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Every December it’s a good idea to take a little time out to choose your favorite images from the year. This creative photography exercise will help you become a better, more purposeful photographer. That’s because contemplation and taking time to think are an important part of the creative process. The act of looking back through your best photos and thinking about them, not in a critical sense but looking for themes and trends, helps you assess the body of work that builds up over the years. As in many areas of life, the path forward becomes clearer when you understand where you have come from.
A creative photography exercise
This deceptively simple exercise throws up some interesting challenges. The first one is narrowing down your favorite images from the year to just ten. The second is seeing if themes and patterns emerge that you weren’t aware of.
Another is dealing with the distinction between favorite and best images. Favorites may include photos of family and friends that have huge emotional value to you but don’t interest other people much.
Best is slightly different. Sometimes the only way to truly judge your best photos is to ask for outside help from somebody knowledgeable about photography.
Don’t take this exercise too seriously. Have fun with it. If this is the first year you’ve tried it you’ll be surprised how interesting it is to compare your top ten photos over a range of five to ten years. That’s when you get to see the evolution of your work in action.
Tip: Set up a Collection Set in Lightroom Classic to hold your top ten favorite photos from each year. This makes it easy to review your best photos in the future.
Questions to ask yourself
Here are four questions you can ask yourself as you look through your photos. The answers should help you plan your photography goals and activities in 2020.
- Have you photographed any new subjects this year?
- Have you bought and used any new lenses or other gear?
- What new skills have you learned over the last 12 months?
- What projects and goals can you set yourself in 2020?
You can take a deeper dive into your work with these questions:
- What themes emerge as you select your best photos?
- What cameras and lenses did you use the most?
- Are you drawn to making photos of people, places or a mixture of the two?
- Are your best images color or black and white?
- What links can you find between your best images? Are they linked by subject matter or post-processing treatment?
- What ideas for future themes and projects emerge from your best images?
- How do your best images from 2019 compare to your best photos from 2018, 2017 and so on? Can you see an evolution from earlier photos to your present favorites?
- How can you improve on your best photos from 2019? What do you have to do to move on to the next level in 2020?
The answers will hopefully help inspire you and create even better photos in 2020.
The ten image portfolio
If you’ve photographed a theme or project during 2019 you can treat this creative exercise as a portfolio building exercise. The idea is to put together a set of ten images that can be presented as a coherent photo story.
That’s exactly what I did with my 2019 photos. For my ten best images I selected ten photos of my son Alexander and converted them to black and white. As he grows older I’d like to document his life through photos. This is the second year of that project.