We hadn't seen each other for months. My soon-to-be wife and I got together the night before I had to leave for a job in Greece that would take almost six months. And then we were sitting there at the shore on the island of Paros and I looked at her observing the sun go down. And that is when I took the picture. The one above this article.
You didn't know that. And even now that you do, does this change the way you feel looking at it?
I think this is a decent photo. I like the colors, her face is in focus, the cheek and eye area backlit and I like how the hair is reaching into the middle part of the image. Technically, it is not that bad.
But this is nothing that I would even consider selling. Because it has no meaning to others. It wouldn't speak to them. I have nothing to convey in this picture, it is for my wife and me. Period. Oh well - and it serves as an example for this.
I think with every picture you have to take a step back and try to look at it like you weren't the photographer. This is especially true for any photograph you are very happy with so you won't be disappointed when you don't get the reactions you thought this one deserved.
You obviously can't trust your spouse, family, and friends to judge your images because more often than not they will either try and not hurt your feelings or they might just really plain like it. But it has more to do with the fact that you took the photo than its actually being good.
You would think that you'd need someone you're not connected to in that way, someone who would be friendly, but honest. Well, even if you find such a person, would you really want to rely on someone else judging the quality of your images for the rest of your life?
Eventually, you'd have to figure out for yourself what a good image is. And not only in technical terms. Which of course is an important aspect of a photo's quality. But as Harold Davis said (and I've heard similar things from other photographers and artists I respect): "An imperfect image that conveys strong emotion will beat a technically “perfect” photo every time."
So the emotion an image conveys, the story it tells, the mood it sets is the more important part you should concentrate on and that you need to find in your images. And this is what you have to judge - whether this emotion - if it is there - can be understood by others. If you have to explain it like I had to at the beginning of this article, it is like a joke that didn't work.
It seems kind of hard to separate yourself from your own feelings connected with the image and the part you played in the making of the image you are looking at, like everything it needs practice and I think you will have to develop a certain mindset, a willingness to try new old things and to not be afraid to find out things about yourself.
I think this approach is very well described in Harold Davis' book "Achieving Your Potential As A Photographer", which discusses this and other aspects of growing as a photographer and artist. Highly recommended.