Less is more, a boy with a grenade and how to improve your portfolio in an instant.

Today I wanted to talk a little bit about image selection. Whether you are a beginner or a pro, curating your images is one of the most important skills you should learn. In the era of digital photography it might be particularly tempting to just take and share loads and loads of images as we don’t have to pay for each exposure/print. With photography, like with many great things in life, less can be more.

Here is a contact sheet from one of my favourite photographers, Diane Arbus, which shows us a glimpse into her creative process behind. The image on the top left is the last image of the boy that Diane took and it is the one she picked.

  Diane Arbus’ contact sheet including Child with Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park. New York City (1962)

Diane Arbus’ contact sheet including Child with Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park. New York City (1962)

Look at the images above carefully. You will probably notice there are a lot of lovely photos of the little boy. There is also quite a few that the boy’s mum would probably really like. The choice that Diane made is not only the most unique image out of all of them, but also shows us how she perceived the World. It is consistent with her other work and illustrates something more universal than the other ones.

If she picked a few other images of the boy and added them to the set, not only would they take away from the best image, but her vision wouldn’t be clear any more.

Every photographer’s creative process is a little bit different. Some people prefer to work slowly and frame their shots carefully. Other people are more dynamic, love to experiment and take chances. Whichever type are you and how many images do you take, doesn’t really matter once you can curate your work afterwards. Sometimes, having a friend, who understands your vision and is geared towards giving you honest, but constructive criticism, can provide valuable insight. I also make sure that at least once a year to get a portfolio review from a photographer that I admire. At the end of the day though, it is better not to rely on someone to do it for you all the time and the sooner you learn how to be firm with your work, the sooner your images will improve.

One last thing to remember is that someone who is browsing your portfolio will always remember the weakest photograph. However annoying that might be, it is just how our brain works so whether are you an avid iPhone snapper or you are preparing to publish a book, always take time to cull your images and be deliberate about the ones you choose to show.