Review Your Images

Taking the time to review our images is essential in order to improve as a photographer. I look back at 5 of my favourite shots of 2018 with a critical eye for areas where each of them could be improved.

Every now and then it can be very useful to review your images. Looking back at our photos with a critical eye can help us to understand where improvements could have been made and is crucial to our development as photographers.

As we approach the end of 2018 I have selected my favourite 5 images from the past 12 months and will provide a critique on each of them in order that I may take better photos in 2019.

#5 – The Unnamed Tarn, Haystacks

I am going to start with an image that really isn’t very good at all. This shot of the unnamed tarn at the summit of Haystacks makes the list of my top 5 of 2018 not because to quality of the image but because of the memories that it evokes of a wonderful day climbing Haystacks with James Burns and Mali Davis.

The Unnamed Tarn on Haystacks in the Lake District National Park
This shot of the Unnamed Tarn on Haystacks is unlikely to make my portfolio at the end of the year though it is still one of my favourites from 2018.

Most of the problems with this image stem from the conditions at the top of Haystacks when the shot was taken. It was blowing an absolute gale and there is a lot of motion blur in the grasses in the foreground.

It was also taken just just after the sun had dipped below the horizon. There was very little light on the scene itself forcing my to push things in Lightroom a little further than I would normally.

It is an image to be admired from a distance. Just don’t get too close! 🙂

#4 – Sunrise Over Glencoyne, Ullswater

If you are a fan of my YouTube videos the chances are you won’t recognize this shot of Glencoyne on Ullswater.

That’s because it featured on a video that was exclusive to IGTV (and as a result seen by far too few people).

Glencoyne on Ullswater in the Lake District National Park
Viewers of my YouTube channel might not recognize this shot. It was taken whilst out shooting a video for IGTV.

Glencoyne on Ullswater is one of my very favourite locations in the Lake District. Normally I use a very simple composition focusing on the hills on either side of the lake. On this occasion however I chose to include some foreground interest.

Many of you might get ‘excited’ about the leading lines; the rocks in the foreground practically from an arrow pointing to where the sun is rising.

For me they are simply too distracting. In future I think I will only include a foreground if it is in fact the main subject of the photograph.

Many of you may disagree with me, arguing that a prominent foreground adds depth to an image and there you have a point.

But my reluctance to include distracting foregrounds is a key feature of my style. It is also something that I intent to continue into 2019 and beyond.


#3 – Haweswater and the Hand of Man

Another of my favourite locations in the Lake District. The view of the Haweswater reservoir from Whiteacre Crag.

I experimented this year with storytelling in my images. This image is supposed to provide visual clues that Haweswater is not a natural feature.

Haweswater Reservoir in the Lake District National Park
One of my favourite scenes in the whole of the Lake District. I am yet to get a shot that I am entirely happy with and so will return in 2019 to try again.

Again this is another image that suffers from a distracting foreground. For me all of the interest is in the shape of the hills on the far side of the reservoir.

However my biggest problem with this image is the conditions on the day of shooting. This is one shot that could do with a little more light. It is just a little bit flat.

I have never managed to get a shot here that I am entirely happy with. I shall just have to keep trying.

#2 – Otterbield Island, Derwent Water

Most of the time I shoot with a standard zoom lens. I do own a telephoto but I am yet to master the art of the long lens landscape.

This shot of Otterbield Island on Derwent Water is my favourite telephoto shot of the year and probably ever!

Otterbield Island on Derwent Water in the Lake District
Otterbield Island on Derwent Water – my favourite telephoto shot of 2018 and probably ever!

For me this shot works because the island is set against a dark background creating contrast that draws the eye to the main subject.

I also like the layered effect of the mountains in the background and the strong diagonal lines.

However, I feel that the framing is too tight. In hindsight I would have liked to include a little more space around the island so that a little more of the reflection had been included in the frame.

#1 – Strandshag Bay, Derwent Water

My favourite shot of 2018 is this one of Derwent Water and Catbells taken from Strandshag Bay.

