As an independent photographer, I’m responsible for curating my own images. That is to say, of the many photographs I shoot, I’m responsible for selecting which ones to work on and, ultimately, which ones to send out into the world.
How do I make those choices? It’s one part subjectivity and one part objectivity.
On the subjective side, I edit myself pretty ruthlessly. In the field, I’m pretty selective about what I point my camera at. If something catches my eye, I’ll study it out for awhile, maybe move around a bit and study it from different angles. I don’t pull my camera out of my bag unless I think the composition is really interesting or compelling. And once I’m set up and viewing the subject through the viewfinder, I don’t hesitate to pull the plug and abandon the shot if things aren’t coming together like I thought they would.
The ruthless editing continues after I’ve downloaded the images to my computer. Naturally, I’m choosy about which ones to work on. But even after work has started, again, I don’t hesitate to pull the plug if the image isn’t coming together, even if I’ve spent a long time on it.
In short, I have a subjective opinion, personal to me, about what it takes for an image to be good. If the image isn’t living up to my own (hopefully) high standards, I toss it. As I believe a well-known photographer once said (I forget who), a photographer’s most important piece of equipment is a large trash can.
When I finish working on an image, however, I switch gears and try to apply an objective standard before I send it out into the world. The objective standard works differently, and is intended to go a bit easier on myself. Basically, I ask myself if I think the image meets a basic level of quality such that it is comparable to the work being done by other photographers whose work I admire. The question is not whether I like the image personally, but rather simply if it lives up to the quality standard being set by the photographers I look up to. It’s designed to have enough flexibility to recognize that not every image I produce will necessarily be the best image I’ve ever done (I think that standard is unrealistic and unattainable for anyone), but to allow images that meet a basic level of quality (again, hopefully pretty high) to make it out into the world.
That’s the bar I set for myself. By adhering to it, I honestly can say that I’m pretty happy with the work I produce and feel good about all the images I share.