Sometimes It’s Hard to Choose- Tough Times Editing

Feeding the gulls at the Seattle Center.

When you’re editing your work, you choose one photo over the other. The reasons vary as to why you picked Photo A over Photo B. But because as you gain experience in both shooting and editing, you have a tougher time choosing what you believe is the best photo.

During an edit for my Photo of the Week section in my portfolio, I came across a such a dilemma. I had to choose one photo over the other. Both photos I like equally well.

Being as I am my own worst critic, it was quite useful to nit pick over the flaws of each photo. But the reality is, when you’re working a deadline at a newspaper, you just have to choose one over the other according to the needs of the story.

Then when you go over your photos and in not such a big hurry, you wonder why you didn’t pick a certain photo. Editor’s remorse you can call it.

This week, I spent a few hours with the Street Photographers of Seattle group and went out to the Seattle Center. It was a fun time. I ran across a man in a wheelchair feeding the seagulls.

Most of the participants shot him from the side. From experience, I knew the better photos would be from the front. Frame the man surrounded by the birds.

As a result, I captured a few good moments. Some are tight on just him and the others had the Space Needle in the background.

Photo A and Photo B

So I began the comparison of the two photos.

Photo A: Nice moment with a good expression and some bread in the air. It has good focus and depth of field. It fills the frame. But, the horizon is crooked, the bags kind of irritate me, and his head is too close to the top of the frame. Also, you can’t really tell where he’s feeding the gulls.

Photo B: A good moment with the gulls in the air, he’s looking up, bread in the air, a gull appears to have its wings wrapped around the Space Needle, and a nice sense of place with the Space Needle clearly visible. However, the dead space in the upper right is boring, the photo is a touch dark, and I find some of the background distracting.

Both photos have strong merits that outweigh the drawbacks. However, this made the editing worse. It made it tougher to choose.

So I considered the use. This didn’t help. They’re for my website.

Feeding the seagulls at the Seattle Center in the shadow of the Space Needle.

The one factor I needed to consider in choosing the photo was personal choice. I like the tighter frame where you can see his face more clear. And this was the deciding factor.

For me, photos should draw you in and garner a reaction. They should make you think, create an emotion, keep you engaged. But again, that’s all a personal reaction by the viewer and each brings in their own experiences. This is why everyone has different tastes in photographs.

In the end I just chose the photo that I like best- Photo A. And that is what editing in photography boils down to: personal choice.


    1. Hi Erin and thanks for visiting.

      I’ve had to pick a few photos I didn’t like because they fit the story better. Or worse, because the editor liked one tiny minor thing in an otherwise crappy image. I hated that the most.

      Thanks again Erin.


  1. time and time again i argue with myself over which photo to pic and it always feels like i have chosen the wrong one in the long run .. i look and look and look and it seems after reading this and mulling over the points you’ve made ,i over look ,i over think .. trust the eye !! great Blog !!! id give it 10 stars if i could


    1. Hi Sweetpea.

      One of the best techniques to help you chose is to put the two photos side by side and spend some time going over the positives and negatives of each image.

      Then, pick the one you like best.

      This was a tough choice as I like both photos about the same.


  2. Hi Paul,
    This is great advice. BTW, I agree with your choice.

    The inclusion of the Space Needle tells viewers where the picture was taken. I can see that the structure would be an important element if this was part of a series for “Fun Activities in the Seattle area”

    But if we’re just choosing one picture that stands on its own, definitely the picture that’s tighter without the Space Needle.


    1. Thanks Pete for visiting.

      It was a tough call, but as you know, it sometimes gets worse under deadline pressure. Also, we had to take into account the use of the photo. If this was for an issue about the Seattle Center, the Space Needle would make a good photo. But one of many in the series.

      The tighter one speaks to me more. There’s no ambiguity and you can clearly see the man’s face. I did, however, falter in my journalism by not getting his name.

      Thanks again Peter.


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