One of the distinguishing aspects of photography is that we have to wade through a lot of bad photographs in order to unearth the few good ones. What other medium requires such nonsense? It’s a mind trip. It’s why so many photographers struggle with editing their own work. By the time you stumble upon a compelling photograph, it’s hard to recognize.
But if you can keep an open mind and try some of the following tips, you’ll be better able to spot which images are your best photos
Tip 1: Forget the Backstory
One of the biggest challenges you’ll face when assessing your own images is actually seeing what your pictures show. That’s because, oftentimes, your intentions or experiences of making the photos affect what you think the images portray. Viewers, on the other hand, will see only what the picture shows: shapes, color, light and the order those elements collectively create. And that’s precisely the mindset you need to adopt in order to see your images clearly.
Tip 2: Don’t Evaluate Your Images While You Photograph
It’s fine to check the back of your camera to make sure the exposure or other settings are correct. But once those issues have been resolved, immerse yourself in photographing. In other words, edit your images after you’re done. You’re much more likely to have the clarity you need if you don’t multi-task. You’ll also produce better work, because you are singularly focused on the task at hand.
Tip 3: Assess Your Images at Numerous Points
Once your shoot concludes, look at your images at least three times before deciding which ones are worth a closer look. Any photograph you pass by today could be an image you’ll find brilliant tomorrow. (This happens more often than one would think.) In general, the more time that passes, the more objective you can become about your own images.
Tip 4: Make Work Prints
Once you’ve decided which pictures interest you, make inexpensive work prints so that you can really see them. (I make color photocopies at Staples.) Images have a different presence once they leave the computer screen. Plus, once you have them in hard copy, you can play around with sequencing and see how they relate to one another.
Tip 5: Ask Others for Input
If you want to see like a viewer approaching your work with fresh eyes, then you should ask another person to do just that. Simply ask someone to look at your photos. But don’t give them any leading information beforehand that reveals your issues or prejudices. Let them respond to your photographs, and then discuss the aspects of the work you’re concerned with. You might get some conflicting feedback from people—everyone has their subjective points of view—but you might also get some very consistent feedback that’s worth looking into
Tip 6: Go With Your Gut
In the end, you, and only you, are the one who can decide which images are most compelling. Listen to others and take in what they say, but then trust yourself. Over time, as you compile a selection of images that speak most to you, your unique personal vision will become clear.