• Justin Key

Developing My Eye

Updated: Apr 11

Wanted: unbiased critic. Ideal candidates must have an artistic eye with experience in photography preferably in the landscape field. You will be tasked with reviewing my work and producing a critique that will push my creative talents while finding a happy median between ego grooming and making me cry. Think you have what it takes? Apply today!

All of the critics in my life are either family or friends, few are artists, and none of them see a fault in my work. Sarah gets the most exposure to my work and has yet to find something wrong with a photograph. I view my work much differently, I see maybe, maybe, a handful of solid images in my portfolio.

I've started listening to a few photography related podcasts while working at my full-time job. On one show the host was interviewing a writer who was describing his journey. The writer watched his friends take off while he struggled to get off the ground. The problem, as he describes it, was the standard for which he held his work. He had a vision for what his talents could produce and until his work met those standards, it wouldn't be good enough.


That's the same way I feel about my photography. My work isn't up to par with the level of quality I believe I can produce. Since jumping in I've seen my work improve and there have been a few images that come close to the standards I hold myself to. These standards have pushed me to become better. Being unsatisfied makes me look for ways to grow, it has made me do more research on equipment and techniques, made me want to shoot more often, and I've seen improvements.


Over the last few months, my photographic eye has been developing. While shooting in Georgia, I hit a low point. There were a number of shots I missed because my camera knowledge was lacking. I was furious with myself for not knowing how to handle the conditions better and produce a spectacular photo I'd composed in my head. Then in Hawaii, I fell in love with photography again. My eyes were constantly in photographer mode and there was no shortage of photo opportunities.


I was working on refining my photography process and the results came through. I moved around more within a location, I focused on my exposures making sure they were right and moving on without overshooting. I considered lighting better, paid more attention to my foregrounds and distracting details. I entered a zone and was able to slow down and enjoy the location rather than feeling rushed and panicked.


Hawaii sparked a new era of my photographic life. I've started shooting more often. Sarah and I have started hiking out for at least one sunset after work each week. I've started to notice my eye refining how it sees and the resulting images have been dramatically better. I've become engulfed in photography, editing at home, listening to photography podcasts at work, planning my next move while I try to fall asleep. This renewed excitement stems from the growth I'm seeing in my work.


Sarah has asked me if I think I'll ever be satisfied with an image. My response was "I hope not." I fear the day I stop seeing improvement in my work because that's what drives me. As soon as you think you've maximized your potential, the rest of the world is going to pass you by. There will always be a better photo to be had and I'm going to keep looking for it.

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© Justin Key Photography