If you were at #tempeltour2016 with me last week, you probably captured well over a 1,000 images. I know I did. I also captured almost 15,000 equine images while I was photographing horses earlier in April, in Morocco. I could quickly review, process and share a few of my immediate favorites from Tempel and Morocco but in my heart, I would know that I was leaving a lot of beauty buried in my digital archives, and I don't want to bury anything.
Over the years, I've developed an effective - if time-consuming process - to make sure I squeeze every last drop of goodness from every one of my shoots. Since #tempeltour2016 was about photographing horses, I've tailored this to equine photography but it can be adapted to anything - street photography, architecture, birding, wild life or macro flower.
Import into Lightroom and back up. I import to a 3TB LaCie Thunderbolt Rugged drive and use Chronosync to back up to a second, identical drive. I prefer to import into folders by date but importing into folders sorted by place, event or subject might be more effective for you.
I review my images. For any image I think has serious potential, I press the B key which sends my keepers to my Quick Collection. For the obviously awful, I press the X key to reject. The third option is to do nothing - I just tab to the next image. As a rule of thumb, I select about 20% of my images as keepers, reject about 20-30% and simply let the remaining images live in my archive.
Here are some of my guidelines for selecting versus rejecting:
- If an image is out of focus, I press X to reject.
- If the horse's eyes are closed, I press X to reject. Ditto for humans in the image.
- If I'm capturing a "pretty equine portrait," and the horse's ears are laid back or swiveled right or left, rather than straight forward and parallel, I press X to reject.
- If I've unintentionally shorn off the horse's hoof, tail or ear, I press X to reject.
- If any people, other horses or animals, cars, or signs are directly and messily behind my main subject, I press X to reject. Because I shoot in burst mode, I know that I will have another image that is as good or better, and I don't need to torture myself by imagining that someday my Photoshop skills will be good enough to mask around flowing manes and tails.
- If there are trees, columns, posts or other structures in the background, I press X to reject the images where the horse or rider is bisected by one of those poles or trees. If the horse or horse & rider are framed by the trees or columns, the image stays in consideration. See the 7th and 8th SOOC (straight out of camera) images below for an example.
- Similar to the above points, I look for separation. If I'm shooting a group of horses or a performance, in most cases, it looks better to have space between the butt of horse 1 and the nose of horse 2. Overlapping can work sometimes but often, it does not and then I press X to reject. See the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th images below for examples.
- With standing or still horses, I assess whether I can see all four legs, if I can only see 2 or 3, most of the time, it's awkward, and I press X to reject.
- With moving or running horses, I carefully evaluate the leg position. Since I shoot in burst mode, every third or fourth image is going to be a leg position I find extremely awkward. At the same time, every other third or fourth image is going to be a leg position I love. See the the 1st and 2nd images below for examples of the leg positions I'm talking about.
- Note: You might prefer different leg positions than I do but keep in mind, if you plan to sell your images to horse people, or take commissions to shoot for horse owners, you'll want to do some research or have a conversation with your client on preferred leg positions first.
- Once all of these minimum criteria are met (in focus, eyes are all open, good ears, good leg position, no distracting or overlapping objects), the image has to have a very compelling expression, gesture or body position, good light and solid composition before I press B to select.
I review my rejects to make sure I didn't press X when I meant to press B. Once I've reviewed, I press Command and Delete simultaneously (I use a Mac, it's different on a PC) and select the option to delete the rejects from my disk. They are then gone forever.
I create a new Collection Set and within that I create a new Collection. For example, under my Collection Set called Morocco, I've created a Collection called Morocco: Horses of Ranch Diabat. I select and drag all the keepers from Ranch Diabat that are in my Quick Collection to that new Collection. While those images are still selected, I press B again, which removes them from my Quick Collection. Next, I re-review and (hard-heartedly) re-cull the the keepers so that I'm only processing the very best of the best.
If any of you are shaking your head in despair at this point, I get it. It's a long, weary slog to get to the point where you actually get to post-process much less share some of your work. It really is. I know. But how many times have you found an image you liked, spent 30 minutes post-processing it and then moved on to review the next images only to realize that you had captured a similar but much, much better image five frames later? This method avoids that. And, with time, you'll be able to quickly and intuitively move through your images pressing X or B, and finding the buried treasures from your shoot.