20 Tips for critiquing your holiday photos

The scenario

Your friend has just come back from an eco-adventure in the Antarctic. She’s invited you and several friends over one night to look at her photos. When you arrive you get a glass of red wine and find yourself a comfy spot on the couch. She’s borrowed the data projector from work and has it pointed at the coffee-with-cream coloured wall. The lights dim. The show begins.

The dreaded slideshow

The icebergs were spectacular, at first. You noticed a few exposure problems, but it is rather hard to shoot snow, or was it the paint on the wall? You let it pass. Then came the birds. Thousands of birds in one photo. Many, many photos of thousands of birds. You get it. There were birds and lots of bird poop too. Next up, penguins. Of course this is the real reason you came to see the slide show on Antarctica, you wanted to see up-close photos of penguins in their natural habitat. How cool is that!

Three hours later you are still watching penguin photos on the wall that isn’t even white. Your mind starts to wander again. People are yawning and have lost their zest for penguins. Is there any wine left? You don’t want to get up, as you’ll lose your prime spot on the couch. How come they didn’t get a proper screen?

If this is you, go immediately to this How to Critique presentation. If this is a friend or family member, you may have to be more diplomatic, so send them this post using someone else’s email address. Kidding! Well, maybe not totally kidding.

Fix this problem

Seriously though, to save yourself from a yawning or fidgety audience, follow these steps for sorting your collection before inviting guests over to see your vacation photos.

  1. Less is more. Limit your slide show or presentation to about 100 of your best photos that summarize the story of your trip. Definitely don’t go over 200! Better to leave them wanting more than to put people to sleep.
  2. Choose photos that have strong composition.
  3. Pick photos that have interesting lighting, and that were shot at different times of the day and in different weather.
  4. Eliminate any photos that are out of focus.
  5. Don’t choose any photos with poor exposure.
  6. Get rid of any photos with strange-looking colour casts, unless you did that on purpose.
  7. Tell a story with your photos, the story of your trip, or maybe one part of your trip.
  8. Vary the shots in your show by mixing landscapes and urban scenes with detail shots of each as well.
  9. People shots are good too, especially locals as it gives a sense of your experience there, and shows more emotion than just landscapes and cityscapes. There weren’t too many locals in Antarctica though!
  10. Include people who your audience knows, but don’t show too many shots of people who no one knows (except for locals), even if they are your new best friends that you met on the tour.
  11. Avoid using too many “Mary in front of this monument” photos. A few are okay as they give a sense of scale. Take the monument by itself too.
  12. Of course you have those ubiquitous sunset shots. Put your best one at the end of your presentation.
  13. Copy your final selections into a folder and organize your show using your favourite presentation software. I’m a fan of Apple’s Keynote, but PowerPoint is perfect too.
  14. Go easy on the transitions. Better to use a simple wipe from left to right, or a 1 second dissolve, than try to wow everyone with the software features. Slow dissolves make people impatient and too many different transitions interrupt the flow.
  15. Time your show so that it takes no more than an hour. I mean it!
  16. Four seconds is long enough for each slide, unless it requires a really long explanation or there is more than one photo on the page.
  17. If you are adding music, make sure the music fits with the photos and the audience.
  18. If your music is too slow, people will nod off, too raucous and they’ll get irritated.
  19. Make your show more interesting by using some local folk, or traditional music by artists in the region you visited.
  20. Lastly, project your images on a clean white wall, or better yet, rent a screen or use a large screen TV, which is fine for smaller groups. After all that work, you want your photos to look their best!

These tips can be used for editing your family photos too

If you have other suggestions for sorting through mountains of photos, please post them in the comments.

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