Culling photos – choosing your best photos

Jul 6, 2016

Nicholas Goodden

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

Culling photos – choosing your best photos

Jul 6, 2016

Nicholas Goodden

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

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This post will probably sound harsh to some but it’s needed as street photography has a problem.

It may be because of a so-called renaissance in street photography in the past few years or just the fact it’s become fashionable but the sheer number of terrible photos is quite impressive.

It’s bad and the reason is often because people aren’t stringent enough when culling photos (choosing your best photos), too hastily posting online.

Many want to hear what others have to say immediately instead of simply trusting their ability to evaluate their own work.

Of course tastes differ and art is subjective, some of my photos may not appeal to others, but it’s not in my control. However what falls within my control is how scrupulous I am when deciding what goes on show.

Take black and white. I love it and shoot lots of London black and white street photography but it should not be the ultimate solution to cure all bad photos. Unfortunately for many it’s become the illusion in their magic toolbox. Yes it’s an illusion. Some actually seem to view it almost as a religion.

People cover things up with black and white and manage to trick their own brains into believing the photograph has got soul.

Black and white on photos is often the photographic equivalent of salt in food. You add salt to make up for the lack of taste of a bland dish.

It can be a lazy way to embellish and forget that in reality the photo contains nothing… if you scratch under the surface, well… you can just keep on scratching as there’s nothing to be seen.


Often people I don’t know, strangers, contact me via my website asking me to review their work and give them constructive feedback, but unsurprisingly these same people aren’t seriously ready or willing to hear it.

I don’t think it’s my place to do that but I used to give fairly soft advice when asked (to be polite really). I’m amazed that these very same people who’d asked nicely to start with, would come back fighting and could sometimes be really quite nasty.

Who will give a toss about you and your photography if you’re not ready to accept feedback YOU have asked for?

My most basic yet important advice to anyone interested in developing their street work, or any genre of photography, is to look at any photo they shot and ask themselves really honestly: what’s in there?

Don’t take hours to decide, make impulse split second decisions as this is how viewers will judge your work.

Is it outstandingly beautiful in the way it contrasts light/shadow, or the way the lines, silhouettes and shapes come together? Is there some clever juxtaposition? Will the viewer be hit by a tornado of emotions? Will it make people laugh, blush or cry?

Found something? Great.

Didn’t? Get rid of it.


I think this is a useful tip: I find that with most of my photos which I think may be good enough to display online/publicly, it helps to give it at least week’s rest or more in some cases.

It allows you to emotionally detach yourself from it. Why are we emotionally attached? Well it’s natural, these photos are, after all, our babies..

I usually wait a week or more and go back to the shot regularly. If after a set period of time I feel the same and still like it equally as much, then I post it online.

Great photos will never lose their appeal, average photos will… quite quickly (or at least they should).

I particularly like this photography quote:

I always thought good photos were like good jokes. If you have to explain it, it just isn’t that good” (Anonymous)


I’m not having a go at people who take bad photos as I have many bad photos myself and that’s the entire point of also having a very strict selection process to decide what’s going to make the cut.

My rant is rather directed at those who are just not being harsh enough and post way too much online. Not doing themselves any favour at all.

It’s a fact. Your portfolio is only as good as your weakest shot. Anything you post online is, to a certain extent, part of your portfolio as things live forever on the Internet.

Photographers should be their worse critic and I mean RUTHLESS.

Sadly too many just aren’t because they trust online comments such as “nice shot!”, “great composition”, “beautiful light” and so on which they get on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Flickr which feed their addiction for social media affection.

But in reality these comments do not help you improve they just corrupt the overall quality of your portfolio.

About The Author

Nicholas “Nico” Goodden is a professional London photographer specialising in urban photography, street photography and attention grabbing micro video content such as cinemagraphs and timelapse. You can see more of his work on his website and say hi on Facebook, Twitter, Vine and Instagram. This article was posted here and shared with permission.

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6 responses to “Culling photos – choosing your best photos”

  1. Dan K Avatar
    Dan K

    selecting one’s best photos presumes knowing what makes a good photo

  2. Vladimir Khudyakov Avatar
    Vladimir Khudyakov

    Basically agree with you, but…Цho will learn how to do good photo? It’s not easy by self.

    1. A View of London Avatar
      A View of London

      Hi Vladimir. Thanks for your comment. Of course it’s not that easy to take good photos. I just think it starts with recognizing or trying to recognize what’s bad and what’s not within your own work and being very harsh in the selection process. The only way to develop as a photographer.

      1. Vladimir Khudyakov Avatar
        Vladimir Khudyakov

        It is very difficult to be objective to itself. And even more so with no experience.
        Trying to find a criticism on various forums are often faced with a negative “criticism” either indifferent “not bad.”
        Of course, browsing through my old photos, I find many of them are empty. That means – I grow? :)))

  3. preger Avatar

    @NicholasGoodden Nice orange :-)

  4. Sean Avatar

    Went to a workshop recently that dealt with this very issue. The gist of it is this:

    1) Cull the bulk of them via whatever software you use, lightroom, apeture, photo mechanic..whatever. Easy enough to remove a large portion of crap that way.

    2) The rate them as you see fit from 1 to 50. Print those out as 4×6. Does not matter if they are “processed” as you are just looking for what is good subject matter, not how good you are with photoshop or lightroom.

    3) Take those 50 and show them to as many people as you can…but NOT FRIENDS or FAMILY. They are the least reliable because they usually don’t like to hurt your feelings or are bias. Have them pick out what they think the top 10 to 15 are. Mark on the back of each of the selected with the date and/or who picked it.

    4) after you’ve shown them to 10-15 people (at least) take a look at the back and pick out the ones that were picked the most. Those are usually the keepers.

    If you do this for every batch of street photography you do you can then combine the picks and, as they say, rinse and repeat. Eventually you will get down to the best of the best.

    Process seems logical. And naturally if you have an image that YOU like that does not get picked don’t be afraid to keep it in…after all…what appeals to you might not appeal to anyone else and in the end it’s your work.