After a days shooting, most photographers rush back to proudly assess the result of their creative juices. Excited in the knowledge that they may have just taken the best shot of their career.
But that is not always the case. Especially when your not convinced you have any creative juices at all.
Like some reoccurring nightmare, I would put myself in a constant state of self-doubt when editing shoots. Agonising over the smallest details, I would furiously flick back and forth between two almost identical images. Overwhelmed by the shear scale of the job combined with a lack of self-confidence, I would take hours to whittle them down. Only then to go back to images I had previously discarded just in case I had missed something amazing. This of course never happened.
It was not something I looked forward to. It would leave me feeling deflated and questioning my creative intuition.
I have since found that this attention to detail and level self-criticism is what drives me. Over time I have come to realise that this is a perfectly normal part of my own self-development. It reaffirms my passion for the craft as it makes me discard average photos instead of considering them good enough to show the world.
London based photographer Nicholas Goodden sums this up perfectly…
‘The self-satisfied are the ones who sit down and admire their own achievements. Doubters are the ones who are constantly pushing themselves to achieve more, be better, and keep learning’
It is easy to become emotionally attached to your work. But “your portfolio is only as good as your weakest shot” so maybe it is preferable to be your own worst critic. Consider it a more of a sifting process on your part.
Don’t take hours to decide, make impulsive split second decisions, as this is how viewers will judge your work.
Break the shoot down into composition or time of day taken. Trying to assess 1000 shots at a time would startle the most ruthless of photographers.
Focus. Depending on your intentions, is it in or out of focus enough to achieve the desired effect? If not, get rid.
Emotion. Does it make you laugh, cry or does it leave you feeling a bit, underwhelmed?
Aesthetic. Does it have a striking contrast in light and shadow? Do the lines, silhouettes and shapes come together in a beautiful way? Is there some clever juxtaposition?
If you’re unsure, move on. It obviously didn’t grab you the first time so probably wont the fifteenth time around.
Re-visit it. Look back in a week’s time and see if you have the same reaction. A good image will always have impact. An average one will lose it, and quickly.
It’s true that doubt can be so bad it’ll make you want to stop creating or showing your work to the world. But over time you will develop you own style and you will discover what excites you, not your Instagram followers. That integrity will make you shoot in a more structured way meaning your editing process wont leave you wanting to throw in the metaphorical photography towel.
As overwhelming as it might be, we must learn to embrace the editing process as a means of developing your own learning. Use it to drive you and your photography forward, no matter how daunting the prospect.