A Little More

Fall leaves among tree roots.
Fall leaves among tree roots.

Editing. Culling. Selecting. Curating.

All words for the same thing. And, all words that I forgot to discuss.

I come from a different time. A time when less was more. A time when using a film camera meant additional cost with every picture I took. When I last used a lot of color slide film on an assignment the rough cost for film and processing was $15.00 a roll. Think about it this way. For a large assignment with multiple shooting days I might shoot about 100 rolls of film. Simple multiplication says that film and processing cost $1500.00. That was fine if my client paid the bill. It was a big investment if I was shooting for myself or for my stock archives.  So, like many photographers of the era, I shot less and made each picture count.

Things have changed.

Once you’ve paid for your investment in camera gear, and peripheral gear like SD cards, a computer, an external drive and all the rest, taking pictures is essentially free.

You might still have to replace some items. USB cables go bad. SD cards break. You will eventually fill your external hard drive. Cloud services cost money, either yearly or monthly. You might have to upgrade your photo software. And, eventually you will want newer and different camera gear.

But, you are not paying to take a picture.

So, you take a lot of pictures. Everybody does. For instance, Getty Images photographers produced 1.5 million images during the 2016 Olympics. Most bigger magazine assignments generate at least 2,000 images. Even newspaper assignments produce hundreds of images.

And, it shows.

On any given day, in almost any newspaper website in the country or the world, you might see 20 or more pictures in some kind of slide show that work with one story. One story. Yes. Twenty images for one story. That’s a lot of pictures. Too many pictures.

In the old days, we worked for one great storytelling picture. Today, photographers spray and pray. There is no decisive moment because the photographer wasn’t looking for one. To me, that many pictures is just plain old boring. You have to wade through similar images that were included just to add weight to the slide show.

Bloggers do it too. I read a lot of blogs these days. Often it seems like the blogger thinks if the picture is sharp and in focus than they should publish it without giving any thought to the subject matter.


What does it add to the blog? What does redundancy in pictures take away from the blog?

If you are trying to tell a picture story that’s one thing.

Classic picture stories are photographed with intent. There is a philosophy behind producing and culling images. The story can be structured along the lines of a film. Beginning, middle and end. Or, it can be a process. Instructive. Or, it can go from big to little. Or, little to big.

Most stories can be told in about five pictures or so. Unless you have worked on it for a long time or you are a helluva photographer, more pictures probably hurts more than it helps. More pictures confuse your readers. They have no idea which of the pictures is most important to your take. It may appear that you don’t either.

Most of us make single images most of the time. We don’t think in long stories. So, publish a single image instead of ten and making the reader guess which one you think is best.

Like anything, learning to edit, culling or curating, takes time and study. If you are serious about it, a large part of your life should be about pictures. Look at pictures. Read photography books. Look around online. Think about pictures. Don’t just look at current work. Look into history. Learn about the legends of photography. See what they did. How they thought.

Make sure whatever you look at is about pictures. Not gear. Many websites and paper magazines get hung up on gear. There’s a big reason for that. Well, two reasons. Many photographers have GAS. Gear Acquisition Syndrome. They think more, more, more.

There is another reason as well. A more primary one in publishing. Write an article about a certain piece of gear and sell an ad for that same certain piece of gear. It’s a business.


If you need help selecting pictures, ask for it. Even a non-photo person can express an opinion about a picture. At the end of the day, culling your work to its barest bones will make you look like a great photographer rather than an ordinary one.

The pictures. These are as fresh as they could be. I made them around 8am this morning. There is a lesson in them for you. Normally, in a case like this, I would only publish one of the two. But, which one?

The bottom picture is a great background. You could tone it back a little and lay type on it. Or, place other pictures on it.

The top picture stands on its own. I like it because of the contrast between the tree roots and the leaves. All those leading lines going off in every direction makes the image a little chaotic. That’s how I think of fall. Especially in Southeastern Louisiana. I just read one of those meme things about the state. It said something like, “People think we don’t have four seasons in Louisiana. That’s not true. We just have them all in one day.” Chaos.


My selection if I were using only one picture out of about the 30 that I shot, is the top image. You may have other thoughts. Please us why. Or, why not.

One more thing. I’m about done with the general photo tutorial. But, I’m not finished entirely. Where it goes from here is up to you. Ask questions. Anything about photography is fine. I’ll answer even the most specific question in a blog form.

There’s a lot more to talk about. Art. Composition. Color theory and so on. Let’s make this a little interactive. You choose.

Leaf background.
Leaf background.


  1. I like the bottom photo. It’s simple. It makes me feel at peace. The top one reminds me of what happens inside of me when I overthink things. The only story my pictures tell is that I was happy that an image actually came out. I’m a baby at it. I’m like a child running home with a leaf to say Look Mom! Look what I found. I guess that’s a story in itself really. Hopefully one day I’ll look back and say WOW, look how much I’ve improved! But I can never decide which ones I like, so I like that thought about asking someone else. Then my brain doesn’t have to go through the chaos I see in the top photo. Hope that makes sense. 🙂


    1. Back in the day, when there were photographers and editors usually 1 + 1 = 3. That’s the benefit of asking somebody. I think it’s interesting that you like a picture that you see as peace while I like the chaos, maybe because I want the chaos and implied motion in the image. BTW, 26 years on 3 April. One day at a time. Still. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Awesome! Thanks for sharing that tidbit! Gives me even more hope. 🙂 I’m going to try to tell stories with my photos- someday. For now, if I can make out what they are, I’m happy. 😉


      2. No problem. My trick was to give up any kind of control, which is overrated anyway. 🙂 The minute I did that my journey became easier.

