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?  

Building Your Personal Portfolio

By Mark

I’m sorry but no one wants to look at hundreds of your pictures.  As a photographer you want to demonstrate to others that you can go beyond getting snapshots into focus and have them properly exposed.  You want to showcase that you have a style and an opinion.  Even before you start thinking about becoming a “professional”, you need to start thinking about how you represent yourself to a stranger.  A good crisp portfolio is one of the first tools you want to build.

What makes a good portfolio? You need to make some choices before you really can answer that question.  What platform do you intend to use to show people.  Increasingly, a tablet or other electronic medium is the standard.  If you are going to print it, you need to think about the aspect.  You don’t want them to have to flip the booklet back and forth.  

You may also want to consider using some “Fine Art” poster styles.  These can be printed from the Print module in LR, but that is another blog. 

The first rule is that every photo needs to be one that people automatically react to when you show it to them. Obviously the reaction you want is “Wow”.  

This is one of my favorite photos, because I love the contrast of color, texture and lines.  Unfortunately most people go “Oh a rusty roof, that’s nice”, so it is not in my portfolio.

The second rule is that you need to continually relook and refresh it.  You have to be your harshest critic.  Nothing that is almost good enough should make it.   

This HDR image I shot in Maine last year is bright and interesting, but I think the station wagon in the bottom right corner is unneeded and distracting detail. 

The third rule is that you have to think about how you group and order your images.  You really do want to stack the deck with your best images up first.  You can arrange them by theme, by subjects (not too many please) but avoid lumping them in chronological order.   

Mine are arranged by color scheme, from hotter to cooler winding up with my black and whites.  

Lastly you want to keep the numbers down to 10-15.  You want them asking to see more, not looking for the nearest exit.

So go through your best images and put together your own best of the best.  Ask people you know for their opinions and then be very brave and ask people you don’t know.