All of us make photographs that, for some reason, don’t quite work, even though we had high hopes for them. If we embrace those photographs that almost worked, but didn’t, we can find some tools to help us improve and grow.
A lot of people who are “into” photography seem to think of the “doing” of photography as the end unto itself. While the mechanical act of making photographs can be pleasurable, I think of photography as a medium for self-examination, not a pursuit unto itself.
The American abstract expressionist painter Richard Diebenkorn (1922 –1993) is noted not only for his great work, but also for his thoughts about the creative process. Diebenkorn’s “Notes to myself on beginning a painting” is a list of 10 things to think about as we begin any creative work – we can think of them as “10 Rules for Getting Started.”
There’s an old adage in photography: “inside every 8×10” print, there is a really excellent 5×7” image waiting to be found.” That old saw is the foundation for an exercise that I’ve used for myself and in my classes over the years; take an image that you’ve made and search for alternate cropping choices that might strengthen the composition. Regardless of whether you find a “better” photograph, you learn a fair amount about how to see.