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!
Carin Harris (Caz) - Excellent advice that I will follow through with. Still trying to find my style as such; so hoping this approach will help.
Rocio - Your favorite images from this year are marvelous. Thank you for sharing them. I am always inspired by you and your work.
These are definitely some of my favorite images from this year: https://www.facebook.com/rociomirelis/photos/pcb.960124180668542/960124047335222/?type=1&theater
Isn’t it funny how we slowly evolve as we grow and we learn? They are defining for me because of just that. Although I didn’t create the amount of work I wanted to create this year, I learned a lot. I evolved and discovered styles that I like and don’t like. I learned what I want to do and not do in the future.
Minnie - It’s hard for me to pick my favorites because this is my first year making conceptual photography but these are definitely my top 4. I’m really happy right now because I no longer decide whether I like a picture or not by the amount of likes I have on social media. I now trust my own opinion.
Paulo Alexandre Carvalho - Once again, wise words. I will restrict only to this area (fine art / conceptual), in which I want to continue to learn and create. My portfolio consists of 9 pictures, because I started this adventure this year. Of these images, I highlight the following. The first two, I AM TRAVELER, from your challenge ”I AM ME” and Meditation with tune and harmony, has to do with what I am. I am a person who like and need to have this relationship with nature that calms my anxiety states. I’m missing a lot right now, I feel anxious. The last one has to do with what I was. Someone, who was caged in your fears. I always been afraid to share everything I did, for fear of being badly done or someone not like what I did, and that shut me in a gray and turbulent world, a world without color. I sometimes feel down, and the fears invade my being again. So, when I look at the picture, I recall that I need to fight these fears to not return to this world again. So, it mean a lot to me. Today I share everything and anything I do, not caring if someone like it or not. I like, I love and am happy when I do it. This year, so far, has been magnificent in terms of photography. I changed my opinion about this type of work and began to interpret it another way. In such a manner, that I am fascinated by this world and about everything I’m learning. Love your pictures, as always. <3
Rwick - Looking back at my photos, I would have to say these two are my favorite. They hold meaning to me and they were ideas I wasn’t sure would turn out. Plus I was worried how people would react, but I did them anyways!
Jen Sulak - I am still working through my year…so my “favs” could still be pending. But I have a great handful that i’m thankful for. Most of them always tie back to the MEMORIES of people that i meet and the experiences we had together. It could be as simple as being home and calling a friend or traveling to a new city or state and seeing new things and meeting new people. I believe that our journey is OUR JOURNEY and i love enjoying the simple things of life as well as the crazee schedules and travel.
Here are some favs right now….
“clinging to dreams” – created when i jetted off to PA to spend time with friends. It was so great to learn more about life AND create near a lighthouse. The space was unreal and so peaceful.
“where intersections meet”
the reason why i love this is because it incorporate my love for environment as a part of my art. I used the tunnel in boston to create an intersection across her while she is also split up into various sections. This can represent out lives…we have times where things connect and times where they don’t see to. This image for me represents how everything seems to be slowly connecting and meeting at intersections in my whole life. Take in Mystic CT when i decided to get adventurous and go to mystic pizza and see the area.
This last one, i can’t find the flipped version…hehehe but i’m still posting it 😛 “healing in the light”
I love this one because of the memories i created whilst jumping around in a forbidden area. The city was a toxic wasteland of a mining operation and this area was a little eery and abandoned. The model was so helpful in our creations together because she knew the area better than me. We had a great time sneaking around and making memories. I also like this one because i made part of her dress out of broken glass. I felt that in most things in my life – healing comes in the light. Whenever i feel broken – i know that broken-ness is used for a beautiful dress and when it casts the light – it is brighter than anything i could put together. I know, i’m rambling…but u know how it goes.
Brooke, there is so much more – but because i have run out of time and i’m trying to be wise…i won’t ever forget our times at after dark and the images we created at creative live. I’m so thankful for those memories. I kinda get addicted to making more of them! 🙂
Everyone, enjoy your monday!!!!
Margherita Introna - What a great exercise Brooke, thank you! As I listened to your video, I knew instantly which images from my work I would choose and why… Here are the 4 images from this year so far that have spoken to me the most…
Blind Belief: https://www.facebook.com/MargheritaIntronaPhotography/photos/a.165320056962586.1073741828.165302450297680/312614325566491/?type=3&theater
Hope Prevails: https://www.facebook.com/MargheritaIntronaPhotography/photos/pb.165302450297680.-2207520000.1414437039./338795566281700/?type=3&theater
Healing Powers: https://www.facebook.com/MargheritaIntronaPhotography/photos/pb.165302450297680.-2207520000.1414437039./319889724838951/?type=3&theater
In each of these I love that there is movement and in most of them, also a dramatic sky. These are the two main things I love to include in my images. There is also a main colour that stands out, and they all have a glow of colouring that I feel is very much a part of my style, which is a fine touch of purple hue.
In most instances my work is autobiographical in nature. These images are all self-portraits and hence why they generally speak to me the most. These are my stories and my emotions.
The following themes stand out: belief, hope, sadness and love. The props used are either very simple items (like the lamp and the strip of material to form a blindfold) or have great meaning to me (my beloved cat Bono and the shark jaw that used to belong to my beloved father).
The image “Healing Powers” stands out a little differently from the other 3 images I’ve chosen… This is because it is darker and using a very different type of outdoor space. It is a theme I would like to pursue further and I am very happy I took the risk and tried something different with this one as to me, it came out better than I had hoped.
Still many, many images in my folders waiting to be processed and so many ideas in my heart waiting to be created…
Susan - I love these posts, keep ’em coming. 🙂 Thanks for reminding us that there is still time to create this year. Here are some I liked from this year:
I have come to realize that I don’t like images that are too everyday looking. I like them to be slightly more stylized and moody.
Cathryn Mok - Thanks Brooke. Love your imagination and mindset. You helped me a lot and defined who I am. Its make me keep moving forward and more meaningful of my images. I’m so happy do what I want to do and spill out my own voice into my images. Here is my little space of my heart : http://www.facebook.com/CathrynM.Photography
marianenenko - Hi, Brooke!
Thank you very much for this wonderful video. I have thought a lot on this topic. I wrote a list of things that I want to try this year concerning photography on the 1st of January.
I would like to share 4 pictures that I created this year that are my personal favorites. Here they are:
What I like about it: simple prop, two characters in picture (usually I use one character), story)
What I like about it: narrow color palette, sense of pictorialism.
What I like about it: simple prop, colors.
What I like about it: colors, symmetry.
What I love about photography is that I always learning. And this process is endless
Mary-Claire - I love seeing everyone’s favorites! And thanks, Brooke, for the 5 pointers. Excellent ideas for us all as we move forward!
I just finished this about 2 am today. I love it because I knew in my head what I wanted and made it happen even though I did not know how when I started editing. And I love the colors, tone and movement.
I think I’m the only one who likes this one! LOL! I like it because it tells (at least to me) a story, and it’s simple. This one took me about 6 months to get right, so it’s hard-won.
I love the colors, the movement and that I managed to work it out all ahead of time. And I was staying someplace little and forced myself to create something, with the balls as my only interesting props.
I love that it was fun to do, dirty, windy, I fell off my Pelican case (again), lost my remote. And I learned to create rain and put body parts together to make me fly.
As marianenenko said, I’m always learning and that makes me happy.
John grant - Hey Brooke love your blog to say the five steps was like hearing a voice in my head that with words I new but didn’t speak thanks for sending me down the the right road.