It perfectly illustrates my approach to composition. Simple and uncluttered with nothing to distract from the main subject, namely the reeds in the foreground.

Derwent Water and Catbells in the Lake District National Park
This shot of Derwent Water perfectly illustrates my approach to composition yet it is still far from perfect.

It may be my favourite but it is far from perfect.

In order to smooth out the water I had to use an ND filter to increase the shutter speed causing movement blur in some of the reeds. I would have preferred the shot if all of the reeds were pin sharp.

I should have also set the tripod a little higher to avoid the reeds cutting into the reflections of Catbells in the distance. By doing so I would have been forced to include a little more negative space around the reeds. This would have helped the image to feel a little less claustrophobic.

10 thoughts on “Review Your Images”

  1. This is a great idea. I had not even thought about choosing my favorite photos of the year yet, so thanks for the reminder. I went back through what was submitted to the digital dialog group through PSA after reading this article and realized there are a lot of photos I’d forgotten all about.

    As always, thanks for sharing. Looking forward to the new year.

    1. I found it really useful Theresa. I think it is one of those things that we know we should do but none of us actually make time for. I have been shooting for 13 years now and I can honestly say this is the first time I have properly reviewed my images. Now that I have I have a far better idea of areas that I need to work on.

  2. A critical eye indeed! Indeed, a beneficial review that I intend to do more of going forward. What I also find helpful is review the “throw away” images that were viewed with too much of a critical eye initially. Time has a way to improve our objectivity. Great lesson Chris. Have a safe New Year and cheers to a successful 2019.

    1. You make a very interesting point Miguel, I hadn’t thought of that. I am pretty good at keeping my Lightroom catalogue in order, deleting the images that don’t make the grade. Often the images that I didn’t like at the time are gone forever. Perhaps in 2019 I will keep a few that I didn’t like (and would normally have deleted) and see at the end of the year if I still want to delete them.

  3. Being pretty hard on yourself there Chris, but it is a good exercise to narrow down impossible perfection. When I got to the Otterbield image I literally said out loud ‘oh no way you are pulling that apart…..oh wait, no you ‘re not’ haha. Top work Sir.

    1. I think I have to be hard on myself if I want to improve Steve. When I sat down to review these images I really didn’t think I’d have much to write about but I could have gone on and on… …and on. The weird thing is that rather than ‘spoiling’ the images for me I almost like them more! I have a greater connection with them (if you’ll allow me to get all w**ky for a second) now that I am more aware of their imperfections.

  4. Hello Chris,

    Some great insight into your shots and thinking. I agree with some of your opinions but you are your worst critic, they are all superb shots for a few reasons. Your style is succinct, polished and clear its one of your shots. That’s hard to accomplish in photography, it’s a Sale shot.

    I cannot give constructive criticism because you have done it for yourself. If anything I could say constructively, don’t be so tough on yourself… and have an amazing creative 2019. The memories of the Haystacks are engraved into my brain, the only thing left to say, where next for 2019? See you on the other side of the creative line.

    Well done with the website it’s looking great!

    1. Cheers Mali, it was a great day. It’s fun to hang out with people that share your passion. I think we have to be critical of our own work in our position. It’s just one way to ensure that the disproportionate amount of attention that we YouTube photographers get doesn’t go to our heads! 🙂 I look forward to our next adventure – what do you fancy?

  5. Chris,

    Thanks for sharing your 2018 review. I’m not yet at a point where I can technically dissect the images I get. My basic review is, I like it or I don’t.

    In 2019 my goals are higher. I’ve graduated from a Bridge camera lol to a full frame sensor. I’ll be using the kit lens and a relatively in expensive all around 24-240.

    I’ll take the time to stop and see at the end of the year.

    You do incredible work. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Shane, I hear you mate but if you can review your images in more detail I promise it will help you progress. Try this… Take you favourite shot of 2018 and write down three things that you like about it and one thing that you don’t. Then, next time you are out with the camera repeat the things that you like and drop the thing you don’t. It’s got to be worth a try. Happy New Year mate, all the best for 2019.

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