Don’t just delete your bad photos: here’s how to learn from them

Tips & Techniques

“Good photos come from experience, experience comes from bad photos.” After you come home with the memory card full of photos, you may just go through them, select the good ones and delete the bad ones immediately. But this could be a mistake. In this video, Nigel Danson will show you some techniques for analyzing your bad photos so you can learn from them and grow your photography skills.

But first, what makes a good photo? Nigel notes that it’s not necessarily a photo that will get many likes on social media. It’s rather an image you like and feel like putting it on your website, portfolio or on your wall. So, a bad photo will be the opposite of that. The one you feel like deleting.

When you analyze a bad photo, you can view it on your tablet or monitor. But I believe that it’s better to print it on a piece of paper, just like Nigel does. For me personally, viewing things on paper and scribbling on them helps me to view things more clearly, but that’s just me. Anyway, if you decide to print the photo, you can fist put it on the wall and look at the entire photo. Then, you can take it down and go into more detail. Analyze the image, annotate it and write the notes on what you think should be changed.

What to look for? Well, Nigel suggests you analyze your images by looking for these five things in them:

  1. Balance – are the elements of your photo in balance?
  2. Flow – you want a flow through the image. In other words, make sure that the leading line doesn’t lead outside the image.
  3. Attention – is there something for the viewer to rest their eyes on and keep their attention? Pay attention to this just like you do on the flow.
  4. Simplicity – look at the elements that make the image crammed and that don’t belong there. Pay attention to them and think about how you can avoid them next time and make the composition simpler and cleaner.
  5. Distractions – this is connected to the previous point. If there are distractions in your images, they take away from the subject. Analyze how you can avoid them so your viewers don’t get distracted.

Nigel shows you some of his own photos that he doesn’t like and analyzes them. This way, you can get the idea of his process and apply it to your own images.

Similarly, when you select the photos you like, analyze them, too. Try to rationalize and explain to yourself why you like them. You can also print the photos, scribble on them and label the things you think are important and which make the photos beautiful. Once again, Nigel gives you some examples of his own images and how he does it.

Finally, you can also talk to someone else whose judgment and taste you trust. Ask them for an opinion and let them tell you why they think a photo works or doesn’t work. I personally find this very helpful, although I mainly do it when I write. But I believe it works for anything we create because it’s easy to overlook our own mistakes.

Before I delete the photos I don’t like, I give it some thought why I don’t like them, but I’ve never analyzed them in depth like this. I think I should start doing it and I feel like it could help me improve. Do you analyze your bad photos this way? Or you rather just delete them?

[Improve your photography by UNDERSTANDING why a PHOTO is BAD (and GOOD) via FStoppers]

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