If you ever photographed an airshow or sporting event, you know just how fast you can shoot through a thousand images. After a two-day event, you can easily shoot over 10,000 images. And it can be a bit overwhelming trying to sort through them all and finding the ones you want to share. After years of shooting, I have come up with a system of sorting that helps me find the images I want to share. There’s no right or wrong way to sort your images. This is just what I have learned that works well for me. And this may or may not work for you. With that being said, this is how I cope with the pain of sorting.
To start, it would be good to know what you are trying to share and for what platform. Are they for your personal website, an online forum, Instagram, Facebook or maybe a yearly photo book? For this situation, I want my images to show the overall feeling of the TICO show on my blog. So, I want to limit the post to 50 images. The first step is to copy all the images from the show and place them in a separate folder. I never play/sort/edit the original files. My system is quite simple, it is looking at all my images from a show and in a series of rounds deleting poor images until I get to my set number.
Yes, I have seen every photo I have shot from all the airshows and aviation events I’ve attended. Easily well over 250,000 images. You do not know what you got until you have seen it. It is exciting when you stumble upon something unexpected. I could not imagine creating images and not looking at them. This is not a process to speed up sorting. But it is a system to find the most visually pleasing images of an event that you want to share.
I am a Window user, so I use ImageGlass to view and delete unwanted photos. I find the copied folder and open the first image and start sorting. Hit the next button if it is a keeper and, Trash bin if it’s junk. The first round of images to be deleted are out of focus and soft images. Along with images that the aircraft is blocked by something. Hats, heads, antenna, speakers, airshow smoke, other aircraft. And images that part(s) of the aircraft are cut off. Missing noses, tails, wings, horizontal stabilizers…
For the TICO show, I shot just over 7,900 images over 3 days on 2 bodies. And after the first round, I’m down to about 3500 images. The next round of deletions are images where the subject(s) are too small for my taste.
Also in this round, if the sky has clouds (not overcast but a few here and there) as TICO did on Friday and Saturday. Those images are preferred over ones with a clear blue sky. I feel clouds adds visual appeal and a sense of location. This round is purely subjective, but I love showing clouds.
A new thing I’ll been working on is to blur the clouds by shooting a lower shutter speed than normal. It’s difficult to do but it makes your subject really stand out along with adds a sense of speed. Here’s a few examples.
In the next round, undesirable photos are deleted. Images such as belly shots, images where the wing is blocking the canopy, and what I’m calling “going away” shots. Starting with belly photos, I feel looking at the belly of an aircraft makes for a boring and uninteresting photo. Unless there is something of interest such as ordinance, open weapons bays or if your lucky, firing flares. An easy way to go about it is to ask yourself this question, “Why are my viewers going to look at this?” If you don’t have an answer, it goes in the bin. Next are images where the wing of the plane is blocking the view of the canopy. It’s an odd situation that happens soon after an aircraft passes in front of you and starts to head away. Its more noticeable with smaller low wing aircraft. I reject these images if I already have one showing the cockpit. And finally, “going away” photos. There are along the same lines of belly shots. An image where your subject is going away from you and has no visual appeal. But some “going away” images are cool. For example, photos with afterburner blazing and or vapor of some sort.
Now I am down to about 250 images. In this round, it is time to get rid of the duplicate images that look the same but are shot on different days. There is no reason to show multiple images of the same aircraft especially at similar angles. This is harder to do if the weather is similar during the duration of an event. Sunday the weather crapped out and made this round of deletions much easier. There are very few Sunday images that made to cut. Here are two sets of duplicate shots, the first one is from Saturday’s show and the second is from Sunday. The Saturday image is clearly has better light. At the end of this round, my image counts is down to 100-120.
On to the final and hardest round. Weeding them down to 50. This is where it is important to know what you’re trying to show. To pick the right images that properly captures what you’re trying to convey. What helps me here is a series of questions that guides me to choose the most visually appealing images. What makes this image better than the others? Is there some element of design such as line, color, composition or symmetry incorporated into the photo? Which image has the cleanest/least distracting background? And which photo has the better exposure? With the last major huddle cleared, I now have my batch of visually appealing photos I want to share. But now come the Importance of Post Process. Which should not be a major chore. Nor do I want to spend an extraordinary amount of time in post either.
The less time I spend in post, the sooner I can upload and share my images. This system of sorting can work for any genre of photography. Again, this process is to help find the most visually pleasing images possible, and I hope it can help you with your sorting. Here’s a link to my final set of images from the TICO show.
Until next post,
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