When it comes to selecting the best photos to show buyers and publishers, most photographers show far too many images. What’s worse, many of the images they end up selecting are not their best.

The first rule of good editing is be brutal. If there is even ONE thing you don’t like about a particular photo, don’t include it in your portfolio. Editors are accustomed to looking at only the very best images. Good images will not be good enough to compete. So, choose only great images or your very best work.

Narrow your best images down to 25 and then, narrow them down again. To finish the job, consider paying a consultant to critique your work. After explaining the target audience for your images, ask the consultant, “Are these the right photos to show?” Then listen to their advice.

Most photographers have great difficulty in editing their own work. They end up selecting shots that have emotional or sentimental value to them, but do not work in a portfolio. Try to get professional assistance if you can afford it or if you have a relationship with an art director, designer, editor or buyer, ask them to evaluate your portfolio before you submit it for review.

Also use online tools like Flickr.com and ask for feedback. Join pro groups or groups comprised of serious amateurs like those at PHOTOFOCUS.COM. Showing images to lots of people is a good way to help complete the editing process successfully.

And always remember – just because you fell in love with one of your images, doesn’t mean the photo buyer will too.

Join the conversation! 15 Comments

  1. This is great advice. This is also applicable if your just showing your picture off to the family. My motto is, “Leave them wanting more.”

  2. This is great advice. This is also applicable if your just showing your picture off to the family. My motto is, “Leave them wanting more.”

  3. I have been assembling my first portfolio for about 4 weeks and have found myself badly wanting to include captures that I have emotional attachment to, but I have been told shouldn’t make the cut. I want to narrow it down to 10 captures but it is exceedingly difficult.

  4. Scott, as always, great advice. I find myself picking only a few an my family wanting more. Of course, I am still finding my way around my new D40x so quite a few of the photos are just bad anyway.
    Oh, the Oregon Sunset photo is stunning. I love the rich color and contrast.
    The setting is very nice.

  5. Scott, as always, great advice. I find myself picking only a few an my family wanting more. Of course, I am still finding my way around my new D40x so quite a few of the photos are just bad anyway.
    Oh, the Oregon Sunset photo is stunning. I love the rich color and contrast.
    The setting is very nice.

  6. What about people like myself that think everything they have done just sucks?

  7. What about people like myself that think everything they have done just sucks?

  8. I find that going back to review a few days later is a good procedure too. Less is more.

    I had an offer for an exhibition that I took up. And the curator liked many shots that I did not and had reasons to explain why. Scott is spot on with the emotional attachment – or even as I was explained to – the “Background attachment”.

    Fresh perspectives are unreal.

    I am hoping that I can put in a submission for a book at some stage in the future – however the reality of competition means that I will amass A LOT of shots first – so that I can still have some left over after brutal editing and critiquing.

  9. I find that going back to review a few days later is a good procedure too. Less is more.

    I had an offer for an exhibition that I took up. And the curator liked many shots that I did not and had reasons to explain why. Scott is spot on with the emotional attachment – or even as I was explained to – the “Background attachment”.

    Fresh perspectives are unreal.

    I am hoping that I can put in a submission for a book at some stage in the future – however the reality of competition means that I will amass A LOT of shots first – so that I can still have some left over after brutal editing and critiquing.

  10. @David hire a consultant if you’re serious.

  11. Thank you for this. I have dipped my toe into professional photography. Flickr and before that Photo.net and PBase have been a great resource for me. The latter however has been the most gratifying. I have been able to connect with accomplished photographers who have really connected with some of my photos. This feedback has been a major component to my ambition.

    The other piece which is equally important for me to experience was that some people didn’t always see what I saw when I took a shot.

    I define “published” to include someone using a photo (with my permission) on a website or book. This has happen to me twice so far.

    This website and podcast was a late find for me. Alex mentioned it in a recent Macbreak Weekly and here I am. Thank you very much.

    Suggestion: Group meets! When you are in the Big Apple, Post it, Twitter-it I will be there with camera in hand. Thank you.

  12. Thank you for this. I have dipped my toe into professional photography. Flickr and before that Photo.net and PBase have been a great resource for me. The latter however has been the most gratifying. I have been able to connect with accomplished photographers who have really connected with some of my photos. This feedback has been a major component to my ambition.

    The other piece which is equally important for me to experience was that some people didn’t always see what I saw when I took a shot.

    I define “published” to include someone using a photo (with my permission) on a website or book. This has happen to me twice so far.

    This website and podcast was a late find for me. Alex mentioned it in a recent Macbreak Weekly and here I am. Thank you very much.

    Suggestion: Group meets! When you are in the Big Apple, Post it, Twitter-it I will be there with camera in hand. Thank you.

  13. This and the post above is from a different David

  14. This and the post above is from a different David

  15. Interesting that Ryan Brenizen has a blog with a somewhat similar theme that I got (late) in my RSS Reader today.

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About scottbourne

Founder of Photofocus.com. Retired traveling and unhooking from the Internet.

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