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Culling images for a portfolio

culling images

I get asked this question every week. So many photographers struggle with culling images for a portfolio, either for their website, for a marketing piece, or for a pro application. This process is both complicated and simple.

What is it you struggle with? Because if the actual process of making time to sit and evaluate your images is where you are caught up, none of this will help. Live life, do what you need to do, and come back to this step when you’re ready. It will take time.

Here is a small excerpt on portfolio curation and culling images from Week 3 of Introspection & Analysis, a workshop I teach through In Beauty & Chaos :

Portfolio Curation and Culling Images

What is your application? Knowing exactly what your goals are from this set will determine what images you start with, and what images you end with.

Reasons to prepare a portfolio or set of images:

  • website
  • marketing piece
  • pro application
  • gallery submission
  • blog post
  • client session
  • photographer feature
  • and really, many many more

What are the requirements for this application?

  • Are there criteria for the images, specifically technical criteria
  • Is there a specific amount of images required
  • What genre or subject will be needed, will a separate gallery be required for each genre?
  • What is the general theme or mood of this set
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • What are you looking to do, or gain, or share?
  • How do you want this to be received, what is the end reaction?
  • How will these images be presented?
    • Will the images be full size, thumbnails, or a cropped preview
    • Will the flow, order and arrangement matter

Reasons to include images:

  • is either a technically sound, or emotionally appealing image.
  • is a good representation of you, your voice, and your consistent imagery.
  • is aligned with your objectives
  • is fit for your intended audience
  • will attract your ideal client
  • will add to the cohesiveness of the set and not detract

But you LOOOOOOOOVE it! Nope. Not on the list. Not unless you’re making a portfolio OF your favorite images. Keep an objective mind, if you can’t separate yourself from images easily try writing down what it is you like about the image, consider the strengths and weaknesses of the image.

Are you culling images specifically for client work?

  • Is the image of a genre that you currently shoot? (Maternity, newborn, indoor/outdoor, etc)
  • Does the image represent your current work, style, and vision?
  • Is the image emotional appealing?
  • If this was your image would you blow it up to put in your home?
  • Is this an image that you want to continue to shoot?
  • Does the image represent the clients you are looking to attract?

Are you working on a pro application submission? That’s where it gets a little more tricky. I wrote a post about my process of applying for pro in another blog.

  • First, you’re looking at a specific set of criteria. Download the rubric and read what you are being judged on.
  • Second, make sure you’ve read the rubric. I really can’t stress this enough, it lays out so much of what is required and what to avoid.
  • Third. Look through your photos and rate them against that rubric
  • Avoid common flaws like chopped limbs, unjustified center compositions, tilted horizons, shooting up noses, blown highlights, clipped blacks, improper white balance, among many others.
  • Lastly, don’t be lazy! If you’re not going to take the time to look through your images carefully you better hope you have some great friends to do it. You pay the judges to do it, and they’ll do it alright– they will give a score, and possibly some feedback depending where you’ve applied, but by then it’s too late and you’ll be waiting 90 days to reapply.

Want more assistance?

  • Find or start a prep group
  • Hire a mentor
  • Take a workshop that will help you

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  • February 15, 2016 - 2:18 pm

    Penelope - Thanks Courtney. I am getting worse at culling client sessions and I am also hoping to curate a few sets for various things like applying for Offset and an exhibit in my local community gallery. This is a super helpful post.ReplyCancel

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