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Images accumulate as projects come and go, and it can eventually become difficult to see the wood for the trees. Those who view images inevitably detect uncertainty of photographic purpose arising in the mind of a photographer. Indeed, an image or photographic project without an identifiable visual message will probably fail. It will confuse those who view it, just as a poorly composed letter leaves readers unsure of what the writer intended. Without vision, clarity of purpose and the ability to interpret a subject we are lost.

It is all too easy to get stuck in a rut and follow the same unadventurous path, always framing similar pictures in the same way. At such times it is worth reviewing past work and asking how things might develop. Look for unexplored areas and identify consistent successes and failures. Ask what you saw in failed images, and how the subject might be approached more successfully. Objectivity is fundamental because exercises of this nature can be painful as well as stimulating and refreshing.

Reviews may be conducted for a variety of reasons, but are perhaps most commonly a consequence of the pressure exerted by forthcoming events. Exhibitions, lectures and even competitions may bring photographers face-to-face with unseen aspects of their work. Consequent recognition of personal strengths and weaknesses may then prove to be the catalyst for beneficial change.

A simple review might be conducted by taking 100 of one's typical images, and assessing them against a simple list of technical and compositional problems. Similar exercises can be conducted using 100 failed images or even a number of successful ones. Ask how many failed because of incorrect depth of field? What percentage were inadequately exposed? How many are just uninteresting? Why did the successful ones work? Objectivity is clearly vital - without it the review is a waste of time. The involvement of one or more other photographers may be beneficial from this point of view. Acknowledge the facts thrown up by the review even if they are not revealed to others. Then, once it is clear that many images are failing for a particular reason, work on correcting this one deficiency. The eventual consequence will be a higher success rate and better images.


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