Curating Your Work

I know I run the risk of sounding like a high school English student, but I am a big believer in defining a concept before diving too deep into the idea at hand. With that being said, Wiktionary defines a curator as “A person who manages, administers or organizes a collection.” So congratulations! You are your own curator! You get to be the organizer of your photograph collection. This can be exciting, but also daunting, so let’s jump in.

Careful curation of your work is extremely important. Not only do you want to make a good impression with your images, you also want to create a memorable one. The photos you show clients, as well as the public, represent how people will remember you. Your curated collection of images will give prospective advertising, editorial, wedding and portrait clients a better idea of who you are as a photographer. There are two different areas in which you should carefully curate your work; one is for the client, and the other is for the public.

Curating for the client requires you to limit their choices. Let’s be honest, sometimes we treat our pictures like we would our babies. We think they are all completely, perfectly beautiful! To an extent, you want to give your client some variations in style, but you have to give your client a concise cut down. I will use a bridal shoot I did last month as an example. I shot a total of 630 images, and after editing, I let the bride look through 150 of them. If I gave the bride images with only the subtle difference of a slight head tilt, she probably wouldn’t even notice the difference. In turn, she might be weighed down by too many choices. When a more obvious difference gets put in the pick pile, it makes it easier for her to decide on a favorite. This seems obvious, but when it comes down to it, most photographers have a hard time trashing images. Keep in mind, you don’t have to actually throw them away, just don’t show them to the client!

Here is an extreme example of two images that are so similar that you should just show one to the client.

And here are two images from the same set up that are varied enough for you to put them both in the mix.

Too many choices overwhelm a client and lessen the value of your work. Keep in mind that they hire you for your photographic eye, and your eye should not just stop at the viewfinder. Instead it should continue in careful consideration of the final image group. 9 times out of 10 clients pick your least favorite out of the bunch anyway, so make sure that you are completely happy with any images you show.

Curating for the Public

Curating for the public requires you to limit the image choices even further. Just like a client can be overwhelmed by images, the public can too. From the 150 that I showed the bride, I picked 10-15 different, solid images that I consider blog worthy. If you show multiple images from the same set up, that image does not solidify as being special or memorable. They will make a much smaller impact on the viewer. Lots of photographers fall into this trap, because again, our photos are like our babies!

Here are 8 images from the same set up.

And now, imagine if I blogged 4 different setups of the same subject with 8 images each (4×8=32). A viewer who just looked at 32 photos of the same subject will not see your work as iconic. Plus, your blog will take forever to load, and people are very impatient. It’s not that I am not proud of all these images, it is just that I am wanting to make a stronger impact on my viewer. Less is always more. So, these are the final images that I would put on my blog.

Here are the final images I would put on my blog. Notice how the variation between all of them helps tell a story.

As you can see, I might use 2 photos from the same set up, but they are varied enough, and each image remains special and unique.

Less is even more when coming to your portfolio website. Your website needs to show your absolute best work only! I always roll my eyes at photographers who have too many shots of the same thing in their portfolio. That might sound cynical, but we have to face the fact of short attention spans in our instant gratification culture. People get bored, and will click back to their Gmail in no time. Your online portfolio will be memorable if it is a well thought out and cohesive, yet different, collection of your best work. Of the photos I blogged, I might only put 1-3 of my absolute favorites on my website.

There are always exceptions to these ideas, but in conclusion, here is a helpful guide to curating your work:

  • Shoot 500
  • Show client around 150
  • Blog 10-15
  • Exhibit 1-3 on Portfolio Website

Don’t get overwhelmed if you are having a hard time editing and cutting down images. Keep your photo friends close at hand, and never be afraid to seek a second pair of eyes!

3 Responses to “Curating Your Work”

  1. rebecki says:

    Wonderful piece, and great photography!

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