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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.”
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.
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