Creative Photography Exercise: Your Ten Best Photos From 2021

Creative Photography Exercise: Your Ten Best Photos From 2021

Editor's note: This month only – take the next step on your creative journey and enroll in the Finding your Creative Voice 2024 course for just $25! Click here to learn more. Thanks for reading, Andrew.

Every December or January I take some time to pick my best photos from the previous year. It’s a helpful and informative exercise and for that reason I recommend it to my readers as well. 

It’s also part of my new course The Creative Image (click the link to learn more).

There are three reasons that this exercise is useful:

1. You can compare this year’s photos with your top tens from previous years. I’ve been doing this since 2010 and it’s fascinating to look back and see how your photography has changed and evolved.

2. Analyzing the photos you made in 2021 helps you see where to go in 2022. What themes and ideas appear that you can build on next year? 

3. It helps you see what new genres you’d like to explore and what new skills you’d to learn. 

Make the exercise your own

This creative exercise encourages you to look through your year’s work with a critical eye, looking for connections, themes and recurring ideas.

But it isn’t prescriptive and you can adapt it to suit your own photography. If you’ve spent 2021 mainly making landscape photos, for example, then it’s relatively easy to find your best ten photos.

But if your work is more varied, it might be more helpful to group your best photos by theme.

I took the latter approach with my photos. I’ve had such a varied year that I came up with six sets of three photos that represent my best work and show where I want to go in 2022. 

Curious? You can see them below.

My best photos from 2021


At the beginning of the year I made a series of photos of stones picked up from my local beach. I like the strong, bold design of these images and it’s an aesthetic I’d like to introduce into other work. I’m not sure how to do that yet, but I feel these photos are pointing to something worth exploring.

Creative photography exercise

Hydrangea bud

In the spring I made several close-up photos of a hydrangea bush coming into bud. I used a Lensbaby Sol 45 lens with an extension tube to render part of the image out of focus. I like the result and it’s an idea I can push further in 2022.

Creative photography exercise

Black and white

This is a set of black and white photos of different subjects linked loosely by the themes of nature and light. This is another idea that I’d like to explore in 2022. The third photo was made with an infra-red converted camera, and I intend to use it more next year.

Creative photography exercise

My son Alex

Every year I make lots of photos of my son Alex. Here are three of my favorites. 

Creative photography exercise

Autumn on Dartmoor

This autumn I made some photos of the autumn colors on Dartmoor, a national park that’s close to where I live. I like the photos, but I’m not overly excited about them. Next autumn I’d like to play around with multiple exposures for a more abstract, interpretive effect. 

Creative photography exercise

Lonely town

These photos are part of set that I made in Princetown, a small town on Dartmoor, earlier in the year. I was pleased with them, but they also point to other ideas. What about portraits of people who live and work on Dartmoor? Or photos of abandoned buildings in the national park? Both are potential projects.

Creative photography exercise

The creative process

Hopefully this look at my 2021 photos has given you an insight into how my creative process works. 

Part of it is looking back at photos that I’ve made in previous years (not just 2021) to see what themes and projects they suggest for 2022. Where are the interesting ideas that I can explore next year?

I can also see that I have’t made as many photos in 2021 as usual. So next year I’m going to set myself several projects to work on, and purposefully make time to work on each one.

This is something I may not have understood if I hadn’t taken the time to look critically at this year’s photos.

By the way, don’t forget to check out The Creative Image if you haven’t already enrolled. This ideas in this article are just a taste of what you’ll learn about the creative process in the course.

Previous top tens

Follow these links to see my top ten photos from previous years.

Finding Your Creative Voice course

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About Andrew S. Gibson

Andrew S. Gibson is a writer with a camera. He started writing about photography while traveling in Bolivia, and has been published in many prestigious photography magazines including EOS magazine, where he worked as a Writer and Technical Editor for two years. He lives in south Devon in the UK and is inspired by meeting new people, seeing new places and having new experiences. Check out his photography ebooks here.

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