Photo Selection

Digital photography has rekindled my enjoyment of taking pictures. Back in high school I enjoyed the process of capturing images of everyday life, but after a while it seemed a bit too solitary. Meaning that I could take the pictures and process them, but usually it was only for myself since it was rare that anyone outside of family would see the shots.

Of course, Flickr has changed that. It connects you with others interested in photography and promotes interaction between members. And the amount of exposure your images get is only limited by how much exposure (groups, tags, comments, etc.) you want to or are able to give it.

My renewed interest in photography is now reflected in the fact that I carry my SLR around with me as much as possible. In any given week I can take a hundred or so photos. Though within that there are probably only a dozen or two dozen different composed shots. I tend to take multiple exposures of the same shot and do the same for dark handheld shots in order to be sure to get the image I’m hoping for. On vacation, the number of shots jumps an average of 200 per day.

Now my philosophy with posting photos to Flickr is that I limit myself to one shot per day. There are two reasons for that. First, it allows each shot it’s time in the sun. It allows regular followers of my photos to check out the few photos I post in a week in case they only check my photo stream once in that time. If I posted multiple shots per day, they would have to wade through all those shots. I find it’s quite similar to blogs. If I am following a dozen or more blogs, I likely will only be able to read each of them once a week. If a blog posts three items a day, it would be very difficult for me to keep up if I hope to read everything they post. When time is limited, I have a bad habit of skipping those blogs that post very often. I think the same happens on Flickr. The second reason is personal. I don’t really have the time to process and post more than one photo per day. As it is, that is even been a bit much lately. Now, I could post fewer photos per week, but I find that one per day is a nice rhythm and fewer would put more importance on the few shots I do post and I don’t think they are worthy of that. I have a rather elaborate process to choose photos that I’ve developed over the past couple years. It takes time, but I still feel it produces the best images for public enjoyment. If you’re interested (and are not bored easily), here is the process:

Each of our cameras allow a prefix to be added to photo files as they are downloaded from the camera. So all my shots have the prefix of the date. The first step of the selection process is to separate the photos by theme into different folders. Generally these themes are geographic like “canada”, “quebec”, or “the states”. Some are items like “cars”, “winter”, or “nature”. While there are compound ones like “chicago-buildings”, “montreal-signs”, or “europe-paris”. Currently there are 27 different folders, but that number changes from time to time. The idea is to generally have folders that contain between 30 and 125 photos since that size provides a good size pool from which to choose photos.

Now that the photos are sorted, it is time to start choosing the worthy photos. Each folder has a “top” subfolder and a “tiptop” subfolder. First photos of average quality are moved up to the “top” subfolder. The remaining photos are archived. This generally leaves a quarter of the initial number of photos. Then a quarter of the photos in the “top” folder are chosen to move up to the “tiptop” folder. There are usually between 6 and 25 photos in this folder. A selection will be made from this pool of photos to be posted on Flickr.

All of these folders and the number of photos in their content is kept track of by a master spreadsheet (forgive me, I’m an engineer.) This spreadsheet also keeps track of when the last time a photo from each folder was posted to Flickr. A pecking order has been created so that when each week comes up, I know which folders to choose from for that week. One photo from each of those folders is chosen.

Over the past few months I’ve decided to create a pool of 15 chosen photos per week. It is usually at that point that I actually process the photos adjusting the contrast, adjusting the saturation, and cropping them. I don’t usually do any photoshop retouching. Then I rank the photos and ask my wife, who is the real artist in the family, to do the same. I combine the two in order to create a composite ranking. So what you see posted is generally the result. The best on Sunday night while the seventh best is posted Saturday night. Those that don’t make the cut are either carried over to see how they fare against the next batch or are returned to the folder. I do make exceptions over the weekend, usually posting other shots that I find interesting but don’t have as much artistic value.

Lastly, for the blog I post the best photos as ranked by Flickr’s interestingness ranking. I use a simple tag which gives me yet another pool of shots to choose from. Though in this regard, it’s the Flickr members who give me guidance over which shots are better.

So there you have it. My rather involved process of selecting photos for public consumption. It all sounds rather long, but in reality it takes about an evening per week. Though some of the maintenance of it happens during other free time like waiting at doctors offices or in airports. It sounds tedious, but I’ve found that it produces results that I’m happy with.

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~ by Frank on February 21, 2009.

2 Responses to “Photo Selection”

  1. I agree with you, a website like flicr.com is really cool. It changes our world and how we interact with.

  2. I need a system! all mine are categorized by month only. Though your method seems like a lot of work. I am the same way with blogs that post several times a day.

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