Reasons to Keep a Rejected Image

Remember back in the days of film when the only way to take hundreds of photographs was to have several rolls of film on hand? Photographers had to constantly change out the old rolls for new. It was inconvenient, and if you weren’t fast you would miss “the shot.” However, it forced us to think more carefully about the pictures we were taking. A decision on a rejected image was usually made before it was even created. For many of us that careful consideration has carried over into the digital era.

After the film was developed more rejections came. It wasn’t until after the film was processed that some flaws could be seen. Those of us who printed our own pictures simply passed by the failed negatives without printing them. The negative was rarely thrown out because it likely was attached to a strip of “keepers.”

Even with digital I still don’t always recognize the flaws until I have had a chance to see the image back in the studio. Since the camera displays a “pre-processed,” compressed, thumb-nail version, an image that looks good on the camera display may not look so great when I see it on my studio monitor.

Digital photography has given us the ability, for better or worse, to be less discriminating about the pictures we take. There is a prevalent philosophy among many picture-takers that if you shoot enough frames something is going to turn out good. The problem with the “spray and pray” mentality is that picture-takers who subscribe to it rarely learn how to be better photographers.

That is why I want to tell you about this image and why you might want to keep your rejected images.

Rejected Image Rescued

industrial chute - image rescued

This old grain chute is one of the remnants of an old livestock feed mill still standing off a Georgia state highway. It had made it through my initial cull. Barely. On first look I decided it would not be worth the time it might take to fix it’s problems. After processing the image to this point I still wasn’t happy with it. I pushed it aside and perhaps come back to it later, thinking I could always delete it then.

grain chute from image rescued Here is the original unedited image. You can see how blown out the highlights in the clouds are. There are also some deep shadow areas in the chute which are less of an issue to fix. What it really came down to is this. The image didn’t really do anything for me, and I didn’t want to invest time in it. Still I decided to keep it and work with it a little, just to see what I could do.

Sometimes it is clear that an image is a reject. Out of focus, extreme under/over exposure, composition failure, technical disaster. In cases like these feel free to delete. Other times it is not so clear. Like when you’re not happy with it. That’s when I bring in the first reason to not immediately reject images.

1. Fresh Eyes

When you look intently at a lot of images, sometimes hundreds, trying to decided which to keep and which to reject, it can be difficult to see and to think clearly. That’s when you know it is time to stop making decisions and take a break.

Come back to candidates for rejection later with fresh eyes and a clear mind. You may find new inspiration.

2. Different Eyes

After processing this image I was still thinking it might end up on the chopping block. But instead of deleting it, I decided to post it to my Website. That way it would be filed away and available online if I wanted it for a social media post or something else.

At an event I was recruited to photograph, I was asked about my photography by a couple of interior design folks. Showing them this image, and not telling them my plans to reject it, they both told me they liked it and might have a need for such an image.

Enough said. Rejection reversed. This one is a keeper.

We can often be our own worse critic. Get the honest opinion of others. I have to remind myself sometimes that if I create only for myself, my success rate will dwindle. Some of my best selling images are ones I wouldn’t necessarily buy for myself.

There are more

There are more reasons to keep a rejected image. Maybe you have some of your own to share. You can do that in the comment section. This post is longer than my usual and so I’ll stop with these two reasons for now.

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