The Right Questions To Ask To Improve Your Photographic Vision

January 04, 2019  •  3 Comments

Questions To Help You Figure Out Your Personal Style and Vision in PhotographyThe Right Questions To Ask To Improve Your Photographic VisionThe questions to ask to reflect on your past photography work so you stay on track, improve your images and stay true to your vision

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.

Floating Trees In The MistAfloatFloating trees in autumnal atmosphere in a mere at sunrise. Vosges, France.
Fine art photography by Ellen Borggreve

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?

L'Heure des FéesL'Heure des FéesMagical storybook scene of whimsical oak trees in a misty forest. Fine art forest photography by Ellen Borggreve

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. 

La Muse VerteLa Muse VerteA mystical and painterly forest scene of mossy beech trees in the mountains of France in the beginning of autumn. Fine art photography by Ellen Borggreve

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. 

Timeless DreamsTimeless DreamsTypically Dutch autumn scene with a forest boulevard lined with old oak trees on a foggy day. Timeless classical picture inspired by the Old Dutch masters

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? 

Oak FrameOak FrameOak trees in a fairytale forest setting photographed on a misty morning. A scene of stillness

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 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? 

OaktoberOaktoberAn oak tree in autumn colours on a hazy October morning with sunbeams in the forest in the background. Fine art photography by Ellen Borggreve

And first and 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. 

The BygoneThe BygoneA beautiful Dutch forest path lined with oak trees on a foggy summer morning.
Fine art photography inspired by the old Dutch masters of painting by Ellen Borggreve

My last and most essential question is 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.

Woods of WhimsyWoods of WhimsyWhimsical looking trees in a foggy fairytale forest

Fine Art Photography by Ellen Borggreve

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.

Memory LaneMemory LaneAn old Dutch estate forest lane lined with oak trees on a foggy fall morning. A painterly fine art photograph of a typically Dutch scene by Ellen Borggreve

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. 

Green MysteryGreen MysteryWhimsically shaped beech trees in a mysterious mist atmosphere in a lush fairytale forest in the mountains in France Terra IncognitaTerra Incognita Here is my personal favourite picture of 2018...

Frozen FairytaleFrozen FairytaleWhimsically shaped oak trees in a snowy winter fairytale forest on a foggy December day

Fine Art Photography by Ellen Borggreve
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. 

Prints of all of these pictures are available in my shop at Werk aan de Muur (France, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium) and Fine Art America (Rest Of The World)

Questions To Help You Figure Out Your Personal Style and Vision in PhotographyThe Right Questions To Ask To Improve Your Photographic VisionThe questions to ask to reflect on your past photography work so you stay on track, improve your images and stay true to your vision



Ellen Borggreve
Hartelijk dank voor je complimenten Heidi, dat stel ik zeer op prijs. Ik zou je vraag graag beantwoorden, maar je hebt geen email adres achter gelaten bij je commentaar. Ik heb mijn witbalans altijd op handmatig (Kelvin) staan en mijn camera staat op de M stand (handmatig). Ik stel altijd alles handmatig in en stel meestal ook handmatig scherp.
Nog een fijne dag!
Dreamful Pictures. Love that style
Heidi verbist(non-registered)
Hoi Ellen prachtige fotos en zo zacht van kleur.Als ik ze bekijk leef ik echt in een sprookje. Fantastis werk.ik Ben net begonnen met natuurfotografie en is supper leuk.welke tip wil je mij geven ivm instelling.Herfstfotos zet ik de witbalans op bewolkt,maar u fotos zijn nog mooier. Gr uit belgie.
No comments posted.