Photo Culling: Beyond the Technical

If you’ve ever had a client order a massive canvas of a photo you included in your delivered images because you liked the “feeling” of it (or because it captured a “moment”), in spite of the fact that it was technically imperfect, or worse, technically bad, then you know how important a good culling workflow can be.
There are plenty of articles available online that discuss the technical aspects of culling, but for this piece, we’d like to focus on the emotions. What makes a good photographer a great one is often the emotional attachment we feel to the images we create, a double-edged sword when it comes to deleting some of those images from the finished products you present. Though you might have strict technical guidelines in your head for the images you’ll allow past the cut, when your finger is hovering over the button, it can be hard to send an image into oblivion.

Bridal party photo placed on an album

Photo by Cory + Jackie

Consider the Story You’re Telling

All weddings, and many sessions, will have an overarching storyline, and for most weddings, several subplots you can follow with your camera as the day progresses. Watching for those stories and being committed to capturing them is your first step in easing your culling process, and then being okay with removing images that don’t fall into those storylines is the second. If you’re going to include an image that doesn’t fit the story/stories, then that image must be able to tell it’s own story without explanation.  

Eliminate Duplicates

Limit yourself to no more than three similar images of the same moment. Presenting 15 slightly different versions of the bride gazing lovingly at her groom will only overwhelm her when it comes time to place her order, especially if the differences aren’t obvious to an untrained eye. Resist the urge you have to notice those tiny differences in light, composition, focus and facial expression. No one looks at your images as closely as you do.

Ask Why

When an image is right on your dividing line for technical factors, consider why you want to keep it. Is it the only image you managed to catch of a big, once in a lifetime moment? (The author of this piece has only one out of focus, yellow toned image of the big kiss on her wedding day) Does it punch you right in the gut with feelings? What about it is drawing you to it, and will it draw your client in the same way?

What If Everyone Sees It

Your last consideration in letting a technically imperfect image make the cut is to consider if you’re going to be comfortable with it blown up on a canvas, prominently posted in your client’s home, and acting as your business card for their friends and family. For some photographers, the feeling of an image is more important, so this won’t matter. But if it will matter to you, cull it before your couple falls in love with it.
Do you have any tried and true culling tips? We’d love to hear them!



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