I have a difficult time with curation. Frankly, I don’t curate well at all. I want to show all of my photographs. I’ll skip the bad ones (obviously), I’ll probably include a few mediocre ones, I’ll definitely share the good ones, and mixed within that will be the few great ones.
Great photographs don’t come around all that often. Ansel Adams stated that one great picture per month is a pretty good number. That was from one of the best photographers of all time who worked harder than most. I’m not going to capture a great photograph nearly as often as Ansel did, nor will it be as great.
Nowadays we are overwhelmed by images. There are more picture-takers now than ever before, and each picture-taker is taking more picture than ever before. And there are more means to get those pictures viewed by others than ever before. Everybody is sharing like mad on Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, etc., etc., etc., and we see so many pictures each day that we are almost numb to it. It seems like you have to do so much more to get noticed.
One problem is that so many of us are so terrible at curating our pictures. We post them all! We share on social media so many images. Good, bad or ugly, doesn’t matter. You snapped it so you share it. I’m just as guilty of this as everyone else. I’ve shown a number of awful pictures on social media. I’m downright embarrassed at some of the pictures that I’ve made public.
Yesterday’s post, Photoessay: 20 Fall Foliage Photographs, actually started out as 50 Fall Foliage Photographs. Yes, I was ready to publish a post containing 50 of my autumn photographs. I then realized that I desperately needed to curate it better. So I began to trim the ones that I knew were mediocre. I still had too many, so I cut out the ones that weren’t overtly autumn. I was closer, but I still had too many, so I cut out the worst of what remained. It was now at a much better number, down from 50 to 20. I don’t think any of them classify as “great” but I hope that all of them are at least good. I probably should have kept trimming until just the 10 best remained. Less is more is a good adage.
Sometimes (or, really, oftentimes) I have a hard time distinguishing which of my photographs are actually good and which ones are not. I put so much thought and care into each exposure, I have an emotional attachment to them. I’m biased towards my own pictures. I think that they’re better than they really are. I believe that this is a common problem.
Time has a way of revealing which pictures are good and which ones are not. When I haven’t viewed an image for awhile, the emotional attachment fades. I can look back at my pictures from a year ago and much more easily separate the wheat from the chaff. Even more so for photographs that are two or three years old. I sometimes look at a picture and wonder how I ever thought it was any good.
My wife is good at distinguishing which photos are good and which ones aren’t. And she’s not afraid to tell me. I used to argue with her when she would tell me that one of my pictures that I really liked was no good. Later on I would realize that she was right and I was wrong, the picture wasn’t nearly as good as I thought it was. I think everyone needs someone in their life who can discern good from bad and is willing to speak the truth about it. I’m extremely fortunate to be married to that person.
The conclusion to this rambling is that everyone needs to become better curators of their own photographs. There are so many pictures that bombard us daily, and most of them are ignored because they’re not great. The world doesn’t need more pictures, it needs more great pictures. Quality instead of quantity. Show fewer pictures, but show better pictures. That’s a goal I have for this new year.