Reject images are part and parcel of photography. However, when you have spent the day out photographing and put the time and effort, not to mention expense, into pursuing your photographic ambitions there may be some reluctance to reject images.When starting the upload process there is an air of anticipation and excitement. The first shots appear on the screen. How do you feel now?
No doubt there will be mixed emotions, so how do you decide which images to keep and which to let go? There will of course be some obvious ‘best’ shots which may result in a few excited shouts, so keeping these images is an easy decision to make.
However, there will be other images that do not fall into the excellent category. How do you the decide what to keep and what to mark as reject images for subsequent deletion.
So what now? Well, let us just stop for a moment and reflect on these shots that did not quite make it. Try and separate your emotional self from those shots. Sure there will disappointment, particularly with those that did not turn out quite as expected but do not throw away your rejected images just yet! There is much information to be gleaned from them before they end up in the trash.
You will often learn more from your mistakes than your successes.
The whole objective of a dispassionate appraisal of each image is to understand why they did not quite make it and to use that knowledge to improve your photography. So let us consider a suitable workflow for assessing the images.
The Initial Review
I use Adobe Lightroom 4 to manage my image files, including making an initial assessment which includes a system of grading. It is important to try to identify within each of the images a number of key elements that when combined create your perfect image. I like to keep this very simple and below I have listed the criteria that I look for when working through the image assessment:
- Is the main subject sharp and correctly focused?
- Is the background appropriate for the subject?
- Does the exposure satisfy the objectives of the photograph?
- Is the composition pleasing?
- Is it clear what the subject is?
- Does the image convey your intended message?
- Do the above items combine to add the required impact to the image?
Using the above checklist I work through each image to make an assessment in terms of both technical competence and artistic merit. Often the decision is easy, other times less so. The intention is to identify quality images that have merit and potential.
As I progress through I grade each image as follows and as before it is a very simple system:
- Definitely Keep: Marked with the ‘Pick Flag’ and 5*
- Definitely Reject: Marked with the ‘Reject Flag’ and 0*
- Potential – Re-assess: Marked with the ‘Pick Flag’ and 3* – these are images I consider worth keeping that may have future potential, for example to use in composites, montages, a creative process etc.
Now Re-assess the Reject Images
To gain maximum benefit from the exercise, and certainly prior to deleting the reject images, is it vital to look again at those images marked as ‘Reject’ or ‘Potential’. Try to identify what is wrong with the image and why it did not come out as intended. Look to see how the unsatisfactory or reject images could have been improved, compare them with the Initial Review Checklist to see how they would have fared if things had worked out a little differently.
This is a undoubtedly a positive approach to improving your photography. Having an awareness of those areas of photography that did not quite work in a particular circumstance will nurture skills to call upon for similar future opportunities.
Enjoy your photography!
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