Comparing Photos Using Photo Mechanic

You may remember earlier this summer we posted our review of Photo Mechanic – one of our favorite pieces of photography software! We use Photo Mechanic to quickly import RAW files, as well as sort through and rate them. One feature that we neglected to mention in our original review is the very useful Compare function.

When sorting through hundreds (sometimes thousands!) of photos you’re almost certain to encounter images that look similar to one another. You’ll flip back and forth through them, but they just look the same :/

Time to compare! 


Notice the buttons above the left photo. You’ll see icons for side-by-side comparison, top-bottom comparison, and returning to just one photo. Once you know where to find the icons you can forget about them and just use their shortcuts – H is for side-by-side, V is for top-bottom, and O is for one photo.

You can see that the right photo is currently selected (light grey). What that means is that that photo will change as you use the left and right arrows to navigate through the thumbnail strip (which you can’t see in this photo). This is super handy in that you can have one select stationary (the left photo) while you quickly compare it to similar photos.

We usually end up taking over a thousand photos at our portrait sessions. Whenever we tell clients or other photographers this it usually elicits disbelief. The fact of the matter is that human expression is a difficult and fleeting thing capture, and taking tons of photos means we’ll hopefully get the select that we’re looking for. By using the comparison function in Photo Mechanic we’re able to get through this fast. It takes practice being able to quickly make decisions about which is the stronger photo, and we’re forced to drill down to the details which often make or break the image. This practice absolutely makes you a stronger photographer, as you come to notice those little things that take an image from good to great. Once you can start noticing those things in your sorting, you’ll start to see them more when you’re shooting. Never underestimate the importance of sorting, and really getting to know your work.

Besides comparing expression its also useful to compare images with similar but slightly different composition. I always find this a tricky task. If there are several different compositions of essentially the same image I usually try to narrow it down to two or three. A little variety is great, and I can usually make one B&W.



Take a look at the photos in the above screenshots (both of the couple and the mom and daughter). Which photos would you choose and why? Leave your thoughts in the comments, or just spend a couple minutes thinking about them. On Monday we’ll share our thoughts on each!

Lauren Lim

Hey friend, I’m Lauren! I’m a photographer and head ninja here at Photography Concentrate. I’m downright obsessed with photography, and love sharing it with super cool folks like yourself. When I’m not shooting, or writing, you can find me cooking (and eating!), traveling, and hanging out with wonderful people.


8 Comments // Leave a comment

  1. i'd pick the one on the right. seems like an easy choice. the way all the lines converge, and with the easier to notice separation between the couple makes it more appealing to me.

  2. You guys are rad! I tell all sorts of people I meet who are interested in photography about this blog.

    It's a tough pick. I'd choose the left image,your current select in grey, because there is a background detail (post? telephone pole) intersecting with the woman's head in the right image, and that's distracting. (Although, re: composition, the leading lines and lower perspective in the right image are "better".)

  3. For the mom & daughter I'd choose the one on the right. I think it's a touch better exposed and I like the expression on the daughters face better even though it's only slightly different.

    For the couple I'd choose the one on the right. I