        If you want, go back and read “Ray’s Rules,” the first post of the tutorial series. Keep those in your head and you’ll be a better photographer overnight. Trust me. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. And what’s funny is that if I were taking the photos, I WOULD like the top one. It is more my style. I like lines- roots, twigs, etc. – but looking at someone else’s work perhaps allows you to see it differently. Like how the image makes you “feel”. Kind of crazy really. Interesting, though.


      4. Looking at other’s work should allow you to see without the emotion that you feel when you take the picture. I work very hard to make people feel, rather than just document the scene. I like the top picture for really just one reason… the contrast between the blue-gray of the roots and the warm yellows and oranges of the leaves.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I actually love the top photo. As someone who mostly shoots sports action, I struggle with still shots. When I capture one that “works,” I’m always borderline shocked. The top image has motion, and some balance (at least for me) inside the chaos to which you refer. Then again, I love capturing the chaos of a crash in skiing, or the raw chaos in a turn around a gate that literally defies gravity.


  3. Dude! You have expressed all this very powerfully. I appreciate it.
    You’ve articulated why I post only one photo at a time. I feel that the caption is equally important, and nice little blurb tops it off for me! I like both of your autumn leaves photos for the reasons you and others have commented on. I’m greatly enjoying “Ray’s Rules”. Thx.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad this makes sense to you. I’m fairly flexible with number of pictures. But, I try to have a reason. There is a meme floating around that goes something like, First you used a medium format camera. You could take 12 pictures. One was good. You switched to 35mm. You took 36 exposures. One was good Then, you switched to digital. You took 1,000 pictures. One was good. 📷📷📷

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s been showing up everywhere lately. Usually, from people who like film and can’t stand anything digital. Forgetting of course, that if they want to show their work online, the have to scan the film or the print in order to share. Heh!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I love digital! Get to be creative without chemicals and purchasing film and the cost of chucking my bad prints and slides. I really love being able to crop and fine tune an image to my liking!


      3. I’ll answer both comments in one place. I like digital well enough. It’s easier to make a picture. But, I work harder to make pictures look more organic… the way film looked.


      4. I thought that might be your question. Well, I removed all the folks in the background, then finally found a suitable backdrop for just the dad and daughter. The lighting, contrast, colour didn’t take too long. Blending the “cutout” of dad and daughter with a new background took some time b/c I haven’t done much of this type of image manipulation. This is a bit over the top, but I liked the challenge – so it actually looks better than a filmed image with peoples heads and faces poking out between dad and daughter. It would probably take much longer to do this on a colour print from film. I’d post the photo, but I might get in trouble b/c it’s my new daughter-in-law. I hope that she likes it. (I wasn’t the wedding photographer which is a good thing)


      5. This actually should be posted where you talk about working on one wedding picture. Sounds like way too much work to me, especially for one image. But, there is a reason I don’t shoot weddings… even as a guest. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I enjoy reading your posts and seeing your photography. I love photography and read a lot of photography books – what you say is 100% correct in that you should try and read and look at as much photography as possible. Some things we learn by reading but so much more of it is in just absorbing different styles and when you are constantly looking at great images you begin to take better pictures and become more discerning of your own work. I would love it if you continued to write about photography as you have so much experience to learn from – so please continue. 👌

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I like discussing photography and everything about it. But, I’m not sure where to go next. My so-called Ray’s Rules can make anybody a better photographer in a few days. Or weeks. But, it’s up to you (the global you) how you approach taking pictures. For me, the ends always defined the means. But, that’s just me. If a couple of you could ask a few questions, that would probably give me more pure photo-oriented blog ideas.


  5. We just bought our first DSLR. We took it out for a few test spins, and your posts definitely helped, especially your rules. Before, we just took pictures to document our nerdy events. Now, I’m looking forward to learn how to focus on taking the picture itself. For my wife, it comes a little more naturally. For me, its something I have to work on.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. They are both awesome photos. I almost feel like I’m there looking at them. I would have chosen the top one, too, because less is more. The bottom one would make a great jigsaw puzzle! Anyway, When I glanced back at the top one before writing this, I thought it looked almost like the roots were the trunk and branches of a tree, and the leaves were all on the tree. Beautiful photos. Thanks for sharing.


  7. As I’ve said before, I really appreciate the instructional nature of these posts. The less-is-more guidance, in particular. And I do have a question for you, about your blogging process. Do you decide about the theme after you pick the photo and let the image guide your thoughts, or do you have the theme in mind and create or choose the photo to fit?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you,Kim. I don’t know how much I instruct these days. But, I do if somebody asks me about something.

      I generally write to the picture. Many times, the image is almost a placeholder. You may have seen posts when I actually say that the picture has nothing to do with what I’m writing and go off on some tangent.

      I guess that comes from my overall working style in which I take in the day’s news, maybe a film, some music and like that. I sleep on it. It spins around my brain and out it comes.

      What I never do is self edit. When I’m making pictures I never look at my camera’s or phone’s lcd. When I write, I just write. After I’m done, then I re-read it and edit it. I try to put a little distance between reviewing pictures and selecting them.

      Here’s a little clue. When I mostly talk about our dogs, it’s because I don’t really have much to say. Posting daily can be a grind. But, the dogs’ antics are always amusing.

      Hope some of that helps.

      Liked by 1 person

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