The Hardest Part of Photography.

It’s not what you think. No, it’s not f-stops, shutter speed, white balance or composing. It‘s not even lighting – which is a whole art and skill by itself, and a separate job in some industries like movies and TV. And just like the movies it’s the unsung hero of storytelling. It’s editing. 

My middle daughter was being as cute as ever in this restaurant and I took five adorable photos of her drinking through a straw. But after some consideration (and it was tough) I choose just this one.

Simply put, after a shoot how do you choose the best photos or even photo after you put so much love and effort into them all? It’s a difficult skill to master. The most stressful event is a professional photographer life is awards. Having to choose a single print of even a series of 4 to put forward for in a competition. I remember in the early days actually giving up the application process because I couldn’t choose. I found it to be a frustrating exercise that caused more stress than was worth wining first prize. It’s less stressful choosing photo to post on social media but a greatly overlooked and important step. Learning to edit your own photos will also help you develop stronger photography skills as you become more self critical and aware of your own choices and style.

How do you judge if one photo is better than another? You constantly bounce backwards and forwards espousing the spontaneity of one versus the perfection of another. Well here are steps to make it easier.

Rating

The first step is to apply ratings to your photos. There are many apps that will let you do this. Many of you probably have Lightroom which allows star ratings, flags and colours to help you rank your images.

I use star ratings mostly and give one star to everything that’s pretty good. I then change the filter to view only the one star rated photos and then give the best ones two stars being a little fussier about quality – and so on up to three or even five stars if necessary. I eventually whittle it down to some winning photos by looking at aspects like, exposure, model’s expression, background distractions or deleting photos that are too similar until I have a tight edit of a few quality photos.

There are many apps out there, often free, that will allow you to rate your images. I use Capture One (there’s a free version for Sony cameras) but Adobe Lightroom is more common and a bit cheaper.

Time Out

The best medicine for indecision is time. You are not going to sort this all out in one session. It’s best to walk away and do something else for a while. I call it going snow blind: when you’re looking at the same selection of images for so long you can’t tell the difference anymore. Come back to them hours or even days later and take a fresh look. You’d be amazed at how quickly you can now see which photos are obviously better. I understand the enthusiasm and pressure to share ASAP on social media but trust me it’s always better to wait.

I shot many image on this trip to Taipei but these are the only ones I processed and posted online. I have other nice shots from the trip to Taipei but they really don’t add anything to the story or illustrate any uniqueness so posting them would actually weaken this group.

The Audience

When selecting which images to post online you have to ask yourself who will be looking at them. Will it be close family only, a wider family and friends group of will it involve total strangers. This actually affects which images tell the better story for that particular audience and how tight an edit you should do. If it’s close family they may want to see lots of shot of your children especially if your little girl of boy is making that peculiar expression that they alway make and is special to you. But if it includes strangers one or two shots from one session will be enough to interest them. Any more and they will just move on to the next post.

We had fun playing in the front garden of the Raffles Centre with my daughter and I shot at least a dozen photos of her that I love because she was being herself and doing different things. But let’s face it apart from her parents no one is really going to appreciate all the subtle differences between them. I kept them all for myself but shared this one.

Second Sight

It can help to ask someone else take a look for you, especially when you are down to a few photos and you can’t quite decide. A second person looking at the images for the first time might be easily able to spot some errors you didn’t notice. However beware of a friend or partner with either a trigger happy decision finger or over bearing opinions. Use the other opinion to confirm or deny sneaking suspicions you have yourself. You maybe stuck choosing either A or B of two similar photos. You like A better but B had something in it too. But something in the back of your mind says it’s not as good and you’re not sure why. Your partner says they’re both great but what about that funny tree in the background of B that looks like it’s growling out of your daughter’s head. Bingo, it’s photo A. You are the photographer and you are the manager or the project so don’t get waylaid by other’s opinions instead use them to inform your own.  

As you can images Pandora was playing and reading here which allowed for many shots but they were all variations on a theme so it was essential to post just one photo from the session.

Nine is Less Than One

This is one of the biggest mistakes on the internet. Whether it’s Facebook or WeChat there is always the temptation to produce a nice grid of 9 similar photos. It’s hard to ‘delete’ any of those precious moments. How on earth do you choose? But you should. Most people will not click on any of the images and only view the grid as there is no compelling reason to view any of the all too similar photos individually. Spend a little time to reason which one is the best and post that one photo. It I will get far more attention than the grid. 

Each of these images may hold something unique but they are all similar enough so that if I posted this attractive grid no one is going to click on any of the individual images to view them and I want them to be seen properly. I’m much better off picking the top three or four and posting them individually. It’s certainly tough to choose but worth the effort.

You have to ask yourself how many is the least amount of photos necessary to tell the story. Delete the ones that don’t add any true value or originality to the set and post the rest.

If you are posting it publicly then don’t post something that is only of interest to you. That is your brief. What do people (whoever they are in each circumstance) want to see? Post quality not quantity. Don’t risk boring people with too many similar photos where they most likely won’t view. Only share the  best and keep their interest. Make it special. Edit a strong selection. ‘Less is more’ is especially true when sharing photos publicly.