Ellen Borggreve | How Reviewing Your Pictures Can Greatly Improve Your Photography

How Reviewing Your Pictures Can Greatly Improve Your Photography

July 30, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

One thing I recommend in my eCourse Your Vision Your Story is that you regularly review your own work and do so thoroughly. I have done this all my artistic life. In fact I have large folders with review sheets in them for my pictures and the art I used to make. I think this is such a crucial element in staying true to your own vision and to improve your work, that I plan days where I do little else than write out review sheets. 

how to stay true to your own unique photography visionHow reviewing your pictures can greatly improve your photographyIf you don't review your own photography you'll be lead by what other people think and what they like best. Always ask yourself what you like best about your pictures, what you feel about them and always only have your own vision as your guiding light.
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These reviews help me stay on track, because they let me focus on what I value in a picture. If you don't don this, it is so easy to loose your way, because then you might just take the popularity of your pictures on social media as a guiding light for your work and before you know it, you get further and further away from your own unique vision. I really think it is very risky to just look at the likes you get on your pictures and put value on this. 

These numbers are just statistics. If you start putting too much value on this and make these numbers your guiding light, you will most definitely leave the path you thought you were on. Art is not a popularity contest, art is about expressing yourself in a unique way and so the only guiding light you should have in your photography is what you dream of creating; to follow the star of your own vision.

Painterly photo of tree lined path on the VeluweInfiniteVery painterly scene of foggy forest path lined with oak trees

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So, let's take a look at how I review my work

1. I go through my port folio in Lightroom or in the Finder of my computer and start labelling my pictures with 3 colours.

Red for pictures that I really don't feel connected to (I am not saying they are bad, I just don't feel they represent my vision)

Orange for pictures that for some reason or another did not work after I edited them, pictures that are a little off

Green for pictures that absolutely match my vision and that are a good foundation to build upon

how to stay true to your own unique photography visionHow reviewing your pictures can greatly improve your photographyIf you don't review your own photography you'll be lead by what other people think and what they like best. Always ask yourself what you like best about your pictures, what you feel about them and always only have your own vision as your guiding light.
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Yes, your favourite picture might the one I labelled red or orange, but this does not matter. You might hate the picture that I labelled green and that does not matter either. What matters is that I feel that the picture I labelled red least conveys my vision and the one I labelled green most conveys my vision. 

Just for the fun of it, I'll show you three more

how to stay true to your own unique photography visionHow reviewing your pictures can greatly improve your photographyIf you don't review your own photography you'll be lead by what other people think and what they like best. Always ask yourself what you like best about your pictures, what you feel about them and always only have your own vision as your guiding light.
www.ellenborggreve.com/blog
Now, the pictures that I labelled green are not necessarily the ones that were most popular on social media. In fact, I can tell you that 90 percent of the pictures I labelled red were most popular on Instagram and the same amount of the pictures I labelled green were the least popular on Instagram and other social media. Do I care about this? No, I really can't say I do. 

One Instagram guru told me that I should have all my pictures bright and with warm and bright (read primary) colours. This had proven to be most popular on Instagram. Why in the world would I want to make my pictures look like this if this is not how I see the world? If this is how you see the world, you should most definitely go for it, but I refuse to post pictures to become popular and then hate my own work

So, the value of my pictures can not be found in the statistics, they can be found in my own reviews. I am very, very picky when it comes to my own work and write reviews in detail. I don't just make a list that states what I like and what I don't like. I write down why I don't like it. The why is always more important than the what. 

A painterly looking scene of a path with birch trees in the fogThe BirchesAn idyllic path with birch trees on a foggy summer morning. A painterly forest scene with the atmosphere of paintings form the romantic era

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Shall I give you an example? Let's say that I write down that from the three pictures above I don't like the greenish editing of the picture in the middle. This would lead me to be very wary of green or turquoise in the future. What is way more important is why I don't like this colour. I don't like it, because these tones don't feel idyllic to me. You see, the painterly and idyllic feel is very important to me and many more tones and colours than just the greenish hue in this picture might have a negative effect on an idyllic and painterly atmosphere. Again, this is very personal and you might think tones like these are idyllic, but to me, they are not. 

Colour is of course just one of the elements I look at. I look at every picture in detail, but always start with how this picture feels to me. If the technical and compositional parts are all ok, I can still not like it at all. 

So, I do the labelling strictly on gut feeling and then I review the pictures separately, but I also place similar ones together and ask myself why I don't like one and I do like the other, like with the three pictures of the paths above. Fact is my friends,  that the one labeled red was very popular. It turned out it reminded many people of Game of Thrones, which I had to look up on the internet as I did not have a clue what that was. As this is a popular TV series, it was only logical that the picture was popular with a larger group of people as well.

My reviews are therefore the most important part of my photography. They really are. I build on the greens, I work on the oranges and I try to prevent taking pictures like the reds. If I can't make the oranges work (this is turning into a fruit and vegetable post now), I will label them red. The most important part of me improving as a photographer is not done in the field, but at home with my sheets and labels. This is what lays the foundation, this is what makes my vision clearer every single time that I review my work. I can highly recommend you doing the same for your pictures.

Next time I'll give you a quick tip to help you find out which colours and tones you have in your pictures

I explain the reviewing of your own work in more detail and with worksheets in my class Your Vision Your Story

PS....If you would like to see how the review sheets work, I have one in my FREE mini class Capturing Your Impression

how to stay true to your own unique photography visionHow reviewing your pictures can greatly improve your photographyIf you don't review your own photography you'll be lead by what other people think and what they like best. Always ask yourself what you like best about your pictures, what you feel about them and always only have your own vision as your guiding light.
www.ellenborggreve.com/blog

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