What is the Best?

Every year I go through all of the images I shot and pick out the 10 I like best.  It is pretty easy to get down to twenty or so, just by selecting all of the images marked as picks and then weeding through those.   I pull out all of the ones of my family and then it gets tougher.  It is hard, because there is no “right” answer.  Our perceptions of any art, are personal and subjective.  Usually I ask my family to go through my top 25 and make their picks, but that is more to understand what appeals to them.  That might influence what and how I shoot next year, but rarely does it push me one way or another for what I include in my list. These three images wound up as my top 3 favorites for the year.

Young Fiesta Dancer

Young Fiesta Dancer

Sunset from Clingman's Dome

Sunset from Clingman's Dome

Late Afternoon Last Rays of Light

Late Afternoon Last Rays of Light

When I have completed my listing, I then try something even harder.  In December, the Photoshop instructor and commercial photographer Jim DiVitale lost his battle with cancer.  He hosted one of my favorite Photoshop World Events, which had nothing to do with Photoshop.  It was a panel of some of the best photographers in the world, showing off their work.  As the host, he included a portfolio of his work as well and it took me a while to grow to appreciate the quality and artistry of his stuff, as he shot a lot of pure commercial, often product based work. That’s not what I shoot, so I tended to just kind of skim over his stuff.  One year, I really looked at his work and recognized how good it really was.   http://www.jimdivitale.net/f169019865  and http://www.divitalephotography.com/#  

Fall

Fall

At Photoshop World, they offer an opportunity to have one of the staff review your portfolio.   As it turned out, I drew Mr. DiVitale and it was a very interesting experience.  He took a look at my photos and said they were good work, but what story did they tell?   We talked for the 15 minutes allocated on how to really put together a portfolio, and how you always need to be asking this one simple question—“Is this photograph good enough to replace one in my portfolio?”  As a commercial guy and as an art director, he felt strongly that you need to show off only your best work, and that your portfolio, should have no more than 10 images.  So every year, you should be asking yourself that question and if the answer is no, none of the images I shot are better than what I have already done, then you need to be thinking “why not?”   If your work is not getting better, then what are you going to do about it?  

That question is what drives me to keep shooting.  Art is not a competition, unless it is against yourself.  Can you capture what your mind sees when you look through that viewfinder?  Are your pictures better than they were yesterday, last week, and last year?  

Yep, Another Year Gone By

As 2014 ends, it is time for my annual challenge of picking out my favorite photos from the year.   As Roger wrote about in his last blog, it is also a great time to clean up the files.  

Library filter is a great way to examine what and where you have shot

Library filter is a great way to examine what and where you have shot

Using the library filtering tools, I was actually surprised to learn I had taken more photos this year than last (6862 vs. 5333).  That didn’t seem right, so I looked into my keywords and realized that I had shot 1871 photos for work related events this year.  So I really did shoot a little less.   No big trips out of the country this year, but we did go to both Maine and New York City.   Looking at that metadata for State/Province shows me I have more work to do in cleaning up and adding the correct names for locations.

I culled all of the 6K photos down to just the ones I had flagged as selects and created a new Collection set for them.  I kept weeding images out until I got to a set of 97.  Then I went through those and rated them with stars.  

I used all of Lightroom’s decision tools to help me choose.   The Survey tool, lets you select multiple images and then remove the ones you don’t like.   

The Compare window lets you try candidates against a selected image to see if you like the new one better.  It’s hard work to get it down to just 10.  

I also let my family pick their favorites, just as a reference point.  There are always ones others like more than the ones I choose. 

So here are the 10 photos I liked best from all the ones I shot this year. 

My tiger from a March trip to the zoo.

 Brunch cocktails from John’s graduation celebration

Three images from our New York City trip can barely capture the energy of that city. 

I love the Chrysler building.  The D800 lets you get so much detail.

I love the Chrysler building.  The D800 lets you get so much detail.

