I recently had some problems with a lens, the autofocus stopped working in cold (but not freezing) conditions. The lens exhibited very similar issues, but on a more permanent basis, when I first got the lens just over a year ago. At that time, I had to send the lens twice for repair before it would start working properly. They replaced an internal part the second time and it seemed to work when I got it back in February 2012. I used the lens happily during the Spring and Summer in warm climates but when it got cold in late Autumn, the AF started acting up again.
After a bit of testing, I was quite certain the problem was with the temperature of the lens and wasn’t due to the camera (tried it on different bodies with the same result). The critical temperature seemed to be around 5 degrees C below which the lens would stop focussing properly. It seemed as if the clutch connecting the focus ring to the lens wasn’t releasing properly preventing the lens from autofocussing. It could have been due to an electronic part or mechanical interference due to differential thermal contraction. In any case, the lens had to be sent back. Of course, the warranty period had just expired so I wasn’t terribly hopeful that I could get the lens fixed for free.
After a few weeks, I got a message saying my lens was being sent back. I was pleasantly surprised that I wasn’t going to be charged for the repair. The box I received looked a bit bigger than the one I sent. Opening it up, I saw that instead of repairing the old lens, they’d sent me a brand new replacement. So I have to give a big thumb’s up to Sony for this customer service interaction. It makes up for the lens faults in the first place.
One of the hardest things when evaluating your own work is letting go any personal attachments you have with the image. In particular, you have to try to forget the feelings you had the moment you pressed the shutter, the excitement, tension or fear surrounding the shot. To see whether a shot “works” and a photograph, you have to put that all aside and try to evaluate the image as would someone who wasn’t there when you pulled the trigger.
This is the reason why many photography teachers and writers advise you to put aside critical editing decisions till some time after you took the photo. Feelings will have faded and what is left is hopefully a more considered look at what is actually there in the image rather than what you can remember having felt at the time. If the subject matter is personal, then you may have to try to put aside as much of that as you can.
It sometimes helps to go back to the basics, composition, exposure, and focus. Concentrate on whether these elements help or hinder the image. It’s not a matter of “good vs bad”, rather a matter of whether they are appropriate for the subject. As Ansel Adams is often quoted, “There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.” Most importantly, does the image say something and if it does, to whom is it speaking? It doesn’t matter how hard it was to get the shot if the shot itself is not interesting.
It is useful to find out what other people think, not as a replacement for your own judgement but as a complement. People respond differently, they necessarily come to a photo with their own background and experiences so what they see may not be what you see. But there are also common points of contact, universal resonances that should be apparent in the best photos. But it is important to not take any criticism too personally, take what constructive suggestions you can and file away the rest as a learning experience.