Thursday, August 8, 2019


We just returned from a two week holiday visiting family out east. I decided to experiment and just shoot, shoot, shoot. Burn them 1s and 0s.

So now I have 1400 photographs, very few of which are outright trash (and, I dare say, only a couple are truly excellent) and I am attempting to smash this down to, I don't know, maybe 50 plus of minus. This is horrible. How do people do this? People shoot weddings and come back, allegedly, with 1000s of exposures. They shoot a huge pile of corporate headshots, cranking them out like some demented machine, and go home with 1000 exposures, and then they bash this down to size.

How on earth does one bear it?

I mean, I'll get through it, but good god this is drudgery.


  1. I could do it for you in a couple hours, heh. It's the way I do things record a lotta pixels - click-click-click = a bunch of fairly random 1's and 0's, and then I look at them and that's when the images actually emerge from the random morass - crap-crap-crap-crap-crap-meh-crap-crap-crap-meh-meh-crap-crap-oh...almost!-crap-crap-crap-crap-crap-crap-meh-almost-crap-crap-crap-OH HEY thats OK-crap-crap-crap-meh-crap (that's actually close to my ratio, really)... be strong on what you're trying to communicate, have the story in yer head... ID the duplicates, toss all but one (unless duplication is a story itself)... there are probably five or six or eight different stories in there. Build a couple now, and then look for the other stories later. Bright crazy colour, natural beauty, kids being cute and its cousin Klassik Vakayshun and its other cousin the travelogue or day-by-day documentary, portrait-worthy, your brand of quirk, architecture, the stunning top ten, try this into B&W (or, crap, maybe you shoot in B&W 1's & 0's??! I dunno)... folders are yer friend [stone seal]

  2. In the case of weddings and other commercial work, culling the images is just part of the job. If you want to get paid, you just have to do it. Lots of jobs, even the most interesting ones, have moments of drudgery. But yeah, it's boring. Music and good coffee help. Also, sometimes it does the brain good to just pursue some mindless task. At least when it's personal stuff, there isn't an annoying deadline looming.
    The other thing is that after you're done, the fact that you had to throw away most of what you shot can be educational, but it is certainly humbling, which we're told is good for us. :)
    1400 is about the number of pics I'll take at a day's set of bicycle races. Seeing the failures can sometimes lead me to change my technique to avoid them in the future, but I keep finding new ways to screw up anyway. Is this progress?
    Music and coffee.

  3. Shoot film.

    You can thank me later.

  4. I second the shoot film idea. As a digital shooter who started with film, I go out for a day's shoot and have between 50 maybe 75 exposures, tops. My friends have hundreds. What am I doing wrong?

    1. The film guys can dig holes just as deep, or deeper, it just takes dedication! Winogrand famously left behind a lot of film, and even the more organized street shooters would often shoot a few rolls a day, every day. I shot the equivalent of less than 3 rolls a day. It's just that I didn't DO anything with them for 2 weeks, so they piled up.

  5. I think this is expected, Amolitor. I would be surprised that the ratio of kept/left photography is much lower now than it was before. There are tons of film negatives that are left in the archives of many famous photographers. My ratio is about 10%, not more. Because there are ma,y trials "just to see", and many shots of the same scene in order to keep the best one(s) of the series. It is fast when you are used to it : you are very selective and you do not loose time with inferior shots when you make the final selection. I cannot speak for others, this is just the way I do it and it works. You just have to get used to it.

  6. The point is not that film is somehow superior -- it isn't. If you take too many shots, slow the fuck down. Spend more time evaluating the scene than mashing the shutter button. Pretend you have a large-format camera and use a tripod, at least until you acquire some framing discipline.

  7. Last year I was asked to be the photographer for an event that I've participated in for 25 years. Events are definitely not my thing, but I said yes anyway. I ended up with 1200-some-odd photos, I dealt with them like this:

    First pass, trash all the obvious bad ones, gave one star to anything that might be useful. I wasn't too critical at this point, i.e. if I had two of more or less the same thing and they're both in focus and properly exposed, they both got a star. Getting through the whole lot in the shortest amount of time was my goal; I ended up with about 500 one stars.

    Second pass, gave the good ones two stars. This pass took the most time, because this was where I was making critical judgements. About 250 two stars.

    Third pass, the really good ones got three stars. This seemed easy compared to the other two, because I was pretty familiar with the images, and I was starting from a much smaller set. My goal was to have a hundred or so to hand off to the organization, and I ended up with 118. Close enough, I'm done, off they go. They wanted crops and exposure tweaks on some of those, but it was less than half, so not particularly onerous. The whole thing took less than a week, working an hour here and an hour there, maybe 10-12 total, though I didn't keep track.

    If you're aiming for 50, you could either make another pass, or be more draconian on the third pass.

  8. People suggesting the use of film seem to forget that film backs with as many as 250 pictures were available in the 70s and quite popular with sport photographers or that Robert Frank took 23000 images for "The Americans"...