Help me choose photos for a photo show (poll)

I’m going to enter some of my wildlife photos in a photo show next month (for display & hopefully sale). I have about 2 weeks to get them ready. I can choose 2-4 photos, and have so far narrowed it down to 6, so I’m looking for some help with the final selection. Here are my 6:

Minute Perfection:


Unusual Robin:

Playful Otters:



  • Minute Perfection
  • Dragonfly
  • Unusual Robin
  • Playful Otters
  • Heron
  • Squirrel

0 voters

If anyone has suggestions for better names, or tips on editing, feel free to let me know!

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does the photo show have a particular theme or is it hosted by an organization that promotes a specific thing? i think it helps to know who your audience is.

generally, i think otters and the heron were photographed from the best perspective, but since it doesn’t seem like the environment is telling much of a story in those photos, those photos would benefit from tighter cropping.

a really tight crop on the squirrel might make it more compelling, too. squirrels are things that many folks encounter quite a bit. so i think you need your photo to show a perspective on the subject that folks generally don’t see.


I agree with pisum, cropping will make the photos more engaging.

The golden-mantled ground squirrel is the one that really engaged me. Especially since it isn’t dead center, and is actively doing something.

The theme is “Nature”. It’s organized by a member of the Audubon Society, but located in an ice-cream shop, so I think the audience is mainly going to be tourists.

What exactly were you thinking with the squirrel? I thought it was already a really tight crop, so I’m curious what else you think should be removed.

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if preserving the 4:3 aspect ratio is important, here’s the tight crop that i would do:

for me, the thing that sticks out in the original photo is the perspective. even though the subject is clearly the squirrel, the perspective makes the unseen human observer a clear presence in the scene, too. i think that the tight crop helps to de-emphasize the effect the perspective. it preserves enough of the face and tail that you know you’re looking at a squirrel, and you have enough of the background to understand the environment.

when i look at the original photo, my overall first impression is “cute squirrel from the perspective of a human standing over it after feeding it a nut at a tourist stop”. when i look at the tight crop, i feel more of a sense of urgency in the squirrel as it eats its nut. you still know there’s a human observer, but the crop reduces the sense of the human standing over it, and instead you see the human in the reflected in the squirrel’s eye. it feels like a more distant interaction, more likely to be a chance, fleeting encounter with a squirrel out in the wild who just happened to be eating a snack. in the tight crop, the missing spots of fur on its snout convey to me more that life is hard out in the rocky wilderness than that it fights a lot with other squirrels who routinely beg for scraps from human visitors.

if the judges and potential purchasers are tourists, i think i would go with the mammals. even though the color of the skipper against the green is more visually pleasing, i think folks are going to have a harder time connecting to it because regular folks have a hard time emotionally connecting to insects in what is effectively a character study, unless you have a good view of their eyes looking back at you.


I’m between the tight crop on the squirrel and a tight crop of the otters.

the tight crop looks really good, I just think it’s a shame that the viewers would miss out on the nice striped patterning on the rest of his body.

I agree, the little skipper looks really good against the green. I think a lot of people would like the skipper photo, though, even if they were mostly tourists.

The human brain enjoys symmetry, contrasting colors, and a subject that is in focus. Minute perfection has all of those, and has a sense of cuteness: you get to see the fluffy texture of the wings, and it has big eyes. A lot of people love seeing butterflies, so I think Minute Perfection would do really well.


agreed. i didn’t want to lose the stripes either, but given the choice of keeping the stripes vs reducing the effect of the original perspective, my sense is that the latter was the better path. i didn’t think there was a good crop to preserve the stripes unless you go really wide – 2:1 or beyond, like so:

unfortunately, i think such a wide aspect ratio makes it hard to physically frame and place such a photo within most spaces, although it could work well in other contexts.

it’s possible. i think the reason that particular photo is visually pleasing is because among the photos here, it most closely follows the 60-30-10 color rule (green-brown-orange). but i think when people actually purchase photos for those kinds of aesthetics, they actually need something that will fit within a larger 60-30-10 color scheme in their houses. i can see a situation where the rust-beige-black of the tight crop squirrel would actually go nicely with a common color scheme in many houses, or that the brown-dominance will work well in a 60-30-10 scheme that incorporates brown, but i think it’s harder to find the right space for a green-dominant photo, even if it works well in isolation. there definitely could be a market for the skipper, but my sense is that it would be a smaller market than for the mammals and the heron.

the other thing is that if you were going to present 2-3 photos as a set, the skipper photo seems to me like it would stick out from the others here. if you presented them separately though, maybe that would be okay.

