Techniques for analysing and judging photos

This is the last in the series I’ve been running about analysing photographs.

Over the past few weeks we’ve covered Exposure, Focus, Depth of Field, Colour, Contrast, Composition Rules and Composition aesthetics. Today I’m going to explain the steps I go through when viewing a picture.

Mikey 2

Back at the end of 2014 I was asked by The Photographic Angle to judge their bi-monthly competition, which had the theme of Love Story. In all, the competition received over 500 entries so it was quite a task to go through them to pick a winner and runners up. So how did I do it?


Well, firstly I looked at the picture based on the five technical elements; exposure, focus, depth of field, colour, contrast. If any of these aspects were poor in an image I rejected it. There was a bit of flexibility of course, and for some images I forgave a small failing in one area if it was outstanding in others.


Then I looked more at the composition – thinking about how the image made me feel, whether it told a story, whether the mood was right and whether it fitted the brief. To do this, you really have to look at an image more closely, for a longer period, and be conscious of how your eyes move around the frame. As we discussed before, our eyes are naturally drawn to light areas and areas of focus before they start to investigate the rest of the frame.


Techniques like adding a darkening vignette can stop the viewer’s eyes travelling off the page as they are drawn back to the lighter centre. The other reason for looking more intensely and consciously is to see if there are any areas of the shot I don’t find.

From this, I got down to a final 7 or 8 and then picked a winner and some runners up.

Try this with some of your photos. Pick one photo that’s really popular on social media and analyse it in detail including how your eyes move when looking at the image. Then review a photo that you really like but didn’t have the same impact on social media and do the same thing. Perhaps you’ll notice some aspects or aesthetic reasons why it didn’t get the traffic you were expecting.

Dream Big

Initially you’ll find it hard to judge all these factors before taking a picture and will only notice something is not quite right when you come to review them later. But over time you’ll learn to spot things before you take the shot and will be able to correct before pressing the shutter.

Look at the picture above again – did you spot that the shadows don’t match the pieces?

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