Every year, I see some photographers share their top 12 images from the previous year. Do you do this?
I haven’t ever really done it for year-end but I have done it as part of mentorship programs I’ve been in. We all have a tendency to compare our own work to other photographers. It’s almost impossible not to with everyone populating our social media streams. But, that’s not what we should be looking at.
Here are three reasons why choosing your top 12 images is a good idea, no matter when you do it.
Self-evaluation and growth
This is a big one. Be honest with yourself and figure out what you can be doing better. What else can you learn in order to grow in your photography?
How are your images compared to the images you created at the beginning of the year? Better? We hope they’re better, right? Have your compositions improved? Are you paying more attention to anything that might be distracting in the frame?
Are the images you’ve chosen what you love to photograph? When you look at your choices, does it make you want to keep photographing more of the same or completely change direction?
Look at what you’ve learned over the past year and how you’ve applied it to your creative process. Evaluate your progress, from the planning and creating of the image in camera to the post-processing and finished product.
See what you are drawn to
Is there a certain subject you are consistently taking photos of? You may not even be aware that you do this until you sit down and choose your top 12 images for the year.
Are the majority of your images show details or the bigger picture? Which genre do you tend to lean into more than others? Are you finding that many of your images are of one particular color range? Do textures make an appearance throughout your catalog?
Whatever it is, notice the consistencies in your work, and by default, the inconsistencies as well. You may want to spend time working on the inconsistencies you’ve discovered. Have you found that there are a whole lot of people photos from the past year? Were you considering getting into portrait photography?
Review the path your on
Choosing your top 12 images can also help you determine if you’re on the photography path you want to be on. Maybe you thought you wanted to be a landscape photographer, but the top 12 images you’ve chosen are all architectural. Why is that?
Is your post-processing where you want it to be? Are your images conveying the mood, emotions and stories you want them to? Is there a particular personal style you see emerging from your work? Is this the style you want, and is it intentional?
Choosing your own top 12 images
Keep in mind that there is a difference between choosing your FAVORITE images and those that you feel are your BEST images. Before you determine which images you’ll be choosing, decide whether it’ll be favorites or best.
Favorites tend to have an emotional attachment and include people and places. The best would be those you feel are photographically good and technically correct. Maybe do both and see what you come up with.
There is so much we can learn from and about ourselves and our work by taking the time to evaluate our year of images. It’s not easy. You’ll likely have to make some tough decisions on which images to cut out. It’ll be worth the time and effort if you put the work into it.