4 Ways Self-Critique Can Improve Your Photography

4 Ways Self-Critique Can Improve Your Photography

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Self-Critique-PhotoLearning how to analyze and judge your own artistic work correctly is a valuable skill that can be a bit tricky to learn properly. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “I’m my own worst critic” thrown about, you may have even said it yourself in reference to your own photography. However, there are ways that you can harness this self-criticism and learn from it rather than allowing it to consume you and destroy your self-confidence.

Learning how to constructively critique your own photography can not only help you make better photographs each time you pick up a camera, but it will also build your confidence as a photographer, and prepare you for the inevitable critiques from your peers and colleagues.

This article is a bit different in the sense that the images that I’ve used to illustrate the post showcase one particular case of how I used self-critique to iterate a photograph over the course of a shoot. I will cover the benefits of self-critique and how it can help you become a more confident photographer – so read both the article and the captions of each photograph as you continue along.

#1 Reinforces your knowledge of the craft

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After looking at what I’d captured here on the LCD of my camera I decided that the prominent features of this landscape wasn’t the sky or the foreground, but the large boulder along the right side of the frame.

You read eBooks and tutorials to learn all the technical skill required to make stunning photographs, but in the heat of the moment technique will often slip, especially when you’re just learning. That’s okay, but it’s important to learn how to notice when this is happening and correct for it along the way.

Providing yourself with a thoughtful self-critique from time to time can really help you locate the most common faults in your photography. After performing a few of these critiques you may notice that you commonly forget to double check your settings leading to poorly exposed photographs or improper Depth of Field, or you may notice that you commonly struggle to compose a photograph with purpose resulting in a photograph that doesn’t capture the emotion that you had intended.

#2 Teaches you how to look at a photograph critically

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A second setup left me with a feeling that I was on the right track, but now the scene felt too cluttered and confined.

The ability to articulate what it is about a photograph that makes it special and what needs improvement, as specifically as possible, can drastically improve your photography. This is something that is learned over time and can be difficult at first, especially when looking at your own work.

Eventually, you’ll get to the point where this sort of critical analysis will come naturally. You’ll find yourself fine-tuning your composition and settings in the field, as I’ve done with the photographs that illustrate this point. You probably won’t even be consciously aware of the fact that you’re doing this.

#3 Helps build your confidence

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Now, I had the composition that I wanted. Something that featured the boulder prominently, yet allowed there to be enough room to breath in the foreground., but the water just wasn’t right. Time to adjust the settings to allow for a longer shutter speed.

No one enjoys being told what’s ‘wrong’ with something that they’ve created, but it’s going to happen, whether you ask for it or not. Even the best photographers have their critics so it’s not a matter of skill, it’s simply the way the world works.

By finding the ability to critique your own photography you’ll have an idea of what people might say when they are viewing your work, and as a result, you’ll be more prepared to defend the choices you made to create the image.

#4 You’ll become better at offering advice to others

While this might not directly affect your skill as a photographer, it does help to reinforce the other three points listed above. When you are able to offer constructive feedback to someone who’s just starting out you’ll not only feel great by helping them improve, but you’ll be more confident going forward with your own work at the same time.

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The longer exposure sealed the deal for me creating that milky water effect around the base of the boulder that I was featuring in the shot.

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John Davenport is the creator of PhoGro - Gro' Your Photography a community that aims to help you grow your photography through engagement with other photographers. John also offers a free email course Jumpstart Your Photography that covers some of the most important elements of photography.

  • Choo Chiaw Ting

    Excellent.. 😉

  • Very helpful for beginners. You may also be interested in reading this – http://www.redbubble.com/groups/nature-photography-online-magazine/forums/6140/topics/42421-self-critique

  • I would like to add one more way to boost and improve your own work by self-critique: hear and accept other people’s opinions and comments on your own photography, specially if they come from someone whose work you admire and respect; look for a mentor that will give you an objective, external view that will help you see your own work in a different light.
    I recently attended my first photography workshop ever, and it was an eye-opener experience and it let me learnt and grow a lot; you can read and see all my captures at my blog: http://gonzalobroto.blogspot.com.es/2014/07/apf-street-photography-workshop.html

  • dantefrizzoli

    Thank you for this article. I’m a beginner and this was helpful.

  • Michael Owens

    I often slag off my own images. I think I’m TOO self critical. What’s the answer to that? 🙁

  • One way that I’ve been able to avoid becoming too critical is to try to remember to compare my photography to photography that I’ve taken in the past and not to where I want to be in the future.

    There is no short cut to great photographs it simply requires a lot of work, fine tuning of skill, and knowledge of what you’re doing behind the camera. Critique is an important aspect of improvement, but make sure you’re not only finding flaws, find things that you’ve done well each shot as well. This will help you notice improvement over time and will build your confidence as a photographer.

    Hope this makes sense for you!

  • Happy to hear! Thanks for the comment

  • Great advice Gonzalo – finding a mentor, or even a photography buddy, is a great way to help each other out.

  • Ian Brash

    thank you for your tips. Being a photographic judge at club level its easy to critique other peoples images but a lot harder to do the same to your own. I need to really attack this as Im about to go for my DPAGB. Time will tell, but it’s enjoyable.

  • Gregg

    Double edge sword. Some think they can do no right and some thing they can do no wrong. Understanding technical purity and composition are ways to give yourself basic judgement with a sound foundation. But this doesn’t assure you that anyone will like your work.

  • self critiquing is hard. Luckily, I have a wife that has no problem critiquing me or my photography.

  • Geoff

    Criticism from someone who’s work you respect is a lot easier to accept, that’s for sure. But you don’t have to agree with everything that’s said, whoever says it. A comment might just be another photographer’s opinion, a question of taste, not a fact. Don’t be too easily discouraged.

  • Constructive criticism is important, but take it with a pinch of salt. We all have different preferences and styles which will appeal to some and feel wrong to others. So do listen to what others have to say about your photographs but be also prepared to stand up for your choices. I think the key to becoming a better photographer is to take a lot of pictures, read a lot (or watch videos if you prefer) and constantly ask yourself if you are satisfied with the results or if you need to keep working.

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