If you’ve lost your keys and then you find them, do you continue looking for them, or do you stop searching and go about your day? When you’ve found what you’re looking for, don’t you stop searching? Of course you don’t keep looking because that would be foolish and a waste of time.

Just One More

And yet, I know you do it when you make portraits. Most of us do. We get a great shot in a good pose with fine light, and then we make the same picture again, and probably again. The result is a whole lot of pictures that are practically the same.

Film Isn’t Free

One way you may justify this pattern of irrational behavior is by saying that since it’s digital, it’s free to shoot more. But nothing could be further from the truth. Although you don’t have to pay $.25 to develop every frame anymore, you do have to spend your life in front of the computer culling through this stack of garbage that all looks so similar you’ll sit there shuffling back and forth between three images trying to decide which is marginally better than the others. This time is your life, and you’re trading it for “free film.”

Here’s the Secret

Stop shooting. Once you have a good picture in a good pose, it’s time to move on to a different thing. Move the camera closer, shoot a profile, shoot her hands only, turn her around and shoot over her shoulder, shoot vertical, shoot off center, shoot her looking down, spin her around. Do something that makes a significantly different picture. It doesn’t need to be significantly better, but if it’s at least different then you can make a quick decision while culling. Get a good picture, and then stop shooting that picture. Your keys won’t be anymore found if you keep looking for them.

Now Edit Backwards

Since you stopped shooting when you got a good photograph, now you can keep your momentum going when you’re back at your desk culling the pictures like a too-big-herd of cattle. Just start at the end of the shoot to do your sorting maneuvers. By starting at the end, you’ll be seeing your best pictures first and then you can skip to the next set. Using this method will make you culling much faster and leave you time and energy to be creative with them.

In Lightroom, Or whichever tool you use, simply scroll to the end, click on the last picture and use the left arrow key to navigate through instead of the right arrow. Press 1 to add a star and move on.


If you stop wasting your client’s “on” time with more pictures of the same thing and then cull the picture from last to first, you’ll find that you’ve saved so much time.

Portrait Tips come out each week, and you can see them all right here.