Thanks everyone for your input! I’ve decided on Minute Perfection, Playful Otters, Heron and Squirrel. I am now closing the poll. If you would still like to contribute, I need better names for Heron and Squirrel. Any suggestions would be welcomed.

You probably won’t like this answer, but my recommendation is to go with the squirrel and the heron only. The others really aren’t that good from a viewing perspective.

I realize it may have taken considerable skill, patience, hard work, and technical knowledge to make these shots, but that’s irrelevant to your audience. You need to let go of the emotion that these pictures were difficult to get and that you’re naturally proud of them. It’s rough, but the people judging these pictures don’t know nor care about any of that. Get over it.

It seems you need these pictures to appeal to ordinary people based on the images alone. It might be quite different if you were showing your work in a nature study class, and they’d all make great observations here on iNaturalist.

Critique from best to worst:

The squirrel is good because it feels like we’re there with the squirrel while it’s eating that seed. It’s not just sitting there. We feel engaged.

The heron works because it’s something hard to see for ordinary people. That background is blurred, so not getting in the way of the theme. It may be “just sitting there”, but it’s majestic and draws you in to take a closer look.

The butterfly is just a butterfly sitting there in the middle of a mostly empty picture. It’s not majestic like the heron. If this is a special species the picture might have some appeal to those that know about it, but it’s just a “marginally pretty butterfly” to everyone else, including me. It’s not a bad picture, but I wouldn’t ever hang it on the wall either.

The dragonfly picture is difficult to look at. First, there’s the artificial surface it’s on. The edge of that cutting right across the middle of the picture really detracts. It’s hard to see the wings on one side as a result.

The otters are cute, but surrounded by way too much distracting stuff. Again, I understand it might not have been easy to get this shot, and you may be justifiably proud of capturing the otters at all, but it’s not a good picture just as a picture.

The robin is surrounded by even more distracting stuff. It’s not even a good picture of a robin. Honestly, delete it and move on.

Now for another issue: Framing. Others have brought this up too.

There is too much unused space left of the squirrel. Some unused space there is good because the animal is looking in that direction. But, you have too much. Here is a suggestion working only with what you showed us:


That changed the aspect ratio, so I don’t know if it’s allowed or not. It will be tough to make this a good picture if 4:3 is required and there isn’t more in the original that you didn’t show us.

The heron has too much blank space all around. Basically, it’s too small a bird in too big a picture. Some space is good, especially to the right where the heron is looking.


I also made the whites white and the blacks black in both the cropped pictures. Using the whole available dynamic range is usually good. It makes the pictures “pop” more without losing information. Note how your heron looks fine on its own, but a little “dingy” after you’ve looked at my version.

A long time ago an old photographer said something profound to me that really changed how I think about presenting my pictures. He said there is just one rule for being a good photographer: Only show good pictures.

Think about that for a while. Nobody knows nor cares how many pictures you take. If you take 1,000 pictures with only 1 great one and show only that picture, you’re a good photographer. If you show 10 merely decent pictures, you’re a “meh” photographer and nobody will take notice.

Present only the squirrel and heron, and those will be what you’re judged by. The others will hurt, not help.


Based on my posting experiences:

Birds over bugs. Mammals over birds. Especially for a public contest AND especially in the viewing context of a place where people come to purchase food. ‘Read the room’, as they say.

If I had to pick one? Again, context. If the original would survive the cropping, I’d go with the otter. Singular. The one reclining. Ice cream parlours are a form of indulgent, playful thinking. A relaxed otter is a good match.

Especially if there are not any critical cropping ratio restrictions. A little rotation and going for a more relaxed landscape…

I think too that for most people, otters evoke only positive feelings. They’ve a very playful, fun feel and are more wild and exotic to most than squirrels.

And let’s face it, squirrels are just not so universally admired. As a homeowner who has spent years trying to keep their damages to a workable minimum, I may be a little biased.

And one final otter point? They are typically shown in their natural hyperactive state. Showing one ‘chilling’ (that’s your piece title, by the way) gives it a vital message twist that is both resonant with the ethos of ice cream indulgence, and engaging in its unexpected portrayal.


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