What to leave in, what to leave out

One of the biggest struggles I had when launching the new web site was which photos to add and which to leave out. On one hand, you want to put every “good picture” you’ve taken (at least in your opinion) to showcase everything, but then every book or site from experienced photographers says to limit your work to show the type of photos that you want to be known for (or sell).

The internal psychological process that I went through was interesting. I began to realize that each photo was like a child – how could I possibly choose between them? Each had meaning behind it – whether it was the effort that I had to put in to getting it, some personal memory, etc. That made it all the more difficult.

I needed to disassociate myself and try to look at things from a third-person perspective. The questions I asked myself were:

1. What type of photography was I going to put on the site? I have varied interests, so I wanted to show that. Unfortunately, everything I read said that was a bad idea. I remember watching portfolio critiques by Zack Arias and listening to the excellent Lenswork podcasts by Brooks Jensen, each talking about having a focus and intent to your portfolio.

2. How many photos would I put on the site? I wanted to show a range, but not too many. Scott Kelby mentioned how he wanted to see what a certain photographer was all about and was pointed to a Flickr portfolio which has several hundred images. He finally gave up. I decided on no more than 20 in each portfolio. If you can’t see what I’m all about by then, I’m not doing my job.

3. How would I structure the site to showcase those photos best?
The ideal solution would have been a site for my art images and a separate site for my travel images. I thought long and hard about that and finally decided to have both. The reason being that it reflects who I am at this point in my life. The nice thing about web sites is that they can evolve and change, and I’m sure mine will too. It will likely evolve into two separate sites with, perhaps, a blog for each. But for now, this will do.

Now the hard part – selecting the images.

I am seriously hard on myself (the Virgo in me, I suppose). I decided that, for the art images, if it didn’t follow my intended style (impressionistic, moody, emotional) I’d leave it out. That meant leaving out some photos that I’m very proud of but didn’t really fit the style I wanted to convey. This is an absolutely agonizing process.  Try to do it over a few days or weeks rather than one sitting.

The image at the top of this post is one of them. If you see it larger, it’s a nice study in shapes, shadows and tones. I was home sick one day and noticed the light coming through the blinds. I couldn’t resist making a few photos (in fact I took dozens) and had a blast, despite being sick.
But, as you can see, it really doesn’t “fit” anywhere on my site.

So my advice would be: Does it fit the style you want to convey? If yes, put it in the “possible” folder. Then look at that collection and see what doesn’t fit. Edit ruthlessly. If it isn’t a slam dunk in your mind – if you’re waffling at all – leave it out.

Then go back and revisit every few months. I’m sure I’ll go back after a while and say “What was I thinking?” but by then I’ll hopefully have better ones to replace it.

Is mine perfect? No, but I decided that it’s perfect for me at this point in my life.

Now…rinse, repeat.


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