Culling Down All Those Images to a Portfolio

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Garden Path – an Easy Choice

Digital photography has many advantages over film, not the least that once you have made the initial outlay on gear and computer hardware, the cost of each additional image is negligible.

With film, a shoot could become very expensive once all the rolls were developed. Shooting a 1,000 shots a day wasn’t something most of us did.

That’s over. At group shoots, photographers blast away at the models. At media events, press photographers let their cameras zip at high speeds. Most of us don’t think much about shooting extra frames and even people with mobile phones or iPads are constantly pressing that shutter button.

What we end up with is lots and lots of subpar images, many okay images and hopefully a few great ones. The latter is a hope, not a certainty.

Then the great cull begins.

That’s where the problem starts.

Personally, I really struggle with this. I’ve never been a photographer who’s happy right away with his work. Not for me to call a buddy over and show my shots, sharing my happiness over my accomplishments. That’s probably also a reason that Instagram holds no appeal for me.

Now, the first cull is easy. All the technically bad ones and the dull ones can go. Actually, nothing goes in my case. It just doesn’t get picked.

Second choice gets more difficult. A lot is okay, but nothing is great. That’s my thinking most of the time, at least. If enough shots were great, it would be easy. I just pick those.

Take my latest post here, about the Puerto Rican Parade. I took 1400 pictures. A bunch were not clearly focused, the composition was off or people’s faces were covered by flags or others who happened to walk by. That’s the nature of shooting a moving crowd. No problem so far.

But then there are tons of okay shots, shots that don’t make you pause and stare, but that do give an impression of the atmosphere, the people and the experience. One is not necessarily better than the other.  Just different.

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The Parade – Not So Easy

That’s where I run into trouble. Even though no picture gets deleted at this stage, you know that the ones that don’t get the stars will probably never be seen again, not with tens of thousands of pictures on your hard drive competing for attention. So, that choice you make now, you’re essentially making for the long term. Yes, I overthink it.

Say, you narrowed down the scenes worth sharing. Now you still have those bursts. So, five or more shots of essentially the same thing. With small differences. In the case of the parade, a person’s expression, a flag’s position, a slight movement. Which one is it going to be?

I regularly watch videos of photographers culling down their shots and I’m always amazed how fast they are. I take forever. It’s good I’m not a pro, although the deadline a pro has to work with tends to focus the mind.

In this case, I had my article written Monday and the first cull of images also done by Monday. The narrowing down of the rest of the images took me the rest of the week, dipping into Lightroom a bit every day until I decided that today had to be my deadline for posting and I made the hard choices.

So, out of the 1400 shots, I picked 23 that I considered worth sharing. That’s still something.

You should see my model shoots. I can never decide which shots are best and take forever to finally process the ones that I deem worthwhile. I’ve been to group shoots where other photographers post their images the next day online and mine linger forever without any stars or editing on my hard drive.

As I said, I overthink this.

So, a new project will be to actually work on several portfolios of my work.

With deadlines…

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