Photography

How To Review Photographs – 30+ Questions To Reflect On

Learning to review photographs is an important skill for us. I have been meaning to write this article for more than 2 years now, mostly because I was curious as to what makes a photograph “good” and just not in a subjective manner. Since January 2022, I have started to write blogs where I list all the “good” photographs I saw that month on Instagram and why I loved them. I was writing these blog articles to make a note of the hundreds of photos I see every week and simply forget about. But, I soon realised that I could not verbalize or contextualise “WHY” I liked the photos I did. Hence, I sat down to write this post.

Everyone will agree that learning to review photographs clicked by us as well as photographs by other artists is an important part of our artistic journey. And here I am not just talking about reviewing others’ photographs in the context of a photography competition. I am talking about reviewing to figure out why the photographer took that shot, why that particular photograph is “good” and most importantly, (if and) why we are drawn to that photograph.

© Sanchari Sen

In order to find out answers to these questions, I did a ton of reading on how exactly to review photographs, and I am trying to compile all my findings in this blog post.

So, How To Review A Photograph That You Or Someone Else Made?

review photographs
© Sanchari Sen

Amy Touchette, a Brooklyn based photographer, writes:

Even though it’s easier than ever today to operate a camera and produce a picture, it’s no easier to recognize the most compelling images among your outtakes and make collective sense of them. In fact, the extensive output digital technology enables can make it even more difficult: while the haystack of digital files can grow to immense proportions, the number of needles (i.e. meaningful pictures) necessary to evoke a theme or narrative remains quite small.

For many of us, selecting our most compelling images is an elusive task, one that involves patience, open mindedness, and deliberation. Even the most seasoned photographers have to dismantle the blocks that keep them from seeing their photographs clearly, because no two shoots are alike, and they know that the better the editor they are of their own images, the more powerful and valuable their images become.

Karen Marshall, a photographer and educator, says:

Learning how to see your images objectively is a muscle you can strengthen just like any other.

Questions To Ask When Judging The Technical Aspect Of A Photograph – Review Photographs:

review photographs
© Sanchari Sen

Sources: PhotographyRevision, Tes,

Composition:

  1. Close your eyes and then open them and make a note of where they look first. This is the focal point and where the viewer’s eyes draw into first.
  2. Have any rules been used? Like the Rule of Thirds or the Golden Rule?
  3. Is there anything singled out or is there more than one subject in the photo? What are the subjects?
  4. Has the Photographer purposely used a technique to compose the image?
  5. What are the main colours the photographer has used? Have they used colour to compose the subject? Is it black and white? Do any colors dominate?

Substance:

  1. What is the image of?
  2. Where was it taken? Outside, Inside, underwater, in a studio?
  3. Why was it taken? To document, personal work?
  4. When was the image taken?

Lighting:

  1. Where is the light coming from? Behind the camera, to the side or is it the camera pointing into it like a silhouette?
  2. Is it natural light or has the photographer used flash?
  3. Are there harsh shadows or soft light/shadows?
  4. Is the image over exposed or underexposed? What could this give the impression of?
  5. What time of day was the image taken in? If it was taken outside is it sunrise, midday, sunset or at night?

Techniques the Photographer Used:

  1. Was it a quick shutter speed or a long exposure?
  2. What aperture could the photographer have used, is it a high or low depth of field? What does this imply?
  3. Have they purposely overexposed or underexposed the image?
  4. Is the camera still or moving with the image?
  5. Are there any other artists that could have inspired them?
  6. Study the photographer’s history on their website and see who has inspired them and are they using the same techniques.

Editing

  1. Could this be a digital photo or from a film camera? Therefore how could they have edited the image?
  2. Have they printed the photo and then manually edited it by applying other elements to it?

Visual Analysis:

  1. What is your eye drawn to first?
  2. How is your eye led around the frame?
  3. Are there distinguishable foreground, midground, and background elements?
  4. Does the photograph tell a story?
  5. What message was the photographer trying to communicate?

Personal Analysis:

  1. List all of the things (people, places, things) that you can see in the photograph.
  2. Is the image successful? Do you like their work? Why?
  3. Is the meaning clear? Why?
  4. What were your feelings when you first looked at the photograph?
  5. How did your reaction to the photograph change after looking at it for a while?
  6. What questions does this photo raise in your mind?
  7. Write one unanswered question you still have after viewing this photograph.
  8. What would be a good title for this photograph? If there is already a title, rename it.
Source: photoeducation.weebly.com

When analysing photographs you should use as many key words as possible.

Source: photoeducation.weebly.com

Fluent Example Of How To Review Photographs:

Source: photoeducation.weebly.com

Limited Example Of How To Review Photographs:

Source: photoeducation.weebly.com