I cringe when I look at photographs I took two years ago. No, not all of them, but most of them.
I'm unhappy with many of the photographs I took one year ago.
Because I've improved. I'm a better photographer now than I was one year ago, and a much better photographer now than two years ago. I look at my old photographs and I know I could have done better--sometimes much better.
But that is good.
With each photograph I take there is a lesson to be learned if I self-critique. These lessons are generally very small lessons. But thousands of small lessons add up and translate to noticeable improvements. If I did not self-critique my work, I would not improve. It's even better when someone who's opinion I trust can critique my photographs.
There is also much that can be learned from books and magazines. I can not say enough how helpful Bruce Barnbaum's The Art Of Photography has been. When I apply lessons from other photographers, I keep myself from inventing the wheel twice.
Also, the more I photograph the more I understand what I like to photograph--I get a better idea of what my unique "vision" is. Photography is non-verbal communication. The more passionate one is about the subject that he or she is photographing, the stronger the communication in the image will be. I'm understanding that more and more, and the results are finding their way into my photographs.
If you are not moving forward then you are moving backwards. Keep photographing and keep improving.
Hopefully, two years from now I'll cringe at the photographs I'm taking today.