Promoting Passion Week 44: Defining Images

Can you believe that the end of October is nearing?! Time flies as always, yet somehow, so often, it seems to move in slow motion. I have been trying to take more deep breaths and appreciate everything around me. Part of that process is going back through the images I’ve created this last year and figuring out which have been most fulfilling for me. I looked at things like visual appeal, meaning, and overall satisfaction with each image that I decided to put in my portfolio. And while I love each one for different reasons, a few stood out.

These are the images that I feel have defined my year as an artist thus far. I put great import on analyzing oneself and understanding why we are the way we are. If we understand how something was created and why we are so drawn to it, we are much more likely to repeat that process and create more images that we love. There is still plenty of time to create that image that speaks to your soul, that might be the most defining image you will have taken this year. Seize that opportunity.

Here are a few ways to analyze your own portfolio and continue to create works of art that you love.

1. Be honest about which images stand out to you most.

Stop thinking about likes and comments and your family’s reaction. Stop thinking about how many prints sold or which clients liked which photos. Think only of your connection to it, how you compare it to your previous works, and how well it stands up in the grand scheme of your portfolio.

2. Find similarities between your favorite images so that you might repeat them.

Typically, if an artist has a really great, cohesive portfolio, it isn’t out of luck. They aren’t shooting blindly hoping to get something good. They have analyzed their work and understand what holds their style together. For these images I have chosen, they largely work with nature, have neutral backgrounds, focus on color and pose, and work with inexpensive and minimalist materials to tell a story.

3. Find your story.

In many of the great artist’s portfolios we will see a common thread running through either their whole body of work, or specific series within the portfolio. Most people are compelled to create because they have something they want to tell the world through their art. What is your message? Is it reflected in the works you have chosen? Or alternately, do your works speak to a message and does that bind them together? Once you know the message of each image that you feel defines your year, you understand how to take that message further.

4. Develop critical thinking as well as appreciative thinking.

Critical thinking is easy, given that so many people are quick to judge themselves and do so harshly. However, critical thinking goes beyond being negative and instead invites you to think about why your work isn’t up to par. What specific elements in your images do you see as being weak, and why do they stand out to you so much? Once you identify these weaknesses in your portfolio, you can avoid making those mistakes again, or at least in the same ways.

Appreciative thinking is changing your mindset to see the good in what you do. Again, it is all about analyzing your work critically to see the best parts of what you do. Appreciate your work, first and foremost, and then allow yourself to see the good and bad. Appreciate that you tried, that you failed, that you succeeded. And once you find appreciation for yourself, any negativity will feel like a learning experience.

5. Parts to a whole.

So you’ve chosen a few pictures that stand out to you as being your best this year. But what about how to continue that momentum? The easiest way to do that for me is to see each of my favorite pieces as parts to a whole. Instead of seeing them as finished pieces that are now to be archived, I see them as the beginning to a continuation. I figure out what I like so much from them and then figure out how to apply some of those same sensibilities to new images. The images that result need not be sequels or even seem very much like the old images, but under it all, you will be creating a through line for your work.

Take the image I did of the books. What I like about it is the neutral background, the timeless prop, that it is a self-portrait, and the anonymity. I could take any one of those ideas and turn that into something more. Anonymity – how can I hide someone’s identity? A timeless prop – what other props can I incorporate into my imagery? What are other neutral spaces in which I could shoot? All of these questions can lead to more images that are quite different, yet inspired by something I already love.

Share your favorite images so far this year, and a little bit about why they are so defining for you!


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