Choosing Just the Right Photo
I am supposed to be working on my taxes right now...but I thought I would write a blog post instead, because procrastinating a little longer will surely ease my stress about getting everything done. Right?
Imagine you went out to photograph something, (a bird maybe?), and you took a thousand pictures of it that day. How would you begin to even choose which ones to share on social media or print out for your enjoyment? For a lot of people, the sheer work of looking through all those photos and choosing one seems completely overwhelming. Most people don't take quite that many photos of one subject, but the process of sorting through pictures can still seem daunting.
Here is how I go about it:
Every day that I do photography, that night I transfer all the photos from my memory card to an external hard drive attached to my computer. (Because I take so many pictures, I don't put them all on my actual computer drive or it would be filled up in a week.) Doing it right away means I don't have pictures building up for days or weeks at a time. After transferring the photos, I quickly scan through all of them, and as I do, I copy the ones I might actually want to edit/save/print into a separate folder. I do not take time to delete the "bad" pictures from the hard drive because deleting is slow, and for this part of the process I need to save time.
As I look through each photo, I immediately analyze the picture for a few things. Is it sharp? Is the background clean or cluttered? Is the subject (bird!) looking towards or away from me? Are the eyes open or closed? Is there some action, scenery, or story, or is it just a simple portrait? Is the picture properly exposed? Using these criteria, I can easily eliminate (sadly) many of the photos. Once you do this a few times, it gets faster and you automatically know what you are looking for. These same guidelines could be used for other types of photography, or you can make up your own. By deciding what is important to you in a photograph, you can quickly determine if a picture has those things or not.
Finally, I am left with a folder with a much smaller pool of possible candidates. Then it becomes much easier to look through the folder and find my favorites.
Just for fun, here are a few photos that didn't make the cut, and why...
I liked the way the feathers were fanned out as the Hooded Merganser preened, but ultimately I didn't choose it because I felt the head was turned too much to the back and the eye is looking away.
This picture shows the mating behavior of the male Merganser, but it was really too far away to be a great picture, and the female is basically ignoring him. (Which is one kind of story, but not the one I wanted.)
I liked seeing the pair of Mergansers together, but there is way too much stuff in the background and in the water for my taste. Although I could crop out more of the top and clean up the water a little bit, it felt like too much work for what the end result would be.
Finally, the picture I chose to edit (at least for now) is this male Hooded Merganser with his hood at maximum fluffiness. It was close enough to get good detail, sharp, and not too much distraction in the background.