Workflow Series – Photo Selection

December 6, 2012

Photo selection is a big part of my photography workflow and while every photographer has his or her own way of selecting photos for publishing, my reasons mainly revolve around time constraint and wanting to only show my best work, among many others. With that, here is a little walk-through documenting the process I take to pick out the final images for editing, and the reasons behind those decisions. Note that I am using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom for demonstration, but there are a few other free alternatives on the market that you could test drive, darktable being one of them.

For this walk-through, we are going to look at the Steampunk Poison Ivy photoshoot I did with Lauren. The screenshot below shows a portion of the images from the set in grid view. I have taken a total of 374 images! The sheer amount is overwhelming for any publishing standard, so some trimming is definitely necessary.

One of the most useful tools I use during this process is Lightroom’s flagging/filtering tools. There are many types of flags you can set for images to help you sort out what your top shots are, and filter out accordingly to help you see your selections more easily. The process I go through is fairly straightforward:

1. View image and/or compare with others.
2. Set desired flag/rating/color/kind.
3. Trigger flag filter(s).
4. Repeat from step 1 until satisfied.

On average I do about 3 ~ 8 passes before editing, and usually filter out more as I progress further into my workflow. Here is a good view of what my selection looks like after doing the initial passes.

On the number end, I axed 149 images, picked about 60 images, and “colored” ~20 images, as shown respectively below.

There are additional flags and filters you could utilize to help with your workflow, though I have never used them personally.

That’s pretty much it! There is very little technicality involved, and it is mostly about making decisions. Allow me to elaborate.

While not an exhaustive list, some of the factors that go into my decision making include:

– Purpose (e.g. event coverage, artistic pursuit)
– Expression (e.g. blinking eyes, derpy faces)
– Pose
– Composition (e.g. cropped joint, distraction)
– Sharpness (e.g. missed focus, sudden movement)
– Overall aesthetics
– Exposure
– Workload

Let’s look at some examples.

Both of the images above are about the same composition, and both are interesting (the right one looks like Ivy with Batman’s cape), but ultimately I would choose the left one because the head position looks more aesthetically pleasing to me.

I like both of these shots, the expressions and poses are all good, but in comparison, I simply like the left one slightly more than the right.

I think we can all agree that the right one is absolutely fantastic, although, while it is quite awesome for behind-the-scenes, that image is probably not what I want in my artistic portfolio. For that purpose, I would pick the left one.

In conclusion, the selection process is a very useful step in helping photographers advance artistically because it challenges photographers to think critically about why they decide to publish certain shots over others. Would people want to see 50 similar images, or 2 finely edited images? In reality, all the factors mentioned in this article come into play, and then some. For the sake of building up one’s portfolio, it is generally considered critical in picking and choosing only a few very best images from a photo set and spend quality time making them shine even more.

With that, I hope you enjoyed the read. If you have any question, Cosplay Photographers are always happy to answer.

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I am a Seattle, WA based lifestyle fashion photographer who has Cosplay to thank for his adventure into the photography world. In addition to fashion, I also maintain Costographer as my cosplay work outlet:


  1. Avatar

    Nice desc. I use Adobe bridge for my work-flow and edit with camera raw. I tried LR, but it didn’t feel as efficient to my workflow. I wish the two programs were cross-compatible in wherein I could see the green-marked photos in LR and vice-verse.

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