The Philosophy of Selecting Images
When I'm looking at things, I'm not rejecting things. A lot of people will go through their images and they'll literally reject out the ones they don't want. Which means that if you have say 4,000 images that you took on your trip to Europe, you actually have to reject what? 3,500 images. So every time you do that, you're telling yourself this is a bad image. This is a bad image. Now how many times do you really think you're gonna wanna tell yourself, I am a bad photographer, this is a bad image, I suck at this. You're not gonna want to do that. So human nature is going to say, oh well I'm pretty good so I'll keep that one. Hm, that one's okay, I'll keep that one. Oh that one took me a long time to photograph, I'll keep that one. And you'll start to justify why you're keeping all of these images from this trip rather than if you go the opposite direction and pick. Look at the set of images. All together, in comparison to each other. And pick an image that stands out to you. If you do t...
hat, if you pick images, if you pull images out of this group, then you don't have to justify why you're keeping the other ones, 'cause you're not. They're just there. You are rising out, you're raising one of it out of this set. You're elevating one. It's much easier to do that, human nature, it's much easier for humans to say, oh that's a really great one, and not worry about the rest of them, then it is to say, this is horrible, this is horrible, this is horrible, this is horrible, this is horrible, that one's good, this one's horrible, this one's horrible, this one's horrible, this one's horrible. So you're shooting yourself in the foot if you reject images. Just pick them. Now on that line of thinking then, one of the things that David Hurn says, again going back to his images that we were talking about, you notice on his contact sheet, he had one image selected. Just one. Out of an entire contact sheet. And if you look at the number of selections or the number of images he would use from 30 rolls of film, oftentimes a roll of film would have no selections. So he'd go through 36 images and not select one. So don't get in a pattern of thinking, well since I have these images up in front of me right now I must select one. You don't need to. But a lot of the times, what we do, and this is what David Hurn says, is a lot of people will, they'll spend an hour on a photograph, say you do portraits, and you spend a long time on this really cool photograph, and you spend just forever doing it. And it was complicated to do and the client liked it fine. So you deliver it to the client. But you spent so long on this photograph, well let's say you spent so long waiting for this event to happen. Say you went to the beach, and you waited for sunset, and there's a storm traveling by and you're just, you spent three hours making this photograph. Are you gonna not keep it? You spent so much time on it. And so what he says is most people spend so much time on a photograph that they have to justify those three hours of taking the photograph by keeping it. Well I spent so much time on it, it must be important. It must be an amazing image. Nah, it's not. Let it go. Sometimes, we work on something and it doesn't work out. That's okay. You've gotta let those go. Now, how do you do that? How do you divorce yourself from your images enough that you can look at them without the emotion involved? That's the real key to being an editor. How do you get away from the emotions that you felt during the photography itself? How do we do that? Well the key is, give it time. 'Cause the second you get back from a shoot, and you're super excited or you're in the middle of the shoot and you're looking at, everything looks awesome. Have you ever noticed that? Like you're like, these are awesome. Even on the back of the camera. Wow that's amazing, what an amazing shot. And then, three weeks later you look them and you're like, uh there are things that I would have done differently. I should have done this. I should have done that. The lighting's not quite right. Oh when I zoomed in on it I realize that I totally didn't pay attention to the pole coming out of her head or whatever, right? It's only after you give it a little time that your brain can get rid of the emotions and start looking at the actual photographs. Looking at what's actually there. And what's actually there might not be all that interesting. If you have trouble doing that still, so first thing, take some time. Give yourself a week, give yourself two weeks, give yourself whatever it takes so that you can look at them dispassionately. You took them passionately, right? So you put the passion into the taking of the photographs. So you did your job. You did the passion part of the job. Now you need to do the dispassionate part of the job and actually look at the photographs for what they are and whether they're worth keeping, whether they're worth showing. And I will submit to you that almost 90% of the time, 99% of the time, you were showing too much. 99% of all people out there, out there on the web, you guys, you're all showing too much of your work to people. Show less. Show a lot less. Because the stuff you're showing is not helping you, it's hurting you. It's making you look less like a photographer. And it has nothing to do with your ability at the camera. Has