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The best photo for the job.

The best photo for the job.

It happens in every photo project – you’ve got things narrowed down to 2 different pictures, each with a different strength.  Picture A is beautifully composed, with perfect focus and color balance.  It’s practically a magazine photo!  But your daughter is doing her vaguely frozen “picture smile” and your son isn’t quite looking at the camera.

Picture B is clearly an amateur snapshot – just slightly out-of-focus, or cutting off someone’s head, with blown-out highlights or a slight blue-ish tinge.  But your daughter’s smile is genuine and full and your son is laughing straight into the camera lens in a perfect motion blur.

Which is the right photo for your album or movie?  What is the right balance between artistic integrity and emotional memories?

Obviously, there is no single right answer.  I run into this issue pretty regularly with my own projects.  Sometimes, I really just want a beautiful page that works with all of my other images.  Something about the photo itself calls to me and I choose it “for art’s sake.”

Usually, though, in the end, I admit that I want the real emotions.  It may be a photo that no one else would ever look twice at (and it probably won’t make it into my showcase!), but it captures a moment I want to remember.  I can look at the motion blur and remember how hard we were all laughing that day and how everything seemed to be so full of color and action.

I can make edits to try to account for the photo’s artistic drawbacks (add filters, strategic crops, etc.).  But even if there’s no “fix”, that crooked, blurry photo with red-eye and too-bright flash can be the best representation of that memory.  And that’s the right photo for your project.

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