10 tips to help with image selection

So I thought I would start using this blog to post helpful tips and advice on subjects that perhaps get overlooked, great photographers that you should be following and even talking about gear techniques.

A question I have been asked on workshops and online a fair bit recently is how to narrow down images from a shoot and select only the best. What will make you stand out, minimise unnecessary editing time and help towards a striking and effective portfolio.

So with that in mind, here are...



10 tips to help with image selection

  1. Expression Is Everything: First and foremost, if you are photographing portraits, fashion etc. the expression of your model is so overlooked. It is the most important aspect as this is where your viewer will connect the most with the image and if the expression doesn't suit the image or is completely uninterested, it would be hard to blame the viewer for not taking much interest themselves.
  2. Focus Is A Close Second: If you have an image with everything going for it, lighting, composition, styling and great expression but the focus is a near miss, you may be able to get away with it. After all, focus isn't everything (despite what you've heard in the bowels of troll-infested forums). But with that said, it is obviously ideal to nail the focus as an image being slightly out could cause a distraction. That said, I would rather have great expression and slightly missed focus than tack sharp boredom.
  3. Shoot Less: One thing that will help with boring your subject and killing their expressions effectiveness is to avoid taking 300 images per set. It is a myth (an understandable one, but a myth nonetheless) that taking more images will increase your hit rate. Your subject will find it very hard t stay interested if they have been standing for 45 minutes whilst you machine-gun them into oblivion. Especially if you're the quiet type. Try an limit yourself to a small number of shots so that once you're happy with the light and theme, every frame will be far more valuable!
  4. Pre-Visualise The Image Before The Shoot: This one is simple; know roughly what you want the image to look like before you take the shot. I have found it best to avoid the "let's see what happens" approach. There will always be room for creative chaos, but having an idea beforehand means you'll know when you've got what you wanted.
  5. Wait Before Editing: If you edit immediately after the shoot, you will have a natural inclination to pick the images you have the most emotional attachment to. Whilst in things like wedding work this can actually be very helpful, it is best to have an impartial eye for what is best photographically.
  6. Set Restrictions: Only allow yourself to select 2-3 images from each set. Unless you are shooting something for commercial purposes or an editorial, any more than this is just a bit pointless and a waste of editing time. You are only as strong as the weakest image, so only pick the strongest.
  7. Diptychs Are A Great Cheat: I use diptychs to navigate the above as best I can by pairing two images together as one. It's also a great way to fill the screen when working with portrait orientated images.
  8. Bare Your Portfolio In Mind: Do you need all these images if there is already the same image 50 times on your website etc.? Whilst I am a massive advocate for developing a clear style, having a ton of images from several shoots that are too similar will create a massive sense of boredom within your portfolio.
  9. Ask The Subject: As a photographer, you are most likely looking at which image is photographically best, which is great. But your subject will see the image in a totally different way. So ask them which they prefer and why. Don't be offended or surprised at which they pick, just use it as a learning experience. Plus, sometimes you may just want to ignore them anyways! 
  10. Select Something Different: Lets say you shot a set where half the time you were shooting headshot and the other half you were shooting three-quarter length shots. Well pick the strongest headshot and the strongest three-quarter. There will be almost no need for multiple headshot of the same person, in the same light, shot in the same way. 

Hopefully that helps, please feel free to leave a comment with your tips or of what you would like me to discuss next. 

Have a nice day!