How I Choose a Photograph

Choose a Photo Image 2

If you read last week’s post you would know that I have a bunch of projects in the making. A large part of my job is editing the thousands of images that are attached to any one project. Choosing the right photograph from a scene or a series of scenes that are all related can be the make or break to getting an image published or more importantly a happy client. Typical day shoots for me will produce anywhere from 1000 to 3000 images. Some of these could be a series of images created from a motor drive sequence, while others could be entirely different compositions with entirely different stories attached. So how do I choose a photograph? And how do I complete this crazy editing task efficiently enough to feel like the editing process isn’t a complete and total burden?

If you are a subscriber to my newsletter you already know that I use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom exclusively to edit and process my photographs. And you already know why I believe this software to be the absolute best for what I am producing these days. Prior to writing this post, I edited, processed, and finalized all the metadata for a 13,000 image edit on mountain biking in the Tetons. It took me 8 hours to complete this entire process and I am now moving on to the next project – 4000 images for the State of Wyoming.

So Lightroom gives me the necessary tools to work extremely fast, but the hardest part for me, is making the decision on what photograph to choose. This is something that has come with practice, but it also has come via research. I know what is out there from an image perspective. I know who my competition is, what they are producing, and that gives me the opportunity to look for something different.

A few weeks back I photographed a project for a local non-profit. Their assignment was to travel on one of their snow coach tours to Yellowstone National Park and produce a series of images documenting the day. They wanted everything from participants interacting with the guide to the scenery that I witnessed, taken from a creative perspective. All the imagery was going to be used to further promote the tours in the future. I am going to look at a series of images for a hunting red fox that we came across on our journey home and discuss why I chose the final image files that I submitted to the client.

Choose a Photo Image 1
Image # 1
Choose a Photo Image 2
Image # 2

 Image One & Two

We pulled up to the red fox listening to what is going on under the snow (#1). He was looking for dinner. I took an image immediately to begin documenting what was going on. I paid attention to the fox’s body language and took another photograph (#2). Now we already know what is going to happen next. Right?

Choose a Photo Image 3

Image Three

The fox pounced on his dinner. In my opinion there is nothing wrong with any of the first three images. The problem is that we have all seen and photographed this behavior before. Nothing really spectacular, but I have at least created photographs for my client documenting what we have seen. Ok great let’s see what happens next…

Choose a Photo Image 4

Image Four

The fox continued his hunt. Now he came to the front of the snow coach. I quickly switched lenses figuring if he is going to jump again, I am going to try and get him with the logo of the company on the hood of the snow coach. Sure enough, vole number 2 got eaten. He then crossed the road in front of me.

Choose a Photo Image 5

Image Five

He continued stalking prey. And I shot a different pose that I haven’t seen of a red fox. Plus he is so close, that my viewer can see the detail and how beautiful this animal truly is. That is definitely a keeper. But this guy wasn’t done yet. He finally crossed back over the road to where this all began and the shot that ties everything together is about to happen…

Choose a Photo Image 6

Image Six

The fox circled back around and headed back up on the hill where we initially spotted him. I again switch lenses. This time I have the making of a story. The fox went into his jumping stance as the participants in the snow coach looked on and sure enough pounce number four. This time I chose to make the connection between the viewer and the viewed. This image tells the story of why anyone would choose to pay for a day trip into Yellowstone National Park, in a snow coach, in winter. The client then received all six images an which one do you think they chose? They decided on five and six.

It doesn’t happen like this everyday. It was an amazing incident to run into that fox – four attempts and four dinner kills. I can tell you that if I chose to photograph the entire scenario with just my 200-400 telephoto, I would have missed out on opportunity. My rule has always been to stay with a subject until all is lost, that way I know that I will come back with something different.


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