Two from our Maine vacation; yes that is an HDR image.  Surprisingly there are 2 of them which made my selection this year.   (Blame Alfredo)

It looks how Bar Harbor feels

It looks how Bar Harbor feels

Two images from around Warrenton; the county fair rodeo and the balloon festival

Finally, this Thanksgiving portrait of Kaitlyn—the light was just very nice and the 105 does make an outstanding portrait lens.    

I apologize that 2 of these pictures were in fact in the last blog I posted, at that time I didn’t know they would make the top 10.  I needed them to illustrate my topic and they worked.  Thanks everyone for keeping up with us and our blog.  We hope to keep bringing you more next year, especially since I got my dream landscape lens for Christmas.    Roger and I, plus our very patient families wish each of you a very Happy New Year.

Annual Wrap Up

By Mark

It is hard to believe that 2013 is pretty much gone.  With all the racing around for the holidays, Roger and I switched days this week.  He has a family gathering tonight.  I’ve been going over my years’ worth of work.  The Library Filter tools really allow a data geek to go crazy.  I know that I shot 5046 images this year that I kept.  Almost half of them that I shot were in the month of June, while we were on our great Southwestern vacation.  

Images by month.PNG

Not surprisingly, I shot 82% of them with my favorite 70-200 mm f2.8 lens.   

Images by Lens.PNG

If you have been good about filling in your location information in your metadata, you can even tell which states or cities you shot in.   I can tell from this that I need to clean up my naming conventions.  Is it DC or District of Columbia?   

Images by State.PNG

Using the same progressive filtering, you can even tell what type of subjects you shot most by examining your keywords.  Here, I feel like Buffalo Bill because I managed to shoot quite a few of them on the plains.  

Images by Keyword.PNG

As important to me as what I shot, is the question of the quality of the pictures I took.  Of the 5046 pictures I “selected” 507 of them as above average photos.  That is certainly within my target range of 10%.  From that initial breakout, I had 59 pictures that I rated as 3 star or greater.  I only rated 10 images as meeting my own criteria for 4 stars.  Here are my Top Ten images from this year. 

DC Sunrise 

DC Sunrise 

Kale, kale the gang's all here

Kale, kale the gang's all here

Boston Holocaust Memorial

Boston Holocaust Memorial

Warrenton Heritage Day

Warrenton Heritage Day

Liberty Bell

Liberty Bell

Sedona Courtyard

Sedona Courtyard

Taos Pueblo 

Taos Pueblo 

Rancho Taos

Rancho Taos

Moonrise, Monument Valley

Moonrise, Monument Valley

Cadillac Ranch, Texas

Cadillac Ranch, Texas

I would really like to know which one is your favorite.  Next week, actually the first blog in January as we are taking the week off for Christmas, I will tell you which one was my favorite.  

Prune the Trees

By Mark

It is year-end clean up time for the old photo library.  A great place to start is by examining your Lightroom Keywords.  Does the organizational structure still work for you?   How can you tell?  Hopefully, since you have built your key word structure and taken advantage of the ability to create a hierarchy, or nesting, I recommend starting by looking at the top level categories.

Top Level Keywords.PNG

Next, you should start expanding the groupings by clicking on the little triangles.   As an example, I have expanded my “Other” Grouping.  

Expanded Other.PNG

Ask the same questions.  If you decide that grouping no longer makes sense, you can just right click and rename the group, or drag and drop it to another location.   If you want to see all of the images in a particular category, just hover over it and then select the white arrow which appears on the right side of the panel.

BW Selection.PNG

Aha! I know I have more than 21 Black and White images, so this is a good indicator that I have not diligent in properly key wording them as I go. 

As you continue to open and expand the panels, look for keywords which only have 1 image in them.  Often times, you have mistakenly tagged it with different name somewhere else.   That too is easy to correct.  All you have to do is select the image(s) using the right side arrow, then find the correct keyword and just check the box which appears to the left.  

Delete a keyword.PNG

Once you have applied the right keyword, just go back to the
“Wrong” keyword and right click.  In the dialog box select “Delete” and it will erase that keyword from existence.  It is a scary power you have to wield.  Just work on it a little at a time and they you can finish up tagging all the pictures you missed in the first place.