After a day’s shooting, after editing out the no-hopers and mediocre shots, I used to evaluate the long-list by printing and hanging them around the house. This works pretty well and I recommend it but it’s expensive (in time, money and house space) and I haven’t done it for a while. It’s been said that photographers (and artists in general) are the worst judges of their own work. I don’t agree with all of the sentiment behind this but it can be difficult sometimes to work out which pictures really work.
Recently I’ve found a technique that helps but without being as expensive as printing. Basically, you put the shots in a context where they’re less directly connected to you. Scrolling through your Lightroom catalogue is too personal. It’s hard to take a step back and look dispassionately. But if you can put your shots into an environment where they might possibly be someone else’s work, then it becomes easier to see their failings.
One good technique, if you have a blog, is to upload the pictures to the blog as a single post. You don’t need to publish this to the world, you can keep it as a draft. Then view the blog post as though it’s someone else’s blog. You’ve taken the shots out of their familiar context in your catalogue and made it easier to see them with someone else’s eyes.
The other thing I’ve been trying, also with some success, is creating a book. This is fairly easy to do with the Lightroom book module. You can lay out your book and publish as PDF. Add a few words, add page numbers, then create the PDF. When you view the PDF, again you’ve taken the shots out of their familiar context and you can judge them more objectively.
I’ve accidentally found a couple of other things by doing this. Not only that I have some pictures that are much better than I’d realised but also the difference between a single print intended to be hung on the wall and a set of shots intended to be seen together as part of a story. When you choose one or two dozen shots all on the same theme they reinforce each other. A shot that might not be an obvious candidate to sell on my stall as a fine-art print might work well as part of a portfolio in a book. I’ve had a few shots like this lying around that I knew were good but didn’t know what to do with. There are also some shots I now intend to make into single prints to sell on the stall as fine art prints that I hadn’t previously realised were good enough.
My friend Richard, funny-coincidence time, has just written a blog post about a book project he’s doing. I’m not sure I’ll actually turn mine into a physical reality – one-off books using quality materials are quite pricey – but I’m tempted.