As a photographer, part of your job is to sift through images and choose the best ones to show your clients.
But with so many photos to look at, it can be difficult to know where to start.
No wonder you’d rather make a cup of coffee first and think about delivering the photos later…
We get it.
It’s easy to underestimate how much time reviewing, editing, and processing photos takes, especially if you’re inexperienced (and the feedback concept doesn’t scare you yet!).
This guide will save hours of time and frustration. We’ll show you how to review images in five easy steps while keeping your sanity and will to live.
You can even hope for positive feedback and a five-star rating on the customer satisfaction scale by the end!
Are you ready?
Then let’s get started.
Table of contents
- Recognize your subjectivity but try to leave it at the door
- Look for story and emotion
- Assess the image’s technical quality
- Evaluate artistic strength (or lack thereof)
- Why you should review images regularly
Recognize your subjectivity but try to leave it at the door
When you’re reviewing images, it’s important to be objective. This means you have no bias and only react to the technical aspects of the image, not its emotional content.
If you’re a human, you know this is impossible.
While it’s important to be aware of your personal biases and subjectivity in pretty much every aspect of life, try to leave them aside when judging images.
Instead, focus on the ✨ objective ✨ aspects of the image itself.
Consider the photo’s technical elements, like composition, lighting, and exposure.
Instead of just listing the things you like about the photo, evaluate what makes it effective.
It’s also helpful to remember that everyone has different tastes. So, what you find aesthetically pleasing may not necessarily be someone else’s cup of tea.
If you’re working for a client, try to see things from their point of view. What would someone like them think of your images?
Instead of shooting in the dark, establish the goals of your project from the get-go. Outline a one-page document with your client — aka a creative brief — that goes through the requirements and expectations for your collaboration.
Incorporating a creative brief into your workflow will save you tons of time during the customer review process.
You already know what they want, you act on it, and the client is likely to have fewer edit requests for you. And when you deliver work to your client’s liking, your service rating will most likely go up. 😉
Without a content brief, you’ll second-guess the relevance of your deliverables before submitting your work.
For example, would a businesswoman appreciate your artistic images? Maybe. But is that what she’s looking for when she commissions a shoot?
Would an artist like your corporate, stock image-like photos showing a young woman working on a computer against a white background?
There’s no right or wrong, by the way – only different tastes!
Look for story and emotion
After you’ve assessed the overall structure of an image, pay attention to your emotional response to it.
At this point, don’t think about what “the right image” should look like. Instead, ask yourself:
Which image would make you draw a smiley face next to it if you saw it in a catalog?
This is really just a quick online review to find images that might be worth a second look in the next round, so pay more attention to your emotional response.
Digital photography has fostered an expectation of technical perfection, but many famous photos have a bit of blur or other technical flaws.
For example, renowned photographers such as William Klein, Daidō Moriyama, and Rolf Sachs used blurring to make their frames more dynamic or to mimic the “spontaneity” of the shot.
And even in a film by Woody Allen – Deconstructing Harry (1997) – the main character is out of focus.
We celebrate these intentional “flaws” anyway because they tell a story, and we respond emotionally to the presence of that story. Good photos manage to do that at first glance.
If you’re immediately drawn to an image but still unsure, it indicates it has some untapped potential.
So trust your intuition. And each time you look at an image twice, make a note. You’ll figure out why you emotionally engaged with it later in the review process.
If you’re still unsure, try asking yourself the following questions:
- How does this image make me feel?
- Can I tell you why the photographer took this picture?
- Are there any particular messages or stories that the photo conveys?
Don’t worry, you’ll get into the technical elements next. It would be too good if it were all about the story and the feelings, wouldn’t it…?
Assess the image’s technical quality
After weeding out images with obvious technical flaws, evaluate the remaining photos again to determine if they’re high-quality enough to use in a structure or story.
This review stage requires you to be more objective as you evaluate your choices. You’ll find yourself going back and forth between images, reviewing each one individually.
View your images at a size that fills your entire computer screen.
You may need to zoom in or out, view one image at a time, or view two or more images together to compare and select.
Check the focus, exposure, and lighting, and make sure the images are high quality.
That was fun, wasn’t it?
Now it’s time to consider the technical principles of composition as well. Imagine a different section of the image, even if it’s a close-up, and anticipate the final result of the editing.
