Selecting Photographs: What not to show

You’re an aspiring photographer or amateur photographer and want to show the world, or maybe just your relatives what you can do with a  camera and some good ol’ light. But where’s that brilliant photograph in which you’ve managed to time the shot just perfectly? Lost in the quagmire of shots that didn’t make the cut? Here’s one small tip with an illustration to help you out.

As a practice, I never used to carry more than two rolls of film on any photo shoot when I used to shoot on film. With digital, however, I’ve become a bit more careless and have found myself shooting around 200 frames on a reasonably long shoot.

At a recent photowalk, I decided to restrict myself just for the sake of old times, to seventy two frames (or two rolls of film. For those of you who don’t remember, film comes in cassettes of 24 frames and 36 frames, unless you buy some kinds of speciality film). I managed to restrict myself to around 100 frames, but I did find that I was actually watching my framing more carefully.

Here, I’m going to be sharing all the photographs that I took on that day. The shots that didn’t make it into my flickr stream as well as the ones that did make it (some that made it were included purely for sentimental reasons and not any aesthetic value).

Please do note that the pictures above are straight out of the camera and have not been processed at all. What I want you to notice is the promise of a good photograph, or the absence there-of. As you can see, I’ve milked the whole batch of photographs for all that they’re worth, and then went a bit further… with all that, and digital post production, I’ve manage to turn only 10% of the photographs that I took into pieces that may reasonably be put onto people’s walls.

These photographs would never have seen the light of day if events didn’t conspire to bring this post to you today. Everyone would only have seen the pictures you see below (also on my flickr page).

See the difference?


So what is the intention of this long-winded un-necessarily dramatic post? The intention is to show you that you don’t have to post every single photograph that you take. I throw away 90% of my photographs, and I urge you to do the same. Well, not just to throw away 90% of your photos because I say so, but to realise that only some of them have potential and recognise them for what they are: some of your best photographs.

Go through your flickr collections, your family album, your photo drawer and throw the bad pictures away. They’re the ones you don’t show off your photography skills that have bad composition, lighting and telephone poles sticking out of uncle Joe’s head.

By all means, keep the ones that have sentiment attached, but do throw out the ones with bad composition or the ones where big uncle Ben’s butt was stuck in the lens. They’re not going to help show off your photography skills by any means.

I’d love you to share any experiences that you’ve had where a bad selection of photographs have come back later to haunt you. Even otherwise, a nice word wouldn’t hurt.