Lesson 19: Selecting your photos - camera roll review as reflection and gratitude

If you’ve been keeping up with your photo-a-day project, you have likely been getting into the habit of reviewing your camera roll daily to select your photo of the day.

But I want to talk a little more about how I approach this task so that it is more than a to-do - it is an act of self-care and an opportunity for reflection and gratitude.

While I know it can be tempting to scroll quickly through your photos while multi-tasking, I encourage you to create a little bit more space for this ritual when you can. I’m not talking about anything elaborate, but I like to at least wait until the kids are in bed and I can settle in on the sofa and really enjoy the moment. Or do it over your morning coffee before your kids are awake, or during your lunch break at work (if you have such a thing) or whenever suits your routine.

In the end, this was my favorite "first day of kindergarten" photo of Jack, even though I had better quality photos on my DSLR. His "I nailed it" posture and expression were what I most wanted to remember about the day.

In the end, this was my favorite "first day of kindergarten" photo of Jack, even though I had better quality photos on my DSLR. His "I nailed it" posture and expression were what I most wanted to remember about the day.

The point is not to make it another item on your to-do list, but to think of it as a little treat for yourself that you can look forward to and enjoy.

If you’re new to a photo-a-day project, I do suggest that you try to do this daily to begin with because the “instant gratification” of selecting and uploading your photo will help you stay motivated and on track.

But if you can’t do it daily, that’s ok.  You can always catch up.

As you look through your photos, try not to judge the quality of the photo itself, but instead look for and recall the emotions.

  • What were you or your subjects feeling in the moment?
  • What do you notice and see in your photos that maybe you didn’t have time to stop and reflect on in the moment?
  • Which photos best capture what you most want to remember about the day?

Yes, look at lighting, composition and focus, but only as they help to support the story that you want to tell.

Look for emotionally good vs. technically good photos and keep yourself honest - sometimes the “best” photo technically or visually is not actually the moment you most want to remember. 

DSLR photo - although not necessarily the "best" technically from our camping trip., but I love the emotions captured here. Although I am not in the photo visually, it remind me of the four of us sitting around talking, laughing and playing after dinner.

DSLR photo - although not necessarily the "best" technically from our camping trip., but I love the emotions captured here. Although I am not in the photo visually, it remind me of the four of us sitting around talking, laughing and playing after dinner.

Put this into action:

  • Turn your camera review and selection process into a ritual that you can look forward to - it doesn’t have to take a long time, just be a little bit intentional about it
  • As you look through your photos, focus on the recalling the emotions and noticing things you didn’t have time to stop and reflect on in the moment
  • Look for emotionally good vs technically good photos and select the photo(s) that best capture what you most want to remember about the day - “favorite” them on your smartphone
  • Go back and look at all your “favorites” for the day and select the ONE photo that BEST reflects what you most remember about the day for your photo-a-day project. Of course, you can share more than one photo for the day on social media or set them aside for your photo project

Taking it further:

  • If you are using, for example, LR mobile or an app or software that offers a star rating system, I typically give 95% of my photos either 4 stars or no stars, with the occasional 5 stars for photos that are totally out of the ballpark, and 3 stars for photos that I want to set aside in case I need them in an album to, for example, fully tell the story of the day. I definitely wouldn’t try to rate each photo on a scale of 1-5. 

Once you have an understanding from the next few lessons of how editing can improve or salvage photos, you can bear this approach in mind when you select photos that may not look great but you know will be worthy of keeping and sharing once you edit them.

Jack happily waving good bye from the window on the second day of camp - with Liam next to him. Not a great photo technically but it meant to much to me that we had a good drop-off and Jack was adjusting so quickly. Definitely an emotionally vs technically good photo.

Jack happily waving good bye from the window on the second day of camp - with Liam next to him. Not a great photo technically but it meant to much to me that we had a good drop-off and Jack was adjusting so quickly. Definitely an emotionally vs technically good photo.

Today’s photo prompt: What are you grateful for?
Next up: Editing for composition - rotate, straighten, crop

Note: I'll be giving you daily photo prompts to help you in your photo-a-day project, but they are completely optional. Ultimately you should choose the photo for your project that best reflects what you most want to remember about the day.

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