Going through some of the Flickr streams this morning, I was on one side glad to see again so many good images that were well shot and inspiring to my photographic work, but on the other side so many that were not really compelling. That alone is probably ok, because not every picture can win an Oskar Barnack award. But what really struck me was the poor selection in some photographers’ photo streams. Uploading ALL images of a street shoot series is not only hiding the potentially good ones among a dozen mediocre ones but worse puts a very negative light on all your work.
I would think that it is a beginner’s mistake that we all have made (and probably still make) in that we are way too hesitant to dismiss images. And it’s understandable. We like to show off what we have done. But what we tend to forget is that others who view our work don’t feel emotionally attached to it, they are very rationally rating our images. And in a world of a myriad of excellent pictures being uploaded to Flickr, Facebook, 500px and others it is impossible to stand out with mediocre ones. If you then hide the one good shot among lots of bad ones no one is going to find your potentially good photo ever.
And worse: even if they had found your one good photograph, the average images in that same series are dragging the quality of your work as a whole down. And the viewer will simply move on to the next photo stream.
So my advice: be far more restrictive and only show the very best of your work. How restrictive you need to be really depends on the way you make photos. For me – I’m very selective in what I actually consider a worthwhile subject before I even raise the camera to my eye, and working with a fully manual Leica there is no trigger-happy photo shooting anyway. So I would normally come back with 15-20 shots from a street shoot of maybe one hour. Out of those images I usually only select one (if any) to be even considered worthwhile editing. That doesn’t mean I would publish it. That rate would go down by half again I’d say. So only one in 30-50 shots would get published, but that is at a very low rate of shooting which is probably not the average photographer. I would reckon that the average street photographer would take 100 or more photos during a one-hour street shoot. Applying the same metric as in my case it would mean only 1 out of 100 images should ever get published.
Another good advice is probably that once you have selected your one shot and you still have doubt whether it is the one – ditch it. Sometimes you come back from a photo shoot and indeed there is not one single image you would feel comfortable enough to show off. And that’s ok – for you and more importantly for your reputation as a photographer. The image to the right is an example that I dismissed half way through editing it. It has nice lighting but it just really doesn’t cut it in my opinion. On top it’s slightly out of focus which then made the final decision.
Let me know how selective you are. Are you applying even more restriction or are you a bit more lax?