How to Cull Your Images to Tell a Stronger Story in Your Blog or Social Media Posts

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I have this photographer friend. This person is wildly talented, with impeccable images and an amazing eye. I love seeing what she is going to create next until she puts up a blog post. So let’s talk about how and why to cull your images.

These posts are usually a long, meandering wander through her shoots, with no thought to tell a story. Images that you swear are repeats – until you look closely and realize the model’s left pinky finger has maybe moved ever so slightly. Blurry shots that should have been culled in the first round. It boggles my dang mind to look at these posts because we as photographers should know better.

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You are better served to share your images in a way that compels viewers to keep coming back for more. While I may not be a pro-level blogger, I still think it’s an excellent way to share your images, and there are a few tricks that I always try to keep in mind as I’m putting together a blog post.

Step 1: Be Brutal

Think about this from the viewer’s perspective. They weren’t at the shoot. So how can you tell them the story in a concise way that shows off your best work? To do this, you have to be brutal. Cull like a maniac, and then cull some more.

Does it hurt to eliminate images that you love from the narrative of your post? Yep, it’s like choosing your favorite child, but you gotta shrink down the number of images you share. You must. Beyond the obvious culling— things like strange facial expressions, awkward hands, etc., there are so many photographers who feel they need to share each and every image that they love. Unfortunately, this is a good way to head straight to Boring Postville.

Do not share the same scene, and the same pose five times in a row! The viewer’s eye will get bored and start to skip over. Your goal is for each new image to draw the eye, and surprise the viewer in some way. If the images start blurring together, the surprise element is gone and you’ve lost their interest. Be brutal in editing: your posts will thank you.

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Lovely people, lovely images, but they’re so much alike and it’s killing me softly. These do not both need to be in a post together.

Step 2: Change Your Perspective

If you were an invisible spy at the photo shoot, how would you absorb all the information of the day? You’d start far away and move in closer. Too many posts start with the super-tight ring shot, or the close up of the hand on the face, and the viewer is left wondering subconsciously, “How did we get here?”

So aim to tell your story from the perspective of someone who was peeking over your shoulder. A great example is a wedding day. You don’t start a wedding day with the big dramatic first kiss, right? Set your scene. Show the viewer your location. Introduce them to the setup, then move in close to get the detail shots. It’s a much closer proximation to the reality of the day, and it helps our brains understand what’s going on when we’re viewing it on a computer after the fact.

Start broad.

Start broad.

Then move in for more detail...

Then move in for more detail…

... and then even more detail.

… and then, even more detail.

From there, remember to include varying visual perspectives. If you’ve already shared a couple’s full-body portraits, don’t overdo it with the same angle. Move into a closeup of their faces, or a detail of their outfits. Or share a different detail from the day altogether. But for the love of Richard Avedon, please don’t share a dozen nearly-identical photos! Find a new perspective, and make it memorable.

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Far away!

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Close up! And it’s unique enough of a perspective, that including this shot rounds out the story of the previous one.

Step 3: Tell the Truth – Kind of

My favorite Emily Dickenson line is, “tell all the truth but tell it slant.” This is advice straight from a poet to a photographer, so use it wisely. Friends, there is no grand blog court that has ruled that you must share every image, from every scene, in every shoot. YOU are the artist, and YOU get to decide how you’re going to tell the truth! Let’s not squander that freedom! You’re an artist, and you can unfold a story in the most artistic way you deem worthy. Here’s what you do NOT have to do:

  • Share images in the precise order you shot them.
  • Share images from the scenes or poses that you wanted to try but didn’t quite work (and hey, good job trying new stuff!).
  • Share images the client asked you to take that don’t totally represent your vision or your brand.
  • Share images that don’t progress the story you want to tell.

The science of photography is that you always get to tell the truth. The art of photography is that you can tell it slant. Play that line because you can.

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Step 4: Stay in the Flow

So, now that you’ve culled only the very best of your images, laid them out in a compelling story, shared your artistic skill with the world, and put together a bomb post, make sure the little details aren’t subtly throwing shade onto your creation.

Step away from your computer, go for a walk, have a glass of wine, do you… and then come back to review what you’ve written, shared, and how it all comes together. Try to have fresh eyes.

Is anything too repetitive? Do your shots flow together? Do your black and white images land in places throughout the post that make sense? If you include captions, do they add or detract from the overall effect of your story? These little details can take a post from good to truly excellent, so make sure you give your post another look before you click “Publish.”

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What are your tips for culling photos for a great social media or blog post? What are your big no noes? I’d love to hear them.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Laura Sullivan splits her time between the Pacific Northwest, Chicago, and the open road. She shoots with her husband, Tim Sullivan, and their company Sullivan and Sullivan Photography. Together, they shutterbug around the globe and run retreats for creatives in the most beautiful places they find. Keep up with their travels at sullivanandsullivan.photography, on Instagram, or on Facebook.

  • ShotbyJake

    Step 5: Avoid using tilt shift. Or if you MUST use it, def don’t use it more than once.

  • Laura Sullivan

    to each his own! and you may note that those are multiple weddings as well 😉

  • ShotbyJake

    I guess you are right. But in a tutorial about diversifying/strengthening content in one’s SM posts, it seems a bit ironic to twice use such a kitschy and fringe technique. Just my opinion.

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  • elmer

    My friend asked me to do some pre-wedding shoot. Here’s the link, comments are welcome: http://www.elmersworld.com/2016/08/09/rs/

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  • Doug Luke

    I am not a professional photographer but I think a number of your photos would be improved with a tighter crop.
    Photo 2 maybe a square crop the bottom edge in line with waistcoat pockets
    Photo 11 I like this picture but the edges are distracting especially the dark shadow by the rock. Crop left edge upto tree trunk top edge where branch crosses that trunk and right edge through rock to loose the water and that shadow.
    Photo 8 I like their faces and the pose. I wanted a much tighter crop on their faces I would be tempted to try a heart shaped frame the base just below her elbow the centre top just above their heads as the cover shot. The numbers looked really great in photo3 the low angle with couple out of focus made that picture I also liked the together since 20 03 idea.
    I spent 5 minutes looking at the last picture as I couldn’t work out why it “felt” wrong. The combination of her pose and the steps make the picture appear to lean to the right.
    If she was kissing him the lifted heels and the lean into his body would make sense . Maybe feet flat bodies touching upto their waists her upper half leaning away to form a Y shape like tango dancers in a promenade position.
    I hope these comments have been helpful

  • thanks luke!
    will keep all your comments for future!

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