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Look at your photos objectively, learn to say no

This is a pretty obvious piece of advice but I want to talk about it anyway, perhaps someone will feel inspired if they haven’t considered it before.

When you look at other people’s photos you’ll often think “these suck, mine are much better!” but the thing is, they’re likely doing the exact same thing back to you. We all have this personal attachment to our own photos, one way of becoming a better photographer is changing your mindset, you need to try and break this personal attachment to your photos and judge them a bit more objectively. Be insecure about your photos. But at the same time don’t let go of your style and remember that you can’t please everyone.

I guess there are a few reasons why you like your own pics so much more than other people’s; the thought that you took it, it’s your creation, it’s your baby; the fact that you took it means it likely fits your aesthetic pretty well; the excitement you got from taking it, the feeling that you ended up with a good pic, the excitement can last a while - this is how Garry Winogrand put it:

“Sometimes photographers mistake emotion for what makes a great street photograph.”

(Never mind the “street” bit, this isn’t exclusive to street photography, I’m not that interested in street photography either).

Winogrand would shoot loads of rolls of film in a day, I read one person observe him use up an entire roll just walking one block, that’s 36 photos. The first thing he’d do with these photos is stick them in a drawer once he got home, the second thing would be wait a year and get them developed - this way he detaches himself from the photos, he forgets them, he forgets how he felt on the day, and it’s as if he wasn’t the one who took it. He’s then able to judge them a lot more objectively.


I’d say this is even easier to do with digital, I’ve got a Canon 70D with one of those rotating screens and have considered putting a small SD card in it, closing the screen, shooting, then hiding the SD card somewhere. But I don’t think I’m attached to photography enough in general to be bothered to do that.

So, the pic in the header was shot on film, I also got a version on my 70D. I got the film camera for Christmas last year and I was so excited with my first batch of photos that I felt like they were all great, I had a really big dopamine hit. Then, abut 30 minutes later, I had a really big low; I realised my ego was letting me down, the pics aren’t as great as when I first clicked through them.


I didn’t want this to happen again so tried to stay a bit more calm when I was downloading my Portra 400 photos (The pic above). I had looked at this photo digitally briefly and didn’t think it was as good as from my eye in the moment, but decided to wait until I got the film back in case I got it from a better angle. Apart from all of the photos coming out with a very poor quality for professional film, this one still didn’t work, I still didn’t like it. When I was taking it this was definitely my golden goose of the day (Is golden goose the right term?) yet somehow I managed to look at it objectively both instantly with digital and with the lag in film processing.

I’m starting to lose my train of thought and I’m surprised you’ve gotten this far in the post. I think what I was going to say next was that it might not be me being objective, but rather me being in doubt of my own skill, me not feeling like I’m good enough yet...or is that the same thing? Well, there’s that quote from Ira Glass which I wanted to link to, so like I said about not letting go of your style and that you can’t please everyone, don’t discourage yourself, these things take time:


Lastly, do it for yourself anyway! Don’t do it for other people, don’t pander, thinking objectively is just pandering right? New styles don’t come about from pandering. You can think objectively all you want, but you also have to ask, does it fit your style? Does it fit your aesthetic? Then it’s good enough for you. I think I heard Vincent van Gogh didn’t actually care about selling his paintings, didn’t care about showing other people, he simply painted for himself and so it was only after his death that he was discovered...because the paintings were finally released.

So the header photo, I kinda like it, I like the aesthetic, I liked what I was capturing, I just don’t like it enough that I’d put my name on it. About 80% of my photos are discarded, 15% “eh, it’s ok”, 5% “This is going in my portfolio.”


Oh boy am I good at rambling. I had more to expand on but I think at this point I’ve written way too much. I’ll finish by asking: what methods do you do to try and view your photos more objectively? Winogrand would wait a year, what do you do?

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