The Self Critique

People who take photographs do so for different reasons. Whether it be Mum and Dad taking record shots of their children to help fill the family photo album, or football fans at the match getting some trophy photos of their hero players to stick into their scrapbooks, through to the professional portrait photographer, who is mainly interested in seeing what sort of gain they will get out of it, not only for their hard work but also to help cover some of the cost of all that expensive equipment.

Cameras come in all shapes and sizes and have been readily available to the general public for well over a century, although, back in the early days they were much more cumbersome and expensive. Since then, they have become more user-friendly (says I with tongue in cheek).
In more recent times, in almost revolutionary fashion and in explosive proportions I might add, with the advent of digital cameras, mobile phone cameras, that are easily downloaded into the home computer and results printed out somewhat as good as, you might get at a photo lab or after spending a couple of days working in a darkroom.

So where do you fit in? Are you a mere enthusiast, or do you inspire to become a photographic artiste in the field of portraiture, landscape, nature, etc.? Have you set any goals, or are you merely taking each day as it comes? Either way, you must have a certain amount of interest, or you wouldn't be reading this. How do you rate yourself as a photographer? How self-critical are you of the images you produce? And how do you go about critiquing your own work? Do you know what to look for in an image, or do you just go on what your gut feeling tells you? With all the technology we have today, with viewing screens on cameras and the like, you still don't really know what you've got till you have your prints, either uploaded onto your computer or set up on the digital prints machine at your camera shop.

I, for one, still maintain that whenever you go out on a shoot or photography field trip, you should already have in your mind a 'pre-visualisation', or at least a good idea, of what you should expect to achieve. Use that as your plan and try to stick to that plan. That is unless conditions change in the meantime.

Get to know your camera's ability to interpret certain scenes and conditions, because invariably it will and does see some scenes very differently to how you see them.
For ideas on how to design your composition, you can take all the time you need to study what I have written on the subject. You can copy and paste them if you wish.
If you are a little over-critical of your own work, as I can be, and that's not such a bad thing because when you do something good, you will know it, but don't expect that lucky break to continue. Photography can be quite a roller coaster ride, you have to expect a lot of lows with the highs as you go along.

As with anything you do, be it a chief surgeon of a hospital, or just one of the cleaners, as long as you are happy and adopt a passion for what you do and put your all into it, you will succeed and reap the benefits.
So, I have listed below eleven important questions, that you could ask yourself when you are out there designing your next image. The answers of which, should give you some indication as to how your image will stand up, or stand out from the crowd.

Ask yourself:

* Is my image sharp (if that is the intention)?

* Is my image exposed in the best manner to convey my intention?

* Does my image have a clearly defined subject?
* Have I eliminated all distractions and unimportant details?
* Is the subject in clear focus?
* Will this image have a clear centre of interest?
* Have I created the illusion of depth?
* Is my perspective the best for the most impact?
* Does my image convey strong emotion (if that was the intention)?
* Is this image best taken vertically or horizontally?

* Have I used light and colour for the best effect for this image?

In photography, the word 'perfect' does not exist. You will always have the opportunity to make a correct image, but never a perfect one. Simply because there is no such thing as a perfect image. Every photographer will see and take the same scene in a different way. If you ask yourself the above questions and say yes to each one, then you will have every reason to be happy, because you will have succeeded in making the so-called 'correct' exposure and a satisfying image. And then, will you have at least a chance to stand against your peers.