First step of editing is culling

Spraying bug spray for protection during the parade for Corps Day Weekend at The Citadel in Charleston, SC. [Nikon D3, Sigma 120-300mm, 2X, ISO 200, ƒ/4, 1/1250]
“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” ― Mark Twain

Too many photographers do not spend enough time editing their photos. Editing has many different stages of the process. The very first step is that of culling. I just want to address culling today for this blog.

Culling is used as describing the process of reducing the population of (a wild animal) by selective slaughter.

While there are maybe more definitions I think this one will help you remember you will take the entire shoot and narrow it down to the keepers.

Nick Saban on the sidelines during the Chick-fil-A Kickoffgame between Alabama and West Virginia. [Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, 2X, ISO 20000, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000]
When I am using PhotoMechanic as my editing tool after I ingest all the photos the first thing I do is go one-by-one and look at each image full screen size. I then press the “T” key to keep the ones that are:

  1. In focus
  2. Well Exposed
  3. Good or great moment – If I have a series of a sports play I may only keep 2 or 3 of 20 to 30 images of a play.
  4. Can see faces/No back of heads – If someone starts to turn away from me or someone block them I don’t keep those that you cannot see their faces.
  5. Good expressions – When people are giving a speech for example I eliminate those awkward expressions. The same as avoiding people putting food in their mouth. No blinks of the important people in the photo.

Couple doing a selfie with a camera. [Nikon D5, 28-300mm, ISO 110, ƒ/11, 1/100]
After I have tagged the keepers I then select all the untagged photos and delete them. For an event this may well be 80% of the photos. For studio portraits more about 20% will be deleted.

Too many photographers often think this is the only photo I have of someone and I don’t want to leave them out. So they put up on their social media or gallery for people to see an out of focus, back of the head, and bad exposed photo so that the person knows they took their photo.

Ed Bastian, president of Delta Airlines, getting selfie with lady at Delta headquarters in Atlanta, GA. [Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 3200, ƒ/5.6, 1/50]
It is much easier to just take photos and then post everyone you took than taking the time to go through and eliminate all the photos that would never be published by a client. If you can’t imagine a commercial client taking your photo and putting it up on a billboard to sell their product due to focus, exposure and seeing the people’s faces then don’t put it up on social media.

Former President Jimmy Carter meets with the The President of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández, at the Carter Center in Atlanta, GA. [Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/50]
More people will have the opportunity to see your photo published on social media than will ever drive by the billboard, so get rid of anything that shouldn’t be published for the world to see.

Ring Day at The Citadel. [Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 1000, ƒ/13, 1/250]
There are two main reasons to edit your photos to the best ones and get rid of all those that shouldn’t be published.

First reason is treating people with honor, dignity and respect. If you publish a photo of a person that they will regret being of them, then you have done damage to them. Now I will admit sometimes there are photos that people don’t like of themselves even if they are wonderful photos of them. There are just some people that wouldn’t like any photo.

[Nikon D3S, 85mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 640, ƒ/1.4, 1/640]
There is a second reason to cull a photo out of your take–Your Reputation!

You want to think of you as a photographer and not a hack. We use this to describe poor golfers as well. But you don’t want to have the reputation as a hack when it comes to photography.

You want people to invite you to their events and not to tell you to come but leave your camera at home.

Humming Birds at feeder. [Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm, 2X, ISO 6400, ƒ/10, 1/2000]

Colossians 4:5

Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.