The Unshared Files: Images That Didn’t Make the Cut 1

Often times we only see images from photographers that have been selected from a group of similar images and are the “best of” the certain scene.  More often than not, there are many other images that didn’t make the cut and are never shared.  They are the ones that don’t necessarily get deleted but have one or more flaws keeping them from becoming final images.  With digital cameras it is easy to shoot many variations of the same scene with the hopes that one image turns out better than the rest.  With film, this process is also similar with bracketing exposures and varying compositions.  The end result is usually the same though as we are left with many images to select the best from.  You can learn a lot about what makes a good image by reviewing the ones that don’t make the cut and asking yourself why it doesn’t work.  Maybe the light wasn’t right?  Maybe the composition didn’t work?  Maybe the focus or depth of field wasn’t correct?  Or maybe it simply doesn’t feel right.   Reviewing images that don’t work will allow you to apply this knowledge to future images and hopefully make the type of images you want next time.

I’ll share a few examples over the next week of what I look for in a “keeper” image.  Hopefully you can take something away from these examples too:)

This image is from a remote area of Central Utah in a colorful section of badlands.  There are several elements in this scene that attracted my eye prior to taking a photo.  I like the erosion patterns and the mixture of curves and lines.  The transition of colors was the main attraction for me and I wanted an image that combined the transition of colors with the patterns of erosion.  I also like the small signs of life among the barren landscape and wanted to include this as well.  This image contains all the elements I was looking for but the image itself has many distracting elements.

Firstly, there are plants scattered throughout the image but there are too many.  The ones in the lower right and lower left don’t add anything to the image and aren’t of great visual interest.  You can already see plants in the middle and top left of the image where they stand out more.  Solution: crop to exclude the bottom?  Move closer?  Zoom in?  Move to the right or left?  Compose the image slightly up?  Only one of these options is available once you notice this at home on the computer.

Cropped to 1:2

Once cropped to 1:2, you can still see the plants in the image, the erosion patterns and the transition of colors.  The edges and corners are still a bit messy for my liking and the image looks like it was an afterthought instead of intentional.  That aside, the image now  better shows my original intention but I still wouldn’t consider this a keeper.  I took other photos from this location that show my intention in a simpler image.  Any time I can simplify an image by eliminating distracting and unnecessary elements I find I enjoy the image more.

The other solutions for the original image are done before the shutter is clicked.  Shifting the frame up would allow a full resolution image instead of a cropped image.  Moving closer would eliminate foreground elements, as would zooming in.  Moving to the side would possibly allow a composition that was more visually appealing with the foreground elements.  This is what I refer to as “editing with my eyes” instead of a computer.  You can do all of this in the field and be more selective with your trigger finger.  You will have fewer images to edit and you may even find you come away with more keepers.

As for the final image from this location, I’ll be uploading it to my Recent Work soon.

Thanks for reading,


Instagram: @sageroamer Stories, experiences and observations

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