It can be a trap of the photographer to think that his or her best pictures were the ones that were hardest to get.” Timothy Allen
You made 200 images at the _______________ (fill in the blank – wedding, rodeo, race, birthday party, etc.) now you have to edit them down to the best 25. Selecting the right images is as much an art as anything else involved in photography. For some people, the shooting is easy and the editing is hard.
There’s no right or wrong way to do it, but here are a few tips that I use when editing / selecting my best images.
1. Immediately reject anything that I know absolutely sucks, or isn’t even close to salvageable. Shots where the subject’s eyes were closed, or shots out of focus, or horribly under/over exposed, etc. Getting a clear field of view often makes it easier to see the great stuff.
2. Stack images that are similar. If there are five shots that survive the first cut, narrow it down to the two best of those. Three more out of your field of view. Again, a clearer view to the good stuff.
3. Don’t become emotionally attached to any one image. Try to be honest with yourself. Yes, you’ve spent your whole life trying to get a shot of an eagle in flight, but no, that little dark spec that makes up less than 10% of your image flying by in a blur does not count as a great eagle shot.
4. After you’ve rejected clear losers, then rejected images from stacks that aren’t the best, start awarding three stars to the images that you think might make the cut. Then award four stars to those that you are immediately certain will be good enough to wow the client. (I save five stars for portfolio-worthy images.)
5. Don’t work on the images for too long. Step away. Sometimes things can get fuzzy if you stare too long at the photos. Spend time in 20 minute increments working on selects and then spend at least 20 minutes doing something else. Sometimes stepping away gives you a fresh eye and a fresh perspective on what’s working and what isn’t.