The importance of editing

Some readers may have noticed a slight change in the rules to the monthly Readers Photo Challenge. A limit on the number of entries has been added. Most photo contests have some sort of limit to the submissions they receive.

Some cap the entries at a certain number. Other contests will have an entry fee which helps to keep numbers down because most people can only afford to send in so many pictures. And some do both.

The reasoning to the limit is so that the judges don’t have to go through the time-consuming process of looking through hundreds or even thousands of photos that may or may not hold any promise. If a set of photos are sent into a contest that are of the same or similar scene with on minor variations in small details, a judge may eliminate the whole lot of them from contention

Such limits emphasize the importance of editing your photos. Photo editing can be a skill and art unto itself in photography.

It is said that a portfolio of work is only as good as its worst picture. I have seen portfolios that have been tightly edited and very strong in their presentation. I have also seen others in which everything but the kitchen sink was thrown in and the good photos were lost amongst the clutter of mediocre ones.

When editing a photo story, not only does one have to pick the best pictures but ones that have a flow and harmony that tells a narrative together.

Every photographer has their own preferences to a photo editing workflow. The way I do it is to first cull out the obvious rejects: the out-of focus or badly exposed pictures. In the second round, I weed out the ones that are clearly poorly composed: ones that are too far away/too close, or ones that have cluttered and distracting backgrounds/foregrounds. Then I look for content: Does the subject have good expressions/body language and does it tell the story that I’m trying to convey. It’s from that last group that I pick the best of the best.For contests the editing process is similar. I usually enter contests for photos that have been shot over the previous year. I pick out my favorites, usually for several different catagories, then carefully cull them down to just the cream of the crop.

It’s always hard near the last steps because by definition they should all be pretty good by then. Choosing them can be like picking which child is your favorite.

That’s why you have to look at them with a dispassionate eye. It’s easy to be swayed by one aspect of a photo that you like – lighting, composition, expression, subject matter – and ignore something else that might be substandard. A top pick – one to be submitted to a contest or portfolio – should have all elements come together with little or no compromise.

The number of photos for the readers challenge is now limited to 12. It’s still allows you to send in multiple photos but it will also give you a chance to show of your editing skills as well.

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