A few weeks ago, I was in Slovenia taking some really great photos but I wasn’t feeling all that good about them.
I don’t know whether it was my mood or because I was a bit tired. But, looking at my photos, I wanted to share none of them. I raised the point on Facebook and it seemed to be a pretty common occurrence.
I’m going to show you something that I did recently that’s made me fall in love with my photography again.
It’s time to stop hating your photography.
About a year ago, I printed off my portfolio into a book so that I could share it with friends and admire it in print for once.
For the last few months, I’ve been almost embarrassed when people have spotted it on my coffee table and gone to pick it up.
My tastes are constantly changing. Because there are a few photos in there that I don’t like, I don’t want anyone to see the book at all.
My negative feelings towards a few photos have rubbed off on the whole book, leaving me feeling like it’s not good enough.
But it is.
I did something last night that has made me love my photos again. It’s very simple; something you all should do.
I updated my website/portfolio.
When I say updated, I mean I overhauled. And when I say my website, I’m not talking about ExpertPhotography but JoshuaDunlop.
It’s been my personal portfolio for over a year now. Having lost faith in a lot of the photos, I had only updated it once over the past year.
This wasn’t doing me any favours. I was essentially sweeping it under the rug.
I remember my sweet Irish grandmother once telling me that the portfolio was ‘powerful’ but that doesn’t really count for much.
Follow Your Own Style
This is the first thing that I can recommend. It’s quite common for people to try to appeal to every photography niche there is, thinking that this will somehow make them more successful.
It can be a struggle to find your style at first and we all need to experiment. But once you’ve found two or three styles that suit you, stick to them.
I’m no good at street photography – I try but I just don’t really enjoy it. It’s a fine art that I’m happy just to observe.
I’ve stopped trying to follow a style that isn’t “me”, allowing me to feel more confident about my portfolio.
You might not be any good at landscapes but you want a full portfolio. You include your best landscape shots even though they’re not very good, or even rubbish, compared with the rest of your portfolio.
Stop trying to be something you’re not.
I like shooting people, whether it’s candid, portraits or fashion. I like shooting outdoors, whether it’s landscapes, buildings, or simple scenes. And I like shooting at night, whether it’s long exposures, working with flash, or light painting.
These are the three that I enjoy the most and they’re the ones that I do purely because I enjoy them.
That’s not to say that I’m not good at other types of photography; these are just the ones I feel most confident about.
I work at event photography and, although you can get some really good shots, you never look at them and say ‘WOW’ in the same way.
Focus on what you love.
Edit Your Photos
I’ve always said that I’m really not one for editing my photos, I just make slight adjustments in Aperture (the post production software I use).
The thing is, more often than not, there are small changes that I can do to my photos to improve them, which is exactly what I did recently.
I didn’t touch any of the photos that were shot on film. That would be counter productive but some of the portraits had small adjustments.
I added some cross processing to some of the portraits, used the burn and dodge tools on some of the landscapes and removed small elements that were bugging me. I was careful to make sure it didn’t look like they were processed. In the end, I was much happier with the processed results.
It’s like I’ve got a new set of photos to share and I’m no longer bored of the older ones – something that does tend to happen.
Create a Portfolio
This is what the post is all about really.
Creating a portfolio means going through all of your favourite photos, narrowing them down to a select few and saying, “these are my best photos”. That might sound a little bit daunting but, trust me, it’s liberating.
When you get all of your best photos in one place, you start to realise that they’re not actually that bad – they are in fact something that you should be proud of.
The next step is to put them online.
Now, you can put them on your Facebook or your fan page but I would suggest a personal website. These are easy to set up and, even if you’re just using a Tumblr, you have much better control over your photos. The size and quality are also limited on Facebook; there’s no excuse not to use a personal website.
I know what I’m doing when it comes to websites so, for me, it didn’t take too long: I put my website together in a couple of hours last night.
Even when I first started on the internet a year ago, knowing nothing and using a much more complicated theme, it still only took me a few days to get my head around it all.
Your personal taste may differ but I wanted something much simpler than my last theme. I chose the most basic one I could with a black background, focusing entirely on quality photos. Have a look at my personal portfolio here.
A few nights ago, I would never have shared that link in a post but, because I’ve followed the tips I’m sharing with you today, I’m now happy to do so.
When it comes to choosing your best photos, you will probably end up compiling a list of around 200 like I did. This is fine as a starting point but you need to narrow it down much further than that.
I aimed for around 50 photos and finally settled on 60. I thought this was too much at first but, looking at my website now, I think it was just right. Only the absolute best photos should make the cut because anything that’s not good enough is bringing down the quality of the whole portfolio.
Select a wide range.
If you’ve only ever done one photoshoot with a friend and all you see in the album is the same person over and over again, your portfolio isn’t going to be too impressive.
I’ve used a couple of my models on multiple occasions but, in the case where they may reoccur in the portfolio, they’re wearing something different and are usually in a different location too. Make sure you keep a strong variety so as to not bore any potential visitors.
If you’re inexperienced, I always feel that it’s best to try and hide that.
Listen to Yourself
Remember: no matter what, it’s your opinion that matters.
You might get some snob who looks at your photo and puts it down but it’s your opinion that really matters. So long as you like it, it doesn’t matter what other people think.
I’ve always said that, other than my own, the only opinion I’m interested in is that of someone who’s work I respect. The same is true for positive and negative opinions.
My grandmother may say that my photos are amazing but, because she’s not an experienced photographer, however nice the compliment may be, it doesn’t carry much weight in terms of how I feel about my photos. When someone who you respect in your field says they like your work, it’s much more important.
I said that it’s only your own opinion that matters though and I stand by that, hence I said I’m interested in what other people have to say. The way I feel about something is not going to change but it’s interesting to see what they take away from something I’ve created, whether they like it or not.
Trust your own opinion.
Share your photos with friends to see what they have to say about them.
If you’re at the point where you’re putting together a portfolio, then there’s a good chance that whatever you’re producing is better than anything they can do. By sharing your photos with friends, you’re likely to receive positive feedback.
Like I said above, it may not change the way you feel about a photo but positive reinforcement is always a good thing and will hopefully encourage you to take more photos.
Have Your Photos Printed
Print them off and hang them up.
They’re not doing much sitting on your computer; print them off and hang them up on the walls.
This will do three main things:
You’ll probably receive compliments on them, making you feel better for a start, which is always good.
You’ll get to see them more often, hopefully helping you understand the composition behind them and why you like them so much.
Finally and perhaps most importantly, it will inspire you to go out and take more photos like them. Stop making excuses about taking photos – pick up the camera and go.
Take More Photos
If you still don’t like your photos, one thing that will definitely help is practice.
Expand your portfolio, get out there and take some photos of something new and exciting: something you enjoy capturing.
If you don’t like your old photos, this is the only way to replace them. Every time I go and take photos, I find that I’m bettering myself and improving on what I learnt before; it’s really only a matter of time before you’re happy again.
I will warn you though: taking new photos does start to make you dislike older photos as it will become noticeable how much you’ve improved. That said, there are photos in my portfolio that are over two years old now and I’ve improved over that period.