Helping you cull your work

Helping you cull your work

Are you one of those photographers who have difficulty selecting the one iconic image from a set of good shots? Have you ever taken a portrait, and liked the look on the models face but you missed focus on the eyes and decided to show it anyway? If you have problems identifying flaws in your work, then this article can help arm you with a tool to improve the work you show online. Let’s talk about it…

Choosing a champion

Choosing one image to show your friends or post on social media from a large set of picks is arguably one of the toughest skills to master. We have all been there, we shoot a portrait session and come up with 20 decent images and fight the temptation to show them all. Making your friends sit through a million similar images is torture and leads to viewer fatigue. This also opens the opportunity for others to chime in on your work. The only one who can say which image fits the vision for your project is you (unless of course you are shooting for a client then the customer is always right.). Here are a few tips to help you sort through your images…

  1. Choose all the images that speak to you, and using a program like Lightroom, mark them all as a pick and set the filters so only those images are showing. We will go through the images a few times to thin the crowd, but for this initial run-through choose everything you like.
  2. Go through all the images and looking closely, eliminate all the images where the subject is not in sharp focus. This goes for the eyes of your subject for a portrait and the primary point of interest in the case of landscape images. No amount of editing or color grading is going to get you past a missed focus shot.  
  3. Go through all the images again, this time in full screen view (F for Lightroom) and look at the composition of the image. For a portrait, look at the model’s body, arm and leg position, as well as the expression on their face. Look at the lighting, is it even and pleasing? For landscapes, look at the leading lines of the image, is the subject placed in a pleasing place? Do you have foreground and background interest? Is the image something that reflects what your vision was for the landscape at the time? Anything that is not awesome, remove it from the selected images.
  4. We are going through the images one last time. With this round, (hopefully) you are getting tired of these images. You will find it easier and easier to identify that one image that really meets your vision for the set. Look at the details, look at everything about the image, make sure you are still in full screen mode to remove distractions. If there are images that are good – But…  remove them from the set. The more time you spend looking at this set of images, the more picky you will become about the details in a lesser image.
  5. If you made it through your images and found “the one” then great, but if you still have several similar images, then walk away. Do something else and come back to the remaining images the next day. Looking at the images with a fresh set of eyes will often help you cross that finish line in terms of choosing your champion.

Hopefully these steps helped you cull your work. This is the method I have used for quite some time – when I look at the images until I am tired of them, I find myself making decisions easier for which ones to keep. Always consider the images you are intending to show to others from the perspective of the viewer. If your eyes started to glaze over going through your set of images four or five times, imagine how your friend or loved one will feel when they have to sit through ten versions of the same photo.

Sometimes, you can go through the entire process above and end up with no star image. This happens. Sometimes you don’t get the shot. Sometimes the model had a bad day, or in the case of a landscape (more commonly) the light was just not participating in the process of making a beautiful image. I can say with my head held high that I have had more days where I didn’t get a useable shot than I care to admit. A big part of this for me is that I am visually impaired and often miss focus because I am often not able to see where the focus point was when I snapped the photo. It is not an excuse, rather an understanding of a limitation I work through when shooting.

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