Editing photographs can be tough when deciding which ones to keep. Here are some photographer tips on making strategic choices to keep the best ones.

You’re going to come back from photo trips with lots of pictures. If you’re not careful, you’ll soon be drowning in pictures, unable to find the ones you really need while storing and managing those that you don’t want. The secret to easy picture management is to toss out, reject/archive or delete as many as you can. At first, this is going to feel like sacrificing your first-born child. Believe me: It gets easier as you go. With experience, your skill level increases. The more you photograph a certain subject, the better your pictures of that subject will be. At that point, it becomes much easier to throw out or delete your earlier images. (You may just want to hide them from view so you don’t actually throw them away. Some people feel strongly about this – I do not.)

Some photographers have a flow chart method of editing. They edit in several passes for exposure, then sharpness, then composition, then subject. The first two elements are easy to judge. A photograph is either well exposed or it’s not. A photograph is either in focus or it’s not. Judging composition and subject quality is a bit harder.

If you photograph people or animals, you may also want to make your selections based on pose. Subject and pose are the next easiest to judge.

                                     Photo credit: Scott Bourne

Here are reasons for tossing a picture:

• Closed eyes
• Tongue out
• Merges
• Bad crops
• Bad backgrounds
• Unflattering viewpoint
• Bad light
• Subject looking away


Next, examine composition. At this point, you’ve taken out those pictures with technical and obvious aesthetic problems. Now is where it gets tough. Unless there are pictures you absolutely don’t like, the best strategy is to just keep what you have left and revisit them in a few weeks, a few months, or next year.

My most valuable tip concerning editing is to learn by evaluating what went right and what went wrong. Study your pictures for ideas on what to try in the future. You’ll learn the most from the photos that are almost, but not quite there. These are pictures that are otherwise great except for one or two really nagging flaws. You’ll learn from and not likely repeat these mistakes. When you come across images with flaws, resist the temptation to simply delete them. Keep them around for awhile and let them get under your skin.

Once you have your keepers, make sure that you rate them (stars, numbers, colors whichever you like) and then most importantly key word them so you can find them later.

BONUS TIP: Sometimes it’s best to let the images sit for a while so don’t make your final cuts until you’ve let at least a day pass – that way your eyes are fresher.