Choosing a Photo


In getting organized to move, I’ve been going through all the stuff I have. The best method I came up with was to make a binary decision: Keep or Toss. That is really hard, since I don’t want to end up throwing away some reference book that I could use for my writing, or some other item that I wish I still had. For example, I practically gave away a wind-up safety razor at a garage sale. It was really cool. It had a knob on the bottom that you would wind up, and the whole thing vibrated. I could kick myself for doing that, now that I am shaving with a safety razor.

I decided to add a third category to my binary decision process: Storage. Perhaps one day I will go through the things I stored with another iteration of Keep/Toss decision making.

Photo editing

I firmly believe in Sturgeon’s Law, which states “90% of everything is crap.” Getting rid of the 90% would make me look like a genius. The question becomes, “Can I determine which is the 10% that isn’t crap?” Everyone has different tastes, and one person’s 10% is not the same as another’s. I could rely on my own taste, but what if that changes?

Choice of a photo

I chose a photograph of my older brother, looking at one of his portraits that I had previously taken. I was trying to capture Mike’s reaction, to see if he recognized himself. Mike is low functioning, autistic and has never spoke.

Here is the picture I showed last time.

autistic sibling viewing portrait

It doesn’t appear that he has any reaction or if he even notices his portrait.

In my look through my photos, I found the one below, where he seems to have a slight smile. He is actually holding the picture, but his eye, the one we can see, doesn’t seem to be looking at the picture.

Mike looks at his portrait 2nd take

But he could have been looking at it with his other eye. His eyes don’t autism autistic sibling photograph asymmetric eyesseem to work together. Could he have been looking toward me with one eye while looking at his portrait with the eye? That alien concept is not apparent in the photograph above.

I don’t know if I chose correctly the first time. Normally, a photograph shows the relationship between the subject and the photographer. However the photographer, as editor, has the final say about which photographs are displayed. This choice says more about the photographer than anything else. Maybe I was trying to show my brother’s disconnection in the first photo. Now I like the second photograph better, if only for the fact that Mike is literally connected to his portrait.

Given my change of mind, I think I should save all my photos.


9 thoughts on “Choosing a Photo

  1. Morning Jack, I like you’re thinking. I personally find it difficult to delete any photos if they are in focus.
    Lovely shots of your brother, nice piece of non-verbal communication 😉

    Warm Regards

    • Thanks, M.

      Interesting generational terminological differences here. Most of my photographs are physical prints that I printed in a darkroom from film negatives. So when I ‘toss’ them, I physically destroy a piece of paper. Deleting is a press of a button, and an electronic configuration of pixels is gone (unless posted on the internet in which case it is never ever gone). Just an observation.

      Thanks again for your kind words.

      warm regards,


      • Ah yes, generational difference I’m not so sure, more a case of habit. I’m so used to dealing with digital images these days that I forget that I too have a huge collection of physical prints sitting in various boxes under the bed waiting to be scanned into the Mac. A massive undertaking in itself! The same applies however to physical prints for me, I have never been able to justify throwing any away so. Unfortunately many of them aren’t as good quality as my digital photos now as I never did acquire my much desired SLR camera. I actually trained as a photographer when I was much younger with the view of following a career in photographic journalism, but life has a funny way of side-tracking you sometimes and photography has remained a hobby.

        Warm regards to you too Jack

    • I know, Sheri. I’ve always thought ahead to the possibility that I might regret tossing something. Thus my problem. I have to balance the freedom of letting go with the chance of regret. I’m getting better at it.



  2. Hey Jack. I rarely delete photos from my camera or phone let alone throw out hard copies. Here is the problem. If 90% is crap the question is which 90% is it? And on any given day my opinion on that will change; with mood, with perspective, with age. For me photos are something I never toss because they capture a moment in time that can never be recaptured. And I love the photos of your brother. They are beautiful!

    • Thank you, Justine. I’m glad you like my photos. I agree about choosing the right 10%! Too risky to toss pictures that might seem marginal. They may seem worthwhile later.

      Thanks for your comment.


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