You may look more closely at an image in this group and wonder why you included it in the first selection. If so, just remove the rating and return it to your inventory.
Remember, this time, you’re looking for reasons to exclude an image. Depending on the intended use of your photos, this second review round can help you significantly narrow down the images you want to correct and adjust.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Is the center of interest in focus?
- Are any dead pixels visible?
- Is the depth of field enough to keep everything in focus?
- Does the depth of field eliminate competing background details?
- Is the image straight? Can you make it straight?
- Are there distracting crops?
- Is the exposure balanced?
- Are there overexposed highlights, dark shadows, lens flare, or glare?
- Is the light too harsh, too contrasty, or too soft?
- Are there distracting background elements?
And last but not least: did you hold the camera steady? Nobody likes blurred and overexposed pictures (except for some Gen Zs. If those are your clients, ignore this part). Still, almost everyone appreciates crisp photos with great detail—even if it’s not technically perfect!
Alrighty, now that you’ve got some seriously solid and technically sound pics, it’s time to give ’em a once-over for their artistic oomph.
Evaluate artistic strength (or lack thereof)
This is a more difficult assessment. Fortunately, with practice, it becomes easier.
You can look at stock images as examples of evaluating your images.
Search for comparable free images online or on social media, and think about which ones you would give a gold star review if you had the chance.
Don’t think about customer feedback; just what you like and don’t like. Would you give them a good testimonial? How would you rate their prices compared to the quality of their work?
Now look at the images you included in your second round of editing.
Put everything on your computer screen, digital tablet, or mobile phone. Limit your selection to the images that made it to the second round of judging.
Look at the images at a size that allows you to see the details and has enough distance for perspective.
At this point, consider your customer performing their review. What would they say?
When you’re comparing your images, take a moment to consider the elements of design—lines, edges, and shapes that create visual interest—and how well they are balanced in each shot.
This time, include only the images whose qualities make them stand out from others.
- What’s the picture’s main focal point?
- Does the image trigger a feeling or make a statement?
- Is the subject clearly defined?
- Is the composition balanced and coherent?
- Are the colors consistent and well-saturated?
- Is the tonal range appropriate, especially for black-and-white images?
- Are important elements well-lit?
- Does the lighting convey the intended mood?
- Are there any unique or interesting connections between visual elements?
If you need a hand at this stage, MarkUp.io makes it easy to review and share photos from a single shoot with you and your client.
You can upload all your images and creative assets in one go and combine or separate the files as you see fit.
When you’re happy with your selection, simply share it with your client and let them give you real-time, contextual feedback by marking anything they like – or don’t.
Got a few minutes? Great, let’s explore why photographers should regularly review their images and how it benefits their business.
Why you should review images regularly
Reviewing your own images is an important part of enhancing your skills as a photographer.
First, it allows you to evaluate your work and find areas that need improvement (plus areas where you excel).
You’ll see what works well and what doesn’t and get an idea of what shots you like to take.
All of this is valuable information that can help you improve your skills and produce better work in the future. After all, you want to make sure your clients keep coming back to you.
Second, it’s when you select the best images for your portfolio!
But do take this opportunity to figure out how to improve your photography. Now is the time to be critical!
Of course, this isn’t just about looking at your own photos but also studying the work of other photographers.
Seeing how others have tackled similar issues will help you:
- Get inspired.
- Begin to develop your own ideas and approaches.
- Set more realistic standards based on what else is out there.
Finally, reviewing images can help you develop your own style and technique. Of course, it takes a good eye and a lot of practice… but practicing reviews can help with that too!
Anything to make you a better, more efficient photographer – right?
Speaking of efficiency…
Review images with MarkUp.io
If you have a set of images that need reviewing, MarkUp.io is the perfect tool for getting feedback on them.
With MarkUp.io, you can easily bulk-upload images and invite others to contribute their input, ideas, and suggestions… while you go for a walk, for example!
This makes for a smoother and more efficient review process since clients can quickly point out specific areas that need attention, so you know what to focus on (when you’re back from your walk).
Plus, our user-friendly software requires no installations, downloads, or coding gurus – perfect if you’re short on time … or just want to be efficient! Reviewing your and other people’s work is ridiculously easy in MarkUp.io.
Sign up for a free trial and test it out for yourself!