After a shoot, it's time to review all the pictures you've taken and extract the good ones. But what makes a good photo? Let's see how to evaluate and analyze your images.
In this article, I will primarily evaluate your own work to see what images are strong and have potential, but you can use the same process to critically look at the photos you see every day. Watching great photos and wondering why they work (or just as well, looking at bad photos and wondering why they are not working) is one of the best ways to get to grips with photography. If you are a frequent reader of my tutorials, I will encourage you to take a critical look at each of the images I post; they are not perfect, so separate what suits you and what does not work. Do not forget that if there is an image that you hate, I have deliberately chosen it to test you – or at least that is my excuse.
Now, let's break everything down.
First step: do you like it?
When reviewing your images, the first step is simple: what is your instinctive reaction? Do you like the shot? The hate? Somewhere in between? If you do not like an image you have taken, report it as a rejection. in Lightroom or whatever catalog application you are using. It is not useful to continue to consider an image if your initial reaction is indifference.
Here is a random photo from my collection that I immediately rejected. There is not much to like: my dog clumsily, the composition is not great and it's a bit ugly.
With the images of others, even if your initial reaction is indifference, you should at least consider why you feel so. Is this the subject? The composition? Colors? Is it just a mediocre snapshot? Think about it.
Second step: technical evaluation
Technically, evaluating an image comes down to two big questions: is it sharp and is it well exposed? If the answer to one or the other of the questions is no, even if you like the picture, it is probably worth killing it at this point.
To be a little more specific, the questions you need to ask yourself at this point are:
Let's look at some pictures that I rejected for technical reasons. In this photo, I missed the focus, so that the eyes of the man are blurry.
In this picture, the speed of shooting was too slow, so there is a blur due to the camera in my hands.
This picture is too underexposed. I remember that I settled my show on the stage and that I have a better moments later.
I reject at least a few shots that I like a little at every shot because I was wrong technically.
Third step: consider the composition
What usually happens when you take a picture is that you will take some slightly different pictures of practically the same thing. Here are twelve very similar pictures that I took from a lighthouse near my home. There are few tests in the area; I was playing with shutter speeds and I was waiting for ships in the bay to move.
Most images are technically equal: they are crisp, sharp and reasonably well exposed. They also have the same subject, that's where small differences in composition come into play.
As you improve, you have a more instinctive sense of what works and does not work but it is always useful to think about the composition deliberately.
All this is subjective and it will often be difficult to choose between two very similar images. In these cases, I go either with my instinct or with the first one that I shot.
If you are curious, here is the picture with which I finally went to photograph the lighthouse that day.
I was shooting for a specific project, which slightly limited my composition but, overall, I'm pretty happy. The thick gray sky is not ideal, but I like the depth between the lighthouse in the foreground and the subtle variations of the shadow of the island and the mountains in the background.
Step four: pull everything together
Once you have extracted your favorite photos from a shoot, it's time to edit them. You should think about how you can solve all the problems, emphasize the strong points and minimize the weaknesses of the image. The time has come to straighten the horizon and remove imperfections. Every digital image you take requires at least a few small adjustments in brightness, contrast, and color. For example, here is the original version of this lighthouse.
And here is my final version again.
I did not do anything drastic. I've cut out the dark part of the ground down right and cleared everything up. Again, this is not the best picture I've ever taken, but it's the best I've taken that day.
Once you have started collecting a collection of good images that you like, you can re-run them again. Look at them really critically and discuss what you have, what you like, what you do not like, and especially why you think these things. You can and should do the same with other people's pictures. Even flipping through a decent magazine, you'll get dozens of images to evaluate.