Photo of the Week – Editing Through Hundreds of Shots to Get to The Perfect Image

How to get from this:


To this:


When I go out on an assignment (self or paid) I shoot a lot of images. I average 300 to 400 images per shoot and have the ability to edit down to the best within 2 hours once I am back in the studio. This is one skill you must master so that you have ability to edit those 400 plus shots down to 50 and then 1 top image.

But how can you get down to that final awesome image quickly and efficiently?

Be brutal, be honest and edit with a critical eye. If you have several images that are similar then pick the one that jumps out. If non of them do, then don’t choose any. If you’re not super critical your final portfolio of images will never really wow people.

Learn from your choices. If an image is almost good enough to get to round 2 then stop for a bit and think how you could have improved that shot so that it would have made it to the next round. This is one of the best ways to become a better photographer. You must learn to shoot a verity of shots for a specific scene or subject that has grabbed your attention and to ignore shots that you know will not make it in the editing proses.

First round: Editing down to 100 shots from 400 or more shots.
1: Is the subject in focus?
2: Is the image in correctly exposed?
3: Is the image composed well?
4: Are there any distracting elements in the image?

Now comes the hard edit because you need to make quick emotion driven decisions.

Second round: Editing down to 15 to 35 great shots from 100 shots.
1: Is the image your *style?
2: Does the image have emotional impact for you?
3: Does the image portray the subject or experience you where trying to capture?
4: Can you edit or manipulate the image to make even better?

Final picks after editing and retouching your top 15 or 35 images. Remember that good image manipulation can make a big difference in a shot.

Third round: Editing down to 1 or 5 amazing shots from 15 to 35 shots.
You should have 1 shot you think is awesome and between 4 and 8 shots you like a lot. Print the one shot that is awesome and star the rest (4 star) for your image library.

Important NOTE: Some time you don’t get to do the 3rd round because you don’t have any shots from the shoot that you deem worth putting in your portfolio. This is a good thing because only photographers who understand and can recognize their own personal style can do this on a regular bases, including me.

As you build your portfolio you will end up with 3 sets of images.

Set 1 are all 5 stars:
Your first set will be the images you show people you want to impress with your photographic skills.

Set 2 are all 4 stars and catalogued under a subject (cars, food, flowers, etc):
This set is for people who are interested in a particular subject so will appreciate a good shot about that particular subject (They have a biased opinion and if they LOVE one of your images take it with a grain of salt and do not add it to set 1).

Set 3 are all 0 stars:
Finally you will have a large collection of images you may rarely look at again. You should never show these images to other people because all it will do is bore them or make them think you are a crap photographer. If you don’t have room on your hard drive delete these images.

*Your Style: This is a hard thing to understand and you will need to take many thousands of shots to discover what your style actually is.


  • Camera Olympus OMD E5
  • 14 mm Lens (28mm equivalent)
  • Shutter at 1/60
  • F2.5
  • ISO 2000
  • Overcast day
  • Processing in Lightroom 5


Next week: Giving yourself assignments to keep shooting and to discovering your own personal style.

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