Photo Tip: Replacing Emotion with Logic When Viewing and Printing Your Photos

Photographer John Free‘s many years of experience as a professional in the industry have given him a deep reservoir of tips, tricks and advice from which to pull. In the past, we shared his inspirational no-BS video on shooting without tension and the importance of practice.

That video offered some all-around “how to get better” advice. But yesterday, he uploaded a new video in which he addresses a specific problem many photographers (himself included) face: getting too emotionally attached to your images.

As Free sees it, the problem with becoming emotionally attached to your images is that you lose the ability to look at them and print them logically — you’ll defend them because you’re “trying to like [them] so much.”


His solution is to try to look at the photo through the eyes of the average viewer who is going to look at it. “It’s always the same,” says Free. “We want a photograph that has the inherent power to emotionally affect or move the viewer in some way for having seen it.”

So what Free does is forget about the photo as soon as he’s taken it. He lets it sit, sometimes waiting a long time before developing it, so when he finally sees it again in the darkroom, he’s seeing it with fresh eyes.

You can hear a lot more from Free about this problem and his suggested solution by watching the embedded video at the top. And if you haven’t already, be sure to check out his other video we shared a few weeks ago for some more great advice and inspiration.

  • Keithbg

    This was Garry Winogrand’s way as well. He often let his film “age” weeks, or even months before developing and printing. But then, he was such a prolific shooter. Shooting sometimes a couple of rolls of film before lunch. More often then not, he forgot what was on any given roll of film.

  • Ken Elliott

    I do the same thing. When I shoot, I have a vision of how it should turn out. And I often am disappointed that I did not hit my target. But after a few days, I’ve forgotten what I intended and can see the photograph for what it is – not for what it was intended to be.

  • marxz

    In general I agree, and while not being a professional photographer (or even semi pro) anymore I still tend to “park” most of my raw files and my film rolls/sheets for a few weeks before reviewing them.

    That said I I would never suggest we should take our personal emotion/experience of the capture out entirely. Even when I was a 9 to 5 product photographer I still shot more rolls of film on personal stuff on my down time, and these are my images, the prints that end up in albums, prints I’d never have shown to a client or manager, but they were and still are my most important images to me for the very reason that they DO take me back to the emotion of the moment, where I was, who I was with, what was happening.

    it’s important that you remember that primarily you create images for yourself and that when you are taking images for your emotional self, rather than your financial survival self, that you keep that emotion. (just don’t expect the neighbours or your co-workers to come to your powerpoint night of 700 images of your emotional self for filling images)

  • Ralph Hightower

    John Free makes incredible sense even from a computer software developer’s viewpoint. I have worked for some “dot-bombs” and successful companies. I’ve seen products that I worked on killed. I learned years ago to not get emotionally attached to projects for hire. Layoffs suck, likewise product terminations.
    What I’ve learned is to not get emotionally attached to products that I worked on for “hire”.