground. It would also help to hide that pointless leading line. Additionally, getting down low would bring my lens closer to the details in the foreground. They would appear larger in the frame, and that would help them stand out as a point of interest.

I believe that critiquing images you don’t like can have enormous benefits. Understanding what you don’t like can help you avoid it in the future, and thinking about how you could improve your own work is a great way to grow as a photographer.

About Author Varina Patel

There is nothing more remarkable to me than the power of nature. It is both cataclysmic and subtle. Slow and continuous erosion by water and wind can create landscapes every bit as astonishing as those shaped by catastrophic events – and minuscule details can be as breathtaking as grand vistas that stretch from one horizon to the other. Nature is incredibly diverse. Burning desert sands and mossy riverbanks… Brilliant sunbeams and fading alpenglow… Silent snowfall and raging summer storms… Each offers a unique opportunity. I am irresistibly drawn to the challenge of finding my next photograph, and mastering the skills required to capture it effectively.