everything to do with what you're willing to show and what you're not willing to get rid of. So first take some time and be dispassionate about it. Then, if you're having a hard time with that still, and you look at a set of images, let's say you shoot 1,000 images, and you still wind up with 500 that you're keeping, that's a problem. That's like a photographic hoarder, (audience member laughing) right? You can't do it, you gotta get it down. Even if you're keeping out of 1,000, you're keeping 250, it's too much. It's way way way too much. So, you have a problem. So now we have to call in someone to do an intervention. (audience member laughing) Right? And that's when you bring in someone you trust, someone who's a friend, someone who has a visual eye, who doesn't care about these photographs. They can't be the person that went on the trip with you. They can't be the grandmother whose children are in the shot. They can't be that. It has to be someone who doesn't care at all about the photographs. They care about you as a person, they care about your success, they like looking at photographs, they're good at photography, or at least they're good at looking at photography. Find that person in your life. Doesn't matter who it is. And bring them in and have them look at your images. And allow them to look at all of your images. Don't just show them your best because they might find stuff that you're shooting, that's really amazing and you don't even know it. You don't know how good you are at this. Because you're missing, you're going over those, and you're not paying attention to them, because you're favoring the things that you are worried about, or the things that you spent the most time on. So bring that person in and have them consult. And if you allow them to consult with you, you might find that they will help you get over that hump. They'll help you get past that problem that you're having. And once you see that harsh selections, like a harsh critique of your own work, actually makes your images better, you'll be more likely to do it yourself the next time. It's kinda like you gotta get used to it, you gotta get your feet wet, you gotta allow yourself to do it once or twice and then you'll find out, wow this is actually liberating. A, I don't have to work on as many images, but B, my overall look, what people see out of me, is better because I showed them less. And this is true, not just for your own portfolio, but it's also true for just individual client work. Let's say you do a portrait of someone, and you take 500 images during that portrait session, and you're showing them maybe 80, try showing them 20. Try showing them 10. Try it. See how liberating that will be. 'Cause the client will love not having to do your job for you and selecting for you, right? The client will like that. The client will actually like the fact that every time they look at a picture, it's an amazing picture, instead of amazing, another copy, another copy. Think about that. So if I'm looking at images here, let's just say this, this is a wedding, that's generally what I do. So if I'm looking at images, see, I'm really excited about this door and the bride's dress and the flowers, it all looks great. So I shoot away. But if I show the client, every single one of these is a good photograph, but if I show the client the first one, they go, oh that's amazing. The second one, it's exactly the same. So is it amazing anymore? Nah, it's just okay. It actually might be better. I think that this photograph is better than that one, but if I show that one to them first, than this one becomes ho hum. Because it's the same as that one. Nothing's changed. And if I just keep showing all of these photographs, I have just bored the client. But if instead I just said, you know what I'm gonna show them one photograph. (clicking fingers) Love it. Oh and then I'm gonna show them one photograph, full dress. (sharp slap) Boom. Try that. Try showing your client or your friends or your family or whatever, one photograph from a given scenario instead of 10 or instead of three or four. So my mom and dad, my dad loves to golf. And my mom always goes with him golfing but she generally, she's kinda the artistic one, and so she takes a camera, and she takes pictures of all the golfing. So she takes a picture of the tee box and then she takes picture of the middle, you know, the first landing area of the fairway, and then she takes picture from the green, and then she takes picture of the next tee box. She just does this. And then she makes books. So she'll make a book of, you know, this golf trip. The problem with the books is that she just takes a picture of every hole and of every spot on every hole, and then shows you all the pictures. So the books become very boring. Because they're just a record of what every hole looks like at every shot that my dad took. There's no editing going on. If there was editing going on and it was like, okay we wanna show you a golf trip, a golf vacation, and we're just gonna show you the magnificent holes, there's only like three magnificent holes on any amazing golf course. So show those three holes and then show the next three holes on the next golf course, they have some magnificent. Choose. Make some decisions. So here we made some decisions. And we didn't have to work very hard to make those decisions either. We just had to make some.