we write about the things we build and the things we consume
Dan Govan

edit down!

I’ve been taking about a thousand photos a month for years now, and at last month’s #MetaBeerTalks I did a short talk on the reasons why people look at your pics, and how to pander to them (ideally by taking pics of them holding cats).

What I didn’t touch on is that by far the best way to make people look at your pics is to delete most of them. This often surprises people but it stands to reason: your audience has limited attention spans so after taking a few hundred pics of an event the question becomes: which would you rather they saw; the first 20 or the best 20?

It sounds flippant but deleting down photos is actually the hardest part of the editing process. You have to distance yourself from the memory and take each photo out of context, stop thinking so much and just go on gut feeling, then decide which will work best on Instagram, Facebook, or Flickr.

Of course like many I blog and tweet too; the total time spent on content curation is insane but it’s not uncommon; Pinterest and Tumblr are basically wildly successful content curation tools. Editing down is underrated and everywhere; YouTube ads that have 5 seconds to intrigue, info pages that have 2 seconds to convince viewers they’re authoritative. It’s all the same game, condense as much meaning as possible into a single picture, a smaller layout, a soundbite, a tweet.

It’s tempting and so much easier to just make more space, add more content, put some extra into a carousel (in spite of them being demonstrably rubbish) but most of the time you should be saying less instead. In the age of micro-blogging and mobile sites your message should be constantly refined. Try to be all things to all people and you’ll end up with vague half-read articles, background noise. Ditch the fluff. Edit down.

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