Incense

by Bart Arondson

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I am a learner. Taking out the camera and taking photos has been easier than choosing the good ones after coming back home.

I usually go out and take pictures and when I come back I find it difficult to sort out the good and the bad once. How does one do it?

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See photo.stackexchange.com/questions/9708/… for a thorough discussion about choosing the best of many images. –  Craig Walker Jun 17 '11 at 14:43
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How are you finding it difficult to sort them out, is it because you have a lot of pictures or because you're not sure what makes a good photo? –  ChrisFletcher Jun 17 '11 at 16:55

3 Answers 3

It depends on how you define "good"... And theres not a single right answer for that.

Most folks would agree that photos with bad exposure flaws, unintentional blurriness, or a very bad composition (cut-off heads for example) aren't good, but beyond that the definition of good depends on the type of photography and the intended audience.

For photojournalism, good is often defined as capturing the right moments with the right people. For fine art photography, good often focuses more on composition, color, and lighting. In portraiture, the use of light and shadow is important as is the subject's pose and surroundings.

A photo that's popular on Flickr might quickly be rejected from a news magazine.

I tend to delete photos with very obvious flaws and keep the rest.

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Every photographer sorts through photos in a different way, what you need to do is to come up with a process or 'workflow' that suits you best depending on the amount of time you have, what you want to do with your photos, etc. What might help you do this is an application such as Apple Aperture or Adobe Lightroom.

I can tell you my workflow and you might be able to base something on that:

  1. On the journey home (if possible) I browse through my photos in camera and delete any which are no good.
  2. When I get back I import them all off the camera (I do this within Lightroom my marking them and flagging them, but you could use folders) and divide them up into 3 categories, ones I like, ones that need some work and ones that are no good. Again the no good ones get deleted.
  3. The ones that need some work I work on, fixing white balance, trying to remove noise etc. I move the ones that are good now into ones I like and delete the others.
  4. I then tag and title the ones I really like and upload them into Flickr (from within Lightroom).

A caveat with regard to deleting on-camera: Please be careful with this, unless a shot is obviously no good at all, e.g. someone stood up and covered the entirety of the field of view just as you hit the release, then I don't advise deleting on camera; viewing on a large screen is the only way to see what's really in an image. [Iain]

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Step 1 is kind of the question, though, isn't it? How do you decide which ones are no good? –  mattdm Jun 17 '11 at 15:45
    
@mattdm, I've taken this as an organisational/workflow type question because of the last paragraph "finding it difficult to sort out". I think if the poster can't decide whether he likes his own photos then we can't help him/her much other than appraising them on a case by case basis. It's personal opinion once you get past issues such as out of focus/too light or dark, etc –  ChrisFletcher Jun 17 '11 at 16:55

The first question you need to answer here is "What is a good picture?", unfortunately this is subjective, and also context-dependent.

Consider, if you will, a blurry photo (for example, due to motion blur, lens shake or just plain out of focus). Is it good or bad? From what I've said so far, who can tell?

If it's a shot from a wedding, from the paid photographer, and supposed to be of "the kiss", then no, it's probably not a good photo (and you may not even be able to bring yourself to look at it).

However, what if it was a photo taken of you with a much-loved relative just before they unfortunately died? Surely, then it would a treasured image?

Of course, the reality is usually nowhere near as extreme as the above examples!

So what you need to bear in mind is what you were trying to capture in the instant you hit the button - did you get this? If so, then it's a good photo. If not, then maybe you captured something else, unexpectedly, and it's still a good photo! If none of the above then perhaps it's bad. But personally I never delete any image I've taken (and I use Canon 5D series bodies, so they are large images!), what I do is archive the raw data, then select the ones I want to edit, then select the ones I want to show. Each selection uses the criteria given at the start of this paragraph.

Lots of people will bang on about balanced histograms, focus points, rule of thirds, depth of field and other such stuff. But many of the best images ever taken have ignored at least one of these points. Remember: The rules are there to make you think before you break them.

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