I spend the last weeks of every year reviewing my work, reflecting on what photographs I have taken, what I liked and did not like and where I want to take my photography next. I do this to make sure that I stay on track and that my work does not become stagnant. For me, becoming stagnant equals becoming bored and I don't ever want to get bored with the thing that I am most passionate about.
A large part of photography, in developing your own style and working from your own vision, is reflecting. Not superficial labeling like: "I don't like this picture and I do like that one". This will not do you any good. Always ask why behind your likes and dislikes....Why do you like that picture and not the other one? And don't be surprised if the answers are not easily found.
Think about why you started photography in the first place, what made you pick up your camera, what is it that you wanted to capture, what made you fall in love with this medium? And also....are you still on track or did you start drifting?
It is quite easy to drift away from your own vision and path. These days so many people follow what is popular on social media, that we have come to equal this popularity to quality or we start to thing that perhaps we should be doing something similar. There is a huge risk in this and we can see this happening all over the internet...Original photographers' work is being cloned by many others and before you know it, you see the same pictures popping up on Instagram time after time. We humans like to both fit in and be popular and social media feed on these two needs. I wholeheartedly believe though that we are not created uniquely so we can make clones of someone else's work. We are here to tell our own unique story. That said, it can be rather painful for people if they see others getting thousands of likes whilst they are left behind and then they adjust their work until they get more likes. At that point though, you are not the artist anymore, the popularity on social media is now dictating your direction and clouding your own vision.
If you notice you have gone adrift, don't beat yourself up, simply re-adjust. Find out what you really want to capture and get back on track. None of us is completely immune to influences from others and the popularity game on social media.
Find the pictures you like best of the past year, compare these to your favourites from the previous years and see what this tells you. Is there something that keeps coming back? A colour scheme, an emotion, a mood, a type of composition? And why do you like these re-occuring things in your favourite images?
Also look at things like the amount of elements in your frame. Do you like complicated compositions or minimalist images?
What I do next is decide what pictures I liked best from other artists or photographers in the past year. In my case this is usually someone who takes vastly different pictures than mine and this year my favourite picture (by miles) was a picture by an amazing fine art portrait photographer. I knew it the minute I spotted the image many months ago. I ask myself why I am so incredibly drawn to this image. This does not mean that I am now going to be a portrait photographer, but I love the mood in her pictures...Then I work from there....is there something I need to change in the mood of my images? What would make me fall in love with my own work? What elements would be crucial for that to happen?
And first and foremost....how can I create authentic, original work that conveys why I take pictures? Images that convey my vision? Have I been limited in any way in the previous year by a lack of knowledge on some level? Do I need to learn more? Have I cut any corners anywhere and just went for the easy shot? Let's be honest here....I really dislike cutting corners and going for the easy shot, but I can sometimes be guilty of this as well. Just because I sometimes become inspired whilst taking pictures and I need to spend quite some time alone with my subject before I start taking more original shots. Sometimes I only start really SEEING after quite a while. Then the good stuff happens, but that usually does not happen when I am not alone.
My last and most essential question is always...do I feel passionate about what I am doing? Do I work from the heart, do I let my bliss be my guiding light? I think that only if you let your bliss be your guide, it is not only easier to stay true to your own vision, but it also pays off in better work. It is always tangible in art if the artist worked from a state of total dedication and a certain state of surrender to where inspiration leads him or her.
This year I was not surprised to see that the top 10 most popular photos on Instagram were quite different from my own favourite pictures. I think that only 2 of them ended up in both top 10s. To me as an artist with a desire to improve....the most popular photos on Instagram don't matter though, only those that I myself am most proud of matter to me. I might listen to what people tell me about these pictures, but if their opinions don't ring true to me, to my vision, then I simply put these opinions aside. Hardly ever do they affect the choice of my favourite pictures.
My favourite pictures of this year can be found in this post, some of them were taken only a few weeks ago. My photo opportunities in 2018 were quite rare and far between. We rarely got real fog and even in France I did not get the conditions I had been hoping for. I did however take some pictures that I now consider my best ever and this is something I am truly grateful for.
I hope you will have a wonderful year with lots of opportunities to let your photography grow into something deeply personal.
My eClass Your Vision Your Story is open for registration now and this class will empower you in creating from your own personal vision, without ever having to depend on examples of other photographers work, because you can trust the abundance of creativity inside of you.