"The quality of your visuals = the quality of your product."
Have you heard the saying 'curation is the skill of the future'? Curation has certainly become a buzz word gaining quick popularity in our world of endlessly growing content. As the internet fills up with more and more of everything and anything to consume each day, people find themselves becoming pickier with how they spend their time online (outside of social media scrolling of course!). We have less and less time to catch our audiences attention before they lose interest and move on to the next thing - and this is why curation matters. Curation, regardless of the medium, is essentially the act of making selective choices about what your audience wants to see, and what story you want to tell them. The better you curate, the more engaged your audience will be, and the more they'll be interested in what you have to offer.
When it comes to curating visual elements (or anything really), whether that's for a blog, a portfolio, a website, a book, your Instagram grid or for your clients, the two most important things to keep in mind are 'Why is the viewer here?' and 'What do I want them to take away from this?' If you can answer those two questions you have completed the first step of effective curation (hint: what service or product do you provide, and what do you want them to think of your business). So we've established that your viewer wants to see what you do best, and you want them to think that you're great at it. Congrats! That was pretty easy right? Don't worry, it won't get any harder than this!
There are a few key rules you can apply to make curating easier (but as with anything you can always make exceptions).
Rule #1 Quality over Quantity
When it comes to visuals, poor quality images will always be the first thing that stands out to a viewer. It's noticeable when they're mixed with better quality images - but even more so if they're the only images you have. Quality over quantity may seem obvious, but in this age of trying to meet 'the algorithm's' demands (whichever platform it may be), there's a push to constantly deliver 'new' content and it's easy to feel like we need to share everything we create. I'm not going to tell you how often to post a blog or a social media post (unless you want to know), but I will recommend that you avoid sharing poor quality photos unless they are absolutely necessary for the narrative you are telling (whether that's a wedding blog, or shoe advertisement). This means not sharing absolutely everything you create (no, you don't have to share every single project if you don't want to), and instead sharing only what speaks to your best skills as a creative. The quality of your visuals = the quality of your product. Poor quality images gives customers a reason for concern. Now, that doesn't mean if you include one poor quality image of some really important aspect of your narrative among a bunch of stellar images that your stellar work will be completely discounted and you'll lose all confidence from potential customers or clients, but if more than 15-20% of your images are poor quality, that's going to signal red flags to your viewers right away. Regardless of how many images you are sharing (though I encourage you to give yourself a guideline before you start curating), I highly encourage you to stick to a minimum of 80% your best work, and a max of 20% your second best work. These figures do not apply to 'creative' visual approaches - use as much of that as you feel is true to your style and own it (that's your differentiator from your competition!). If you think something looks bad but you're not entirely sure, compare it to your best work from that same project, and you'll know how you feel about it right away, and likely how your viewers will feel about it too. (*One exception to this rule is if you are a perfectionist or have impostor syndrome - you'll likely think everything looks bad, so I encourage you to get an honest outside perspective, whether that's from a friend or a curator - chances are everything you do looks better than you think it does!)
A quick way to implement this in your curation process is to start by selecting only the best images, creating a narrative from there, and filling in the gaps (only where needed) with your 'second best' images.
Rule #2 Know your Style
We all have a style - whether we stick to it 100% of the time, or flip flop between styles over time. I'm just going to say this right now, it's totally OK to be a generalist if that's what you really want - BUT - be consistent within each 'project'. Sometimes a style is set by the client, and sometimes it's set by unchangeable circumstances (location, available lighting, resources, etc). The important take away is to stay consistent in your curation of each project by selecting a style you're going to stick with when you showcase it, unless your unique selling point is to deliver multiple styles in one gallery/session (and even then you can find a common denominator to tie everything together). So if you tend to deliver bright and airy work, own that and make it the highlight that stands out to your viewer (or whatever aspect is the calling card of your style). You can do this with the 80/20 rule again - a minimum of 80% your signature style, and max 20% something a little different (and sometimes your style IS something a little different, in which case your 20% might be more 'normal' or whatever falls outside of what you regularly do).
A quick way to implement this in your curation process is to start by selecting only images that fit with the chosen style of the 'project', and then add in your creative outliers (only when you really love the quality of them - remember to always keep rule #1 in mind!).
Rule #3 Know the Narrative
Show me the story, without telling me the story. Being a visual creative doesn't always mean we're also automatically great storytellers, but this is exactly what curation is all about - telling a good story. This means sharing all the important details, without excessive focus on the unnecessary details, and really highlighting the best parts. There's a lot of room for creativity in your narrative, both from how you want to approach it (linear - the order events happened, or non linear - presenting events outside of chronological order or interweaving story lines), and also what you want to focus on to tell the story (are you big into details, emotion, or more of a fly on the wall). Generally you want to tell a story that isn't going to confuse your viewers, so remember to include your 5 W's and the H (who, what, where, when, why, and how).
A quick way to implement this in your curation process is to start by selecting the best images that tell the most important parts of the narrative first, and then filling in the extra details (you can select these images from the very start if you feel confident you know what the narrative is, or your can select these images after implementing rules #1 & #2).
Rule #4 Think like a Director
If every movie or magazine spread was shot from the exact same angle the entire time, we would get pretty bored pretty fast. It's the director's job to decide creatively how the story is going to be told. How and when to use establishing shots, close-ups, wide-angles and medium shots. Same goes for visual curation. If you're curating your own work, chances are you're already implementing these qualities when you're creating images (if you haven't, now's the time to start!), so it should already feel a little easier to know when to implement them in a gallery, blog, grid etc. If it doesn't feel obvious, remember that variety is key, as too much of anything in a row gets boring, so be sure to mix it up. Think about the story you're telling, do you want to start close and 'zoom out' to reveal something big, or start wide and 'zoom in' to highlight a special detail? These are the spices we add to the recipe to give it dimension and extra flavour. Of course, the exception would be a series where the intention is to frame everything the same - but in this case, it's clear to you what to select and why, and clear to the viewer what you're doing.
A quick way to implement this in your curation process is to start by selecting the most important location or wide shots, then select your special detail or close-up shots, and fill in the rest with a variety of medium shots from different angles. As with anything, there is always room for exceptions or personal interpretation.
Rule #5 Be Consistent
Consistency creates confidence that you can deliver desired results. Wherever you can deliver consistency, whether in your quality, your style, your storytelling abilities, your depth, or all of the above, make it a priority. You wouldn't want to buy food from a restaurant that doesn't deliver consistent results, so why should your customers put their trust in you to deliver what they're hoping for - the answer is consistency.
When you take all of these rules into account during your curation process, you can move quickly from a mindset of 'removing what isn't working' to a mindset of only selecting what will work, and what you actually need. This will save you a ton of time because you don't have to worry about sorting through the 'meh' or the 2 & 3 star images, because your best work will stand out, and you already know what elements you need to tell the story, so you can hone in on those right away.
If you're already implementing all of these techniques and you still find that you're needing to improve how fast you curate I am always happy to do one on one consultations to help you figure out where you can speed up your work flow. I also offer one-time and ongoing curation services for any visual project, whether that's a new website, regular blogging, social media grids, portfolios, gallery exhibits and more. Let me take some weight off your shoulders so you can focus on what matters most!