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With the advent of digital photography everyone is shooting more and more images and rightfully so. There are no more film costs or proofing costs so “when it doubt, shoot it.” However, the concept of “Shoot First- Decide Later” has made editing much less discriminating.
In many online portfolios I see today, the photographer displays way too many images and he/she doesn’t edit nearly as judicially as they should.
One school of thought is “…someone else may like it, so I will keep it in the portfolio.” That’s the wrong attitude. You are the expert. You make the decision.
The process of editing your images can be brutal and should be. If you are showing an online portfolio, don’t include two images that are almost exactly alike. Make a decision!
If you are looking at a set of similar images, decide right there that you need to choose your favorite. Tell yourself: you can only pick one. Place them side-by-side and use a list of questions to help you decide. Adobe’s Lightroom as some great tools narrowing down to the best image.
1) Which has the best focus?
Be critical. Is the focus just slightly off? I don’t care what you were going for; seldom can someone look at an out-of-focus image for very long. Sharp focus will bring the viewer into the image. If it’s a portrait of a person, focus on the eye – if the eye is not sharp, don’t show it. Naturally this is a “rule of thumb” just make sure that the focus of the image is where you want the view to look.
Don’t confuse “out of focus” with motion in the photograph. While the soft blur of lines showing motion or activity can tell a great story – out of focus tells the viewer the photographer doesn’t know what they are doing. If it’s out of focus – don’t show it.
Possible fix: Shallow depth of field can be an amazing tool in controlling the eye of the viewer. However, when used poorly, it’s a photo killer. Help yourself a little and stop down your aperture a few stops to give you that leeway of a larger depth of field. That way, if you miss your focus a little – you will still have a pleasing photograph.
2) Which image has better composition?
If your subject is right in the middle of the frame, consider re-cropping it to make a better composition. Use the “rule of thirds” to get a starting point for composition; Divide your photo into thirds: Draw lines both vertical and horizontal on your photo – where those lines intersect is where the subject should be. If the image has poor composition – take it out of the portfolio.
3) Which image is exposed better?
The eye is attracted to contrast. If an image is over-exposed, they eye will be drawn to the lightest part. Make sure you have the viewer looking where you want them to in the image. A well-exposed image will encourage the viewer to linger on the photograph longer. If it’s poorly exposed, they will zip by it. If it’s poorly exposed, take it out of the portfolio.
4) Is an image dated?
Continue to look at your old images. Some may be dated and don’t stand the test of time – that’s OK – but it’s not OK to leave it in the portfolio. Unless it’s a timeless photograph that people identify you by – take it out of the portfolio. Your best work and most often times the work that is most current.
Photographers need to be better editors. All of the online portfolios will be easier to view, more enjoyable for everyone if we do the work ahead of time. Show only the best images in your portfolios.
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Photo by Terry VanderHeiden