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Think Like a Photo Editor

Lesson 7 of 7

The Art of Selection

Jared Platt

Think Like a Photo Editor

Jared Platt

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Lesson Info

7. The Art of Selection

Lesson Info

The Art of Selection

Even when you're photographing people, there's those rules that you're going to follow. So if I'm looking at a series of images in front of me, I'm going to first look at composition, right, 'cause I've got the story selected. I'm going to look at the composition. I'm going to say, which composition do I like? Overall, the main composition as I'm looking at, I like the one of her close up, because I like the way she's interacting with the frame. I love how the frame is interacting with the door. I love that the flowers are coming down into that bottom right-hand corner. So I really like that composition, and it's the only one that's close up like that, so I'm going to pick that one. I'm just going to hit the 'p' key in Lightroom to pick it, and then it's going to be a selected image. I like that one. Let's just get rid of that one for now so we can see the other ones. Now, I'm going to have to start looking at what we call internal composition. The composition is fairly similar on all ...

of these, although a little skewed on the left, but the composition is fairly similar. Now the question is, what is she doing within the frame, and how is she interacting with all the other elements. We first find a story, then we look at the composition. Now we look at the internals. The internal composition on this shows, I like the way, again, I like the way the flowers are coming down in this third one here because she's got a little bit of a hip movement there. She interacts a little bit better with the door. She kinda closes off on these ones where she's turned over to the right, and she's a thin enough girl that I don't need to slim her down by turning her to the left. I'm really liking the images where she's a little bit more square on, and I especially like the one where she is looking off-camera, so that's another favorite. In the end, I choose those two images because they're well-composed, she looks great in 'em, and I've made a really fast selection. But I'm also thinking like an editor when I do this because when I make a book, I might want a wide shot or I might want a close-up. So I'm choosing one of each. That way, I have later on, the option of using a close-up or an establishment shot or something like that, okay. When you're going through your images, you're going to first look at things in comparison to each other. That's your first job, is to compare images one to another, right. Once you've found your story, you're looking at things in comparison. Second rule, is that you're going to pick, not reject. The third rule is that you need to follow your gut instinct on things. In the same way that when you're photographing out in the field, things jump out at you and you follow things down a rabbit hole. You're like, oh, that looks interesting, I'm going to follow that, right. And you just trust your gut. You don't second-guess what you're doing. You just trust. Well, same thing's true when you get back into Lightroom. When you're in Lightroom, you're going to have to trust your instinct and make selections. I don't need to go in and scrutinize every single image. I also don't need to say, well, is this one better. I don't need to do this. I don't need to go, well, is it this one or this one. This one, or that one. This one, or that one. I really can't tell. I don't know. It doesn't matter. Pick one. Trust your instinct, choose a shot, and move on. If you do that, you're going to find that you're able to select less images because now you're not thinking, oh, but maybe this one's the right one. Maybe I oughta hold onto that one. Just try it, try to go through and look at your images in comparison and let them jump off the page at you. Let them do the work. You don't do the work, let them do the work. If I look at a set of images here, so I'm going to grab the sets of them. Which ones--oh, here. Which ones. There we go. Which ones jump off the page at you? Those are the ones we want. I'm looking, and I'm like oh, well, these close-up ones of kissing, of him snuggling with her, those really jump off the page at me, so I definitely want to investigate those. I like the ones where he's kissing her and she's kinda laughing, that's great. And then maybe that one over there. I've immediately identified four or five images throughout this set that jumped off the page at me instantly. Then it's just a matter of looking at those and deciding whether or not they're worthwhile. This one jumped off the page at me. I like the way it looks so I picked that one. Then the other one that jumped off the page at me was that one. I loved the way that looked and so it just jumped off the page at me. I picked that one. It's very simple to do this job if you allow them to do the work for you. Let them jump off the page at you, the same way they jumped out of the three-dimensional reality that you were in when you were taking them. Things just jump out at you and you're like, oh that door, let's photograph that door, right. There's no difference between the act of photography and the act of selection. They're the same process, right. You're selecting. Out in the field, you're selecting with a camera, with a billion frame options. You cut it down to 3000 or 10000 or 5000 or or whatever you cut it down to, and then now in the computer, you're doing the same process of selection. The art of selection, but now on a smaller scale. You're still looking for composition. You're still looking for moments. You're still looking for stories. You're still looking for verticals and horizontals to tell the story. You're looking for wides and close-ups, but now you have less to choose from. But you shouldn't go about it in any other way than what you'd normally do in the field. You're not scrutinizing things in the field, you're reacting to them. Same thing is true when you're selecting your images. Okay, one of the most important things you can learn about photographing or selecting photographs, is the idea of brevity. If I show you this as a story, that is way too many images to tell a story. It's just too much. Shakespeare tells us that "brevity is the soul of wit." Say more in less time. Photography's no different. If you want to tell people a story, whether it's a narrative that you're telling 'em, or whether it is just how good you are as a photographer, it's a story that you're telling them. The best way to tell that is quickly. Think about a billboard as you're driving down the road. How many images are on the billboard? One, one image is on the billboard. Have you driven past a billboard that has too much text on it, and you're like, I have no idea what that just said. No idea, it was worthless, they spent thousands of dollars on that thing and it's of no value because I can't get the message. Drive by a billboard that has two huge words on it, you get the message (snaps fingers) just like that. Brevity. If you want to tell someone a story, you need to be brief. The way we do that is we do that by honing in on the best images. You see how we're consolidating and saying we have to tell a story. Oh, this is a random strange one. We're consolidating on a moment. I've severely restricted the images to tell the story, and now you're seeing this is a story that I documented a kid named Trajen who had cancer. He was five years old, so this is him going into surgery, to do this amazing surgery where they took a bone out of his leg and put it in his arm so that it could grow with his body over time 'cause he's five. 