Choosing Photos

We’re halfway through our 40 day road trip and I have taken thousands of photos. I think I am over 3000 photos (not including my phone). If this were back in the film days, that would be 125 rolls! That’s a lot of photos!

Of course, I have no intention of keeping all of these photos. What in the world would I do with what will probably amount to 6000+ photos in just under six weeks?

And yet, I have all these photos and I have to decide what to do with them. I have been trying to keep up with the culling and editing while we are on the trip, and I have to make decisions. I will make an album, but 6000 photos won’t make the cut!

First, let’s understand why I have so many photos. It’s simple. I take a lot. I take lots and lots and lots of photos, often of the same thing. Why do I do this? A few reasons:

1) I am often shooting kids and kids move. Their expressions change, their position changes. I want to make sure I get at least one good one and that often means taking at least 10.

2) I shoot from a lot of different angles. Looking at things from different angles and with different points of focus often changes the entire feel of a photo. The only way to get the photo I want is to try a lot of things.

3) I often need to experiment with my settings. The downside of digital photography is that as photographers, many of us don’t know our cameras and understanding lighting as well as we would if we were shooting film. We know we can just try something and if it doesn’t work, try again. While I often know exactly what settings I want (for example, when I take pictures of kids I am usually spot on because I do it all the time,) on this trip, I am trying new things like landscape and night sky photography. I don’t always know what I am doing. I try lots of different settings, always trying to capture the pictures I have in my mind.

So, once I have all these photos, I have to do something with them. I can’t keep them all, nor do I want to.

My culling process is actually pretty simple (and I err on keeping too many photos rather than keeping too few.)

1. I get rid of obviously bad photos (blurry, horribly underexposed, etc.). The exception to this would be if it is the only one I have of a specific situation and it captured something special. After all, I don’t care about perfect photos.

2. I look at photos in a series (all the photos of a specific situation/location). I choose my favorites, often tossing ones that are very similar or are out of focus. I use the compare feature in Lightroom and make quick choices between photos.

3. I don’t delete right away. Instead, I flag the ones I definitely want and then go back through the ones that were not chosen.

4. Looking at the possible rejects, I ask myself a few questions:

a) Do I have another picture of this same situation that is better?

b) Does this picture help tell the story I am trying to capture?

c) Would this photo be good for something other than a layout about this particular day? For example, I keep many photos of my kids interacting so that I can create sibling layouts and one day put together an entire album of photos of my kids interacting.

d) Could I use this photo for my blog, for my writing here at The Daily Digi, or for any other project?

5. Once I go through the possible rejects and answer those questions, I make my final decisions for which photos to toss. I don’t put a lot of time or effort into this. Making fast decisions is important to me.

As I have spent the last few days culling photos, I am proud to say that I am down to 955 photos! It’s still a lot, but at least it isn’t over 3000!

So, how do you choose which photos to keep and which to toss?