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The following post on 10 Ways to Top Your Best 2008 Photographs is by San Francisco based photographer Jim M. Goldstein. Learn more about him at the end of this post
At the conclusion of every year I take it upon myself to review my yearly photographic work and pursue 3 critical activities:
Everyone has their own yearly rituals with their photography, but these help me improve and keep me inspired. To get into a little more detail here are 10 ways to top your best 2008 photographs:
It is all to easy to sweep mistakes under the rug and try to forget about them. The painful truth is that our mistakes are what offer us the greatest opportunity to improve. While at the end of the year I revel in my success, just as I do through out the year I obsess on the things that haven’t worked. I’m constantly asking myself “Why did this not work as expected?”and “What could I do differently to get a better outcome?” If you’re not good at making & holding a mental list of things to learn or improve on keep a notebook or journal to do so.
If you shared photographs with others in 2008 that you were proud of and that had impact take a deeper look and ask yourself “Why?” Put your skills under a microscope to understand where you’re strongest technically and/or creatively. In doing so you’ll have identified stepping stones to work off of when you get to #5 on this list.
I’ll be the first to admit it’s really tough to take feedback, but it is really important to grow a thick skin to hear things you don’t want to hear. Utilize photography forums* to gather feedback on your photography. Keep an open mind when others comment on the images that you think are great and those you know have flaws. Don’t be afraid to point out flaws you’re aware of and ask for ideas on how to improve them.* Not all photography forums are of equal caliber. Find a photography forum with members who are both civil and knowledgeable. Photography forums are like doctors, go to one that you respect and find helpful.
There’s a reason you got into photography, unearth why and explore the source of your interest. Learn what photographers shaped your photographic tastes and research their work. Take full advantage of the Internet. Great contemporary photographers are only a Google search away, up and coming photographers can easily be found on Flickr, photography bloggers are constantly referencing photographers of influence and great photography podcasts now exist. I also highly recommend making use of your local museums to find inspiration from painters and sculptors. The more you look the more you’ll find.
In evaluating your weaknesses, strengths and sources of inspiration create a list of techniques you’d like to strengthen or learn. There is always room for improvement. Great photography masters are eternal students of the art. If your list is a long one then identify the top 5 techniques you’d like to learn and master in 2009.
Shorten the time-frame to improve your photographic skills by reading as much as you can about the techniques that interest you. As time passes more and more information is now online, but don’t forget about great resource in print. There are numerous books out there pertaining to your area of interest. Talk to photographers you respect and inquire which books they recommend reading. As you read photography blogs keep an eye out for posts on reviews and recommended reading.
The sure fire way to improve is to practice. Try, try and try again. Practice for the sake of practicing. Keep adding skills to your repertoire. When you think you’ve mastered what you’ve learned reinforce it regularly by incorporating it into your more mundane photographic efforts.
Trips, even the more mundane like family visits, are great motivators. Trips are centered around dates and provide great incentive for you to make the time to learn and master new techniques. In addition following a trip we all make an effort to share what we’ve captured with family and friends. This is a great time to show off new skills you’ve integrated into your photographic work.
Don’t wait for the end of the year to evaluate older work. Check in from time to time through out the year to look at older work. This will serve as a reminder of areas of improvement to pursue and more importantly reveal the progress you’ve made. Depending on your level of effort and frequency of shooting you’ll be able to see improvement in a matter of months if not weeks.
Don’t lose sight of having fun. Photography is as much about the experience as it is realizing the final product. Enjoy the journey of improving your photography and don’t be discouraged. If you become frustrated take a break, and/ or talk to others about your situation to see if they have advice to offer. In the pursuit of enhancing your evolution as a photographer take part in photowalks, photo tours and workshops. All of these activities will put you in contact with photographers of varying backgrounds and experience levels giving you additional opportunity not just to learn, but have fun.