'Cause they had to get rid of an entire bone in his arm. He's fine, he did great, right. He now has a leg bone in his arm and it's growing with the rest of his body. It's fantastic, but this is him going into surgery and then coming out of surgery, and all that kind of stuff. But I need to tell the story in a way that is manageable. Quite frankly, if I were to tell the story, the best way for me to tell the story is something like this. Do you see how I'm telling this story? I'm looking for ways to tell the story. That's a much better way to tell the story then all of the images, because now you get to see the family kneeling at his side, the kisses before he goes, the doctor taking him away, the scar that was left, the joy. Him riding around the hospital on his little scooter. All of that kind of stuff is part of this overarching story that we can now see because it's not lost in the clutter. The same thing is true for your portfolio. You have to look at your portfolio, so if I'm looking at my portfolio, and I show you all of this. Oh wait, hold on. I'm going to show you a different portfolio. There we go. Not that portfolio, this portfolio right here. There we go. Okay, so this is a random smattering of images from my portfolio. But if I show you that many images to try and sell you on how good a photographer I am, you're going to get bored. If I show you them one at a time, you're going to get bored all the way by the end. No matter how good the images are, you can't sit through that many images. Worse, some of them are going to look the same. I'm not going to have any variety, and I'm going to end up losing you. Instead, what I should be doing is I should be showing you images that are highly impactful, and that are different from one another. Rather than show, say, this image here, along with this image here, along with that image here. Now all of them are really cool images but they're all the same. What I'm going to be looking for is images that are different. I would choose, say, this one, and I would choose this one, and I would choose this one, and I would choose this one. I would choose this one. I would choose this one. Do you see how they are very different? I'm telling you stories about the way I look at the world through my portfolio, but I'm showing you a limited number of images. Now, you might have a portfolio for weddings and then a portfolio for portraits and a portfolio for documentary and a portfolio for, but you need to keep those manageably small. Here's how you become a better photographer overnight. This is your assignment, and if you choose to accept the assignment, I can promise you that you will be a better photographer tomorrow when you wake up. But you have to do this tonight. Or you could choose to do it over the weekend or something like that. Okay, so, here's the deal. If you will go home and if you will look at your portfolio, the one that you show everybody, the one that's on the website, the one that is in your favorites on your computer, whatever, look at your portfolio. For those of you who don't have a portfolio, if it's just like the next job you do or the next trip you go on or whatever, when you come home and you've got a set of images, take whatever that portfolio is you have, and I want you to cut half of it. I want you to take your portfolio, whatever you're showing the world, and I want you to throw away 50% of it, 50%. The world won't miss it and they will see you as twice as good a photographer, because the economics will change. There's a problem if I'm the government and I start printing money, right. I just starting printing money. What happens to the value of all that money. Every dollar goes down in value as I print one more. The more images you have in your portfolio, the less each one is worth. I promise you that if you will take your entire portfolio and if you'll cut it in half, if you'll throw away 50% of it, you will in your mind be looking for the best. You will throw away the worst, and the value of each one of those photographs will skyrocket because you will have removed the worst images, kept the best images, and people will be able to see through the clutter. 'Cause you're creating your own clutter. Most photographers are their own worst enemy when it comes to showing their work because they show way too much. Take your images, start looking, obviously you have to tell a story. Find the images that will tell that story, and then only choose the ones that really sell the story. The ones that have high impact. The ones that jump out at you. Those are the ones that you need to keep, the rest of them, you have to let go. You have to get away from your photographs long enough to be able to do that. Don't go in as a fan of your own work. Go in as your harshest critic. If you can't do that, and there are plenty of photographers who cannot do that to themselves. Maybe their ego is too fragile or whatever it is, they cannot be a harsh critic to themselves. If you can't do that, find someone who can. Let someone else come in and be the expert. Let someone else curate your work. You can do that, if you're a working professional, you can actually have companies curate your work. You can send it off and they'll select it for you. They don't care, they're just going to choose the best images. Or you can hire someone to come in. Or you could just bring a friend in and say, look at my portfolio and throw away half of 'em. You'll sit there aghast as they throw something in the trash or as they hit the delete key or whatever. You'll be petrified, but in the end, when you look at the work, and when other people look at your work, you will be twice as good, three times as good a photographer in everybody else's eyes and in your own eyes. Because your collection of work, the story you're telling, will be that much more impactful. Everything will shout rather than get cluttered up in the storm of too many photographs. If you want to be a better photographer, yes, you need to learn better lighting. Yes, you need to learn how to compose. Yes, you need to learn how to edit. That's what this whole week is all about. We learn things and we learn how to edit photos and we learn how to present them in books, all that kind of stuff is important. But, the most important thing you can learn, is to be your own harshest critic. Be willing to throw away your darlings. Get rid of 'em. Only show your best work. That's how you think like a photo editor. Your images will be much better. Thank you for coming. Any questions, no questions. All right, we're going to wrap up. There's a lot of classes here on Photoshop week that we can go to. So many to choose from. I'm going to be teaching quite a few. We're going to learn how to make books, we're going to learn how to edit photos, underwater photography, all sorts of cool things, but thank you for coming and I will see you at the next class.

