Why I throw out good photos

“Quality over quantity” is a phrase tossed out flippantly for a multitude of things.

It’s often used to justify limited release products such as designer clothing, extremely high end food, etc. I usually end up thinking: “Well… why can’t we have a large quantity OF quality?” It’s a little bit of the “have your cake and eat it too” mentality, but it is a question worth asking.

The same question can be applied to photography. For an average wedding, I take around 2,000 images, but I only deliver around 400. With portraiture and engagements, I can take hundreds of images, but only deliver about 30. Why not just eliminate the “bad” or out of focus ones and deliver all of the remaining good ones to allow my clients to have as many images as possible?

Here’s the rub: GREAT images lose their magic when surrounded by “good” images.

Human Nature

When we see something new that interests us it has a sort of magical quality to it. For me, that’s seeing a pair of sneakers with unique design, or a trailer for a new video game that has a lot of promise. With photos, especially of ourselves, our ability to be captured by “the magic” can be extremely difficult, since we are SO used to seeing what we look like and we know our flaws very well.

We all tend to judge ourselves more than we do anyone else, especially in photographs. At some point while looking at photos of yourself, you have most likely said something along the lines of “oh I don’t like my hair in that” or “my chin looks weird” or “oh YOU look good in that photo but I don’t…”

Great images can break that pattern and allow you to get lost in the beauty of an image. They make you step away from your own eyes and see yourself the way others see you. This can be a HUGE confidence boost and can make you feel like a new person.

Here’s the catch:

If you see 1 great image, followed by 25 that were a few milliseconds afterwards, the magic begins to fade. The comparison game begins and you start saying, “Oh well… I like my brows in this one… and I like my smile more in this one… OH but this one looks super badass.” 

The burden of choice shouldn’t be on you

“What is the strongest image to tell your story? Which expression dives the deepest into your character? What pose is most flattering on you?”

You shouldn’t have to be thinking about all of these questions when looking at a gallery of your images. These questions are part of my job as a professional photographer and something that I tackle during every editing session. I use my background in directing films combined with the connection that I cultivate with my clients in order to tell a seamless and powerful story.

There is a term in the photography world known as “culling” and it refers to the process of narrowing down your selection of images to the ones you want to deliver to the client.

I “cull” my photos multiple times. First, I go through and pick out every image that hits the criteria of “technically sound, intentional, and feels good.” This leads to a rather large selection. Then I go back through and decide which of a grouping is the most powerful on an emotional level, and keep it.

The great images stay; the “good” ones are thrown away.

The magic of storytelling

Let’s take a look at how this is played out with a wedding I shot recently.

As we were preparing to drive to the venue from the hotel, the groom had a few seconds to himself to sit down and process everything that was happening. I took some photos as we talked. Then we moved to the hallway, where he got a good look at himself in his full outfit, now fully ready to be married. The moment was intense, calm, and ended with a newfound sense of strength. After, we walked to the car more or less in silence.

I ended up delivering 3 images from this entire series of events to my client, despite the fact that I had 3-4 shots per moment that were in focus, and deliverable.

Delivered Image 1

Delivered image 2

Delivered image 3

The gallery could easily have been a large amount of images in an attempt to deliver every single “good” image, for fear that my client may miss out on an expression that they like better. Had I done that, it would have looked like this:

With so many images to process, the story doesn’t progress at the right pace, and you are left looking at what is essentially the same moment over and over again with small variations. The emotion changes so subtly between the images that you aren’t able to feel the event in the same way as you are with only three images. Though it might seem that including all the photos would provide the most accurate representation, rather the opposite occurs. The emotion and sense of importance are lost when the gallery is overrun with too many similar images.

Being selective allows me to do justice to the event by selecting that fraction of a moment that best represents the subject and their story.

If you’d like to see more from this wedding, click here!!!

Your story

There is a large difference between straight documentation and a crafted story. My background in film production and directing has shaped me into a person who cares deeply for how a story arcs, progresses, and impacts its viewers. I use this passion while culling my shoots to re-create the feelings that were present during the event. Each photo I take is a specific choice, and each image I select to deliver is an equally weighed decision, so that when you look at your gallery, you are swept up by the magic and emotion.

The best part is, every story is unique, and every person there experiences it a little differently.

As a photographer, I use my intuition to make choices that result in what I think is the best way to tell your story. The same moment could be captured and your story told very differently by someone else because each person’s perspective and artistry is unique, and that’s what is beautiful about this process. When you look at your images you will be looking not just at documentation but your story as told by someone who loves the craft of storytelling.