Have you ever looked at someone’s photo album and seen the same photo a hundred times, albeit each one ever so slightly different? How boring is that?
A nephew of mine had his first child. He was so excited that he took to his camera to record the new event. He put the photos on a CD and sent a copy to all his relatives. When I opened my copy, all I saw was the same photo. If you scrolled through them fast, you would notice slight changes and it was like watching a very slow motion movie. After the first 20 I started skipping until I reached the end and realised they were essentially all the same. To him, each was a permanent testimony to the love and excitement he felt for his child. I get that. But for me, the viewer, I got bored very quickly. What would have had far more impact was five photos, each quite different, of his new-born. Each would have impact and tell me all I needed, or wanted, to know.
I have a web site where I put my best photos. There are 650 on there, which is a lot. Each is different and to me they are like my babies, I created them. I want the viewer to look at them and remain interested, to want to look at the next and the next until they’ve seen them all. They won’t do that if they are poor quality, or repetitive or boring. So every now and then, I revisit my site and cull a few as well as adding a few more.
It is not easy judging which are good photos when we ourselves have taken them. Try uploading your best photos to a site like 500px, where other photographers judge them. You will soon learn that what is wonderful to you gets no likes or comments because in reality it isn’t really that interesting.
I don’t really post photos for likes, although I must admit it is nice to receive positive comments. I do it because I like them myself and I want others to enjoy them. But I won’t achieve that if I post lots of ordinary photos and bury what is truly good.
I have a Flickr account where I ‘dump’ a bigger range of ‘okay’ photos. Mainly these are so people I have photographed at events can visit and download photos of themselves. I had about 2,000 photos on there, each of them decent quality and interesting and unique – to me, but as a collection not nearly as good as my website.
Flickr have just announced that they are changing their free account. Instead of giving up to 1TB of storage (enough for maybe200,000 photos at 5MB each) you get an allowance of 1,000. If you want more, you need to pay for a pro account.
Being careful with money, or tight as my wife might say, I went into my Flickr account and culled about a thousand of the lower quality photos to get below the threshold. In some ways I was sad to do it, like I say, they are my babies. However, what you the viewer now get is a higher quality viewing experience. Gone are the ordinary and what’s left are the better ones. Instead of viewing a few uninspiring photos and quickly leaving, folks might actually keep turning the page a little longer.
The decision I now face is: do I upgrade and keep dumping lots of ordinary photos people probably don’t want to look at, and in the process bury the great ones never to be seen, or do I keep my free account, post only the better ones and retain something that people other than myself might actually want to look at?
After a bit of thought, I’ve decided to take a different approach. Flickr will be where I post photos from events that people can view and download. Each event album will be time limited and older albums replaced by new. That way I can keep it fresh but still achieve the viewer download opportunity objective. And if I keep below a 1,000 photos it will be free (hurray).
On Flickr will be a link to my website where I will only display my best work. These will be the photos I really want people to see and I hope they will want to look at. I realise 650 photos is too many, I’m not that good. But I reckon I can get 50 which is perhaps enough.
How I go about culling 650 to 50 is something I will have to decide upon. The bottom line is that I don’t want to be an ordinary photographer, but if I mainly post ordinary photos then how can I possibly claim to be anything different? From now on it is excellent or exceptional only. If I only have five photos, then so be it, I will need to work harder. But in future when you visit my site, I hope you will be engaged, even inspired by what you see. It might be a short visit, but it will more likely be one to remember.
Give me a few days to make the changes, then prepare to be dazzled.