How often do you look back at your old photos? If that’s not a habit for you – maybe it’s time to start doing it more often. You can learn a lot by evaluating the images that you already took, no matter if they were taken ages ago or within the last year or so. In his latest video, Toma Bonciu a.k.a. Photo Tom will give you five steps to guide you through this process of evaluation.
Although Toma’s video is aimed at newbies, I think it can work for everyone, regardless of how long you’ve been into photography. I think that everyone should look back at their work and learn from it, even if it makes them cringe. So, what are the steps of the evaluation?
Step 1: What’s the point of your photo?
Start by identifying the subject of your image and the reason why you took the photo. Think about what you wanted to say. If the photo doesn’t have a clear subject or a story – consider changing than in the future.
Toma suggests some side questions that you should ask yourself in this first step:
- Is your subject big enough, enough to be obvious as a subject but also leave room for other elements?
- Are there other elements that are a lot brighter than your subject and could be distracting?
- Where is your subject located in the photo? Is it too close to the edge of the frame?
Step 2: Evaluating your composition
Since the video is aimed mainly at new photographers analyzing their own work, Toma didn’t go into too much detail about composition. But the first question yourself is: was the photo taken with a wide-angle or a telephoto lens?
If you have a scene captured with a wide-angle lens, check for foreground elements. Are there any? Do they contribute to the photo and help to lead the eye to the subject? And where is the foreground element located compared to the main subject?
Another question to ask is: is there depth in your photo? It can be achieved in many ways, and his example shows “layers” of mountains that add depth to the image.
Step 3: Distracting elements
The next things to look for are distracting elements in your photo. They are any elements around your subject that can distract the viewer’s eye. The human eye will often subconsciously notice spots of bright light or color – it can be too much of the bright sky or any other areas that are much brighter than your subject. If there exist in your photo, you can remove them by cropping the photo or cloning them out, or by darkening them.
Step 4: Editing
Other than the elements in the photo, you should also check for some elements of the editing that might be improved.
Beginner photographers often overdo it with contrast and saturation, especially landscape photographers. This isn’t balanced editing and makes the photo look unrealistic. Another common problem is too much sharpness, which usually reveals itself on the edges of the mountains and tree branches. Too much editing even creates color banding, usually in the sky, so try to avoid it.
Another editing mistake is the flat look from raising the shadows and darkening the highlights. Overdone HDR is also pretty common (and not to mention this look was all the rage some ten years ago).
Crooked horizon is a very common mistake, especially for new photographers, so make sure to always check the horizon in your photos.
There’s a trick I picked up somewhere, I can’t remember where: while editing, check the “before” of your image from time to time. This will show you if you overdid it and you’ll know if you need to tone it down a bit.
Step 5: Do this evaluation constantly
The fifth and final step brings together the previous four. When you go through all of them, the fifth step is to repeat them. Create a habit, be consistent with your evaluation, especially if you’re a beginner. With time you’ll start to notice patterns and see things that work and that don’t work, and you’ll take better photos in the future, or even fix some mistakes in the old ones to bring the best out of them.
Do you have the habit of looking back at your old work? Are there any specific steps you follow? Feel free to share!
[5 Simple Steps to Better Evaluate your Photos | Toma Bonciu]