Class Description


  • Expertly edit a photograph
  • Enhance your photography portfolio
  • Think like a photo editor while capturing images


In this class, you’ll learn how to improve your photography portfolio. With just a few critical lessons, you will be on your way to making better decisions in your photography and post-production that will not only enhance the value of your portfolio of images but every photo story you tell, every job you shoot and every family vacation you share, all you need is a shift in your thinking.

The best photographers know the importance of great photo editing. In fact, the difference between a good photographer and a great photographer has less to do with camera skills and more to do with their selects (i.e. what they show). The very best show very little and the unimpressive photographer can’t wait to show you every image they took today. All of the greatest photographers either have a photo editor making the decisions or are great photo editors themselves. Learning how to think like a photo editor from the camera through the selection, editing and publishing process will change your photography forever.


  • All levels of photographers
  • Photographers who want to better their post-processing skills
  • Photographers looking to create a portfolio


Adobe Photoshop CC 2019, Adobe Lightroom CC 2019


Jared Platt is a professional wedding and lifestyle photographer from Phoenix, Arizona. Jared holds a Masters of Fine Arts in the Photographic Studies and a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Photography from Arizona State University and has been a professional photographer and college educator for the past 12 years and has been a speaking, debating and lecturing for the past 17 years. His attention to detail and craft make him a demanding photography instructor. Jared has lectured at major trade shows and photo conferences as well as at universities around the world on the subject of photography as well as workflow. Currently, Jared is traveling the United States and Canada teaching and lecturing on photography and post production workflow.