We’ve all got work that we love, but sometimes that one image doesn’t fit in with the rest. Every image you bring into the world is going to be your baby, but just because you shot it doesn’t mean it’s worthy of inclusion, and just because you like it doesn’t mean it’s good. When everyone with a camera is a photographer, it’s even more important that those of us who call ourselves professionals learn to edit.
Step back. Try your hardest to put the personal attachment aside. You may love it and insist it be included because you know the back-story; you know you had to wake up at 4am to get the perfect light, and wait for that train to go past at just the right time…..but if it’s the weakest image, it needs to go. Image how a stranger will see the work without you there. If the photo didn’t have you to defend it, would it still make the cut?
One of these things is not like the others. Look at the piece in relation to your other work. Maybe you thought you’d shoot a combination of natural light and flash, but they’ve all turned out to be lit naturally….all except for one. It can be hard when you’ve done the work to get the shot, but knowing when something doesn’t fit right is a skill to be practiced.
Ask for a (valued) second opinion. Most people will have something to say about your work, but you don’t have to listen to everyone. Only ask for feedback from people whose opinions you trust, and whose work you respect.
Sometimes less is more. If you need to submit five images, and only have five images, then you’re stuck with what you’ve got. It’s a luxury to be able to leave images out of your final edit; it means you did a lot of work, and have taken the time to ensure that only the strongest images are included.
Keep something back. Having more to choose from generally means a stronger body of work in general. It also means you can tailor the edit to your submission. If your portfolio includes twenty-five portraits of different individuals, and you only get to submit seven, you could have an edit of only women, only seniors, only people with black hair…..you have more options and can choose who sees what.
It can be hard letting things go, but shots that don’t make the edit are great fodder for blogs and tumblr, and sometimes end up working really well on their own. Are you a good editor, or do you need to keep everything you shoot? What tricks do you use to let go?