Did you know you can critique yourself with an objective eye. You can determine where you need improvement and where you shine. You can decide if your own work is a great fit for that contest or portfolio. You can choose between two different versions of your photo yourself, without turning to that facebook group every.single.time. (Ahem, guilty!). Below is a guide that will help you be more objective, purposeful, and decisive so you can conquer your self-critique.
There’s always something new to learn about your camera, gear, and photography and that takes time. Whether you’re a technical shooter, artistic shooter or both. It may take even more time than you expected (once again guilty). And you may notice, building photography skills isn’t simple.
You’re also faced with determining if your photos are good. You may second guess yourself. Or think a photo is great and enter it into a feature contest only to find that it didn’t take notice. You want to know why, or what you can do to improve. You need confidence in your work. You need direction to improve.
Sometimes you feel like you’re unsure of what you’re doing right or wrong, and if you’re work has style. Or maybe it’s more simple. You may only need to pull together a portfolio and you aren’t sure if a photo should make the cut.
Mentors are always a great place to go to for feedback on any of these concerns. But you may not want to pay for a mentor right now, or it’s difficult to find someone you trust. Or you aren’t sure of what you need or the process a mentor follows. Maybe you aren’t even sure what to show them. A good place to start then is with a self-critique.
But how do you critique yourself? You feel like you might have mom goggles on or only want to finish those product photos so you can get the sales pages up or social media out. Yes, you might know you need to be objective and hard on yourself and those are definitely good points, but you also need more. You need a guide.
Set Your Purpose
You first need to set a purpose. Why are you critiquing the photo or portfolio? I would write it down, to remind yourself as you go through the process.
Then ask what you want to get out of it. Pulling together a technical portfolio opposed to an artistic submission creates different whys. And your anticipated results are different. A technical portfolio for acceptance into a program creates a different why than a technical portfolio to determine improvement areas.
1. Ask yourself why you are doing the self-critique.
2. Ask yourself what do you want to get out of the self-critique. This second question requires you to dig a little deeper. And I encourage you to dig as deep as you can to set your purpose.
Setting a purpose helps you be more decisive, without fear or uncertainty.
After you set your purpose you want to ask yourself 2 basic questions that will set your overall impressions and guide you to a decision. Here you may rule out a photo before you even get to the rubric because it doesn’t fit your purpose. That’s great! Time saved! Make sure you write down your answers. Your answers will help guide you through the rubric as well.
1. What do you absolutely love about the photo? Why?
2. What is it you don’t like or want to change about this photo? Why?
3. Does the photo fit your style? Is that ok or not ok?
These impressions lead you to think about your personal connection to the photo and differentiate that from a more objective view.
Now, down to the good stuff. If you made it this far with a photo, that’s great! You can get into what’s going on in a photo by going through a rubric that will help you. You can make your own rubric, or download the free one here!
A rubric shows you where you could improve upon a photo(s) or what you’re doing well. It breaks down the subjective into more objective small parts to determine the many facets of a good photograph. A rubric keeps you honest and on track. It objectifies the photo more and gives you a ranking system. This ranking system reveals areas that you need to work on.
A rubric helps you objectively think about the photo without the personal connection getting in the way.
The Guide and Workbook
You can download the self-critique guide below for free.
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I made it very in depth for those considering serious competitions or reviews. It is meant to be thoughtful and take time. For those wanting something a bit quicker to cover the technical aspects for instance, you can skip many of the questions that are more thought provoking. This workbook is a guide for you to use in the best way for your work. It does not mean a photo isn’t portfolio worthy if you score low in an area. Only you can really determine that. Looking at each individual item then putting them together as a whole should give you more indication though. In some of the technical areas, scoring low may cause reconsideration but scoring low in some artistic areas may not. Use it with your purpose in mind, not with what you think should be the correct way, or even that you have to score high among all the criteria.
About a year into my photography, I chose to do a serious self-critique. It was eye opening. And since, I’ve tried to do it once a year and work on the areas that need improvement. There is always places to improve. Photography is an art and therefore a journey, treat it like one and you’ll learn so much more than how to take a beautiful photo.
If you are interested in a review or mentor session with me, I also offer those. Sometimes we just need the direction someone else can give us.