Photographers are lousy editors

July 20th, 2011 by

Decisions Decisions-which is best?

OK, OK-some photographers live on to become stellar photo editors but usually NOT OF THEIR OWN WORK. Photographers sometimes include a few mediocre or downright boring images in really important selections of their work. Yes, most know what work is best from a take but I’ve found there are always a few stinkers in any self-edited mix. As I like to say, “You are known by the weakest photo in your portfolio or submission.”


I’ve reviewed hundreds of portfolios and assisted photographers in editing for books, portfolios and submissions to clients and stock companies. A good 90 % of the time there are a couple of photos that lower the marks I give to photographers in my mind. These are all pros, for the most part, with extensive experience who are well aware of their strengths and weaknesses. So what’s with the bad apples?

It’s related to memory. A photographer can’t let go of a just average or even bad photo that he or she risked their life to take*, sweat blood to get right, spent a tons of money on or because it reminds them of their first ice cream cone or kiss or you know.

It takes an outside eye to cull dull photos that a photographer has fallen in love with. Being in love with a bad photo is sorta like love for someone who is has a borderline personality disorder . You know you should walk away but you just can’t get rid of her or him.

As a soulful plea in the name of art directors, art buyers and photo editors worldwide please pass that ‘final’ edit under the unbiased nose of someone with a good eye. Listen to what they have to say even if it means divorce from that photo of peeling paint on the side of an old barn.

Alternatively if you have the time and/or money show that person with a good eye some of your rejects. You could be surprised to find, just like in relationships with people, you might have overlooked a keeper because you didn’t examine its positive attributes carefully.

*Like Capa’s shot of the invasion at Omaha beach or the one of Michael Jackson’s hair on fire (photo credit please) sometimes not the best picture wins but it comes in first because it is one of the few or the only. (In the former, it was processing that messed up the photos and in the later, smoke got in the way.)