How to Cull Your Photos

To cull means to cut down; to take your 1,000 photos and then determine which few photos you actually care about.

Culling is “editing”

I like the word “cull”, because too often people get “editing” confused with “post processing”. 

Rather than try to battle for the word “edit”, let us just use the word “cull” when we mean to say:

The art of getting rid of photos you don’t cafe about, in order to keep the photos you actually care about. 

How to choose the best photo of a given scene 

When you’re out shooting, I always encourage you to “work the scene” (shoot lots of different variations of a given scene, in order to make the best possible image). 

This might mean shooting from different angles or perspectives, shooting at different moments (timing), and interacting with your subjects.

For example, in the scene above, I liked the juxtaposition between the homeless man and the injury lawyers. I got close with a 24mm lens, kept shooting, and then the man lifted his hand to cover his face, or perhaps to try to shove the camera away.

Shot three. The last photo.

Anyways, the final photo where his hand is extended and covering his face is the best photo to me, because I prefer that the homeless man is made anonymous, and also with more mystery with the hand gesture:

Shot three. The best photo. 

Let’s take it back, and review all the photos again. 

Let us take things back to the beginning, to analyze how I “worked the scene”:

First photograph. 

This is a tip, 

When you witness a scene you find interesting, start shooting before thinking. 

For example in the above scene, I first noticed the juxtaposition between the homeless man and the advertisement faces in the background:

Photo one. This is what I visualized while I was shooting. 

This is the first photo before the homeless man reacted.

The second photo, the man notices me shooting, and lifts his hand:

Shot two 

Another tip:

When people react to you photographing them, keep shooting. 

I didn’t know how the man would react while I was photographing him, but best to “work the scene” and shoot lots of photos of the scene before determining which photo is best. Because you will never know what the best photo is until you sit down at home, and analyze the photos after you’ve shot them:

Contact sheet: Best photo was the last one. 

Tips how to cull down your photos 

As a modern photographer, you probably have thousands of photos to look through. Photos you shot on your phone, digital camera, film camera, etc. 

Here are some tips on culling down your photos:

  1. When looking at your photos, review them in reverse chronological order (start from your newest photos, and go backwards). Generally speaking, photos you shoot towards the end of a scene are better. Thus, if you look at your photos chronogically backwards, you’re more likely to see the best photo quickly. 
  2. Look at your photos as small thumbnails. This will help you judge your compositions quicker. If a photo has a strong composition as a small thumbnail, it is a strong photo
  3. When in doubt, throw it out: Life is too short to mull over “maybe” photos. You’re going to shoot millions more photos in your lifetime, so don’t get so caught up on photos you feel lukewarm about. 
  4. Generally speaking, a photo is either a “fuck yeah!” or “no”. Only keep photos you have a strong affinity towards. 
  5. If you need help from the photo community, upload it to ARSBETA.COM for honest and anonymous critique on your work. 

As a photographer you’re constantly in a state of flux. Allow yourself to change and evolve. Keep shooting, and never stop.



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