The Checklist for Critiquing Your Own Photographs

Careful composition for a cognac ad using the Golden Spiral

Careful composition for a cognac ad using the Golden Spiral
Image by Sander Martijn

The struggle to become a better photographer involves getting critiques from others who are better and know how to create better images, but you can also be a very harsh critic of yourself. It starts off with not justifying any defense that you may have and understanding that in a real life situation, your image is going to have to stand on its own two legs because you probably won’t be there to defend it. If your image is online and someone writes a comment, then sure, you can have a back and forth dialog. But for the sake of putting up the best work that possibly can, we’re not going to think about that situation.

For that reason, here is a checklist of questions to ask yourself before you put up an image. We think of these all the time as we get images submitted to us for featuring. If you’re finding that the odds are against you when you ask these questions, then don’t use the image unless you can fix it.

– What’s important in this image that needs to be there to get the point across?

– What doesn’t need to be in this image?

– Can the extraneous subjects that are in the image be removed by cropping?

– What is the image trying to say or convey?

– Render the photo in black and white and blur it by adding gaussian blur–are the shapes in the frame simplistic or complicated to the point of wondering what’s in the scene and where to focus?

– What compositional rules work for this image? Will a crop of the photo make it more effective?

– Would this scene elicit a reaction or feeling out of someone or would they simply just flip to the next image?

– What about this image would make someone sit and stare at it?

– Is there text in the scene that someone would want to read?

– Is there some sort of powerful moment in the scene?

– If I were pitching to an editor, art buyer or creative director, would I include this image in a package if it gave me a lot of money? Would it be worth someone paying lots of money for?

– Look at the image as a whole, no pixel peeping. Would someone want a print of this?

– Why would someone care to look at this?

– Why did I take the picture?

– What about the scene made me want to photograph it? Does the feeling that I felt come across well?

– What would make someone like this image on Tumblr, Instagram, 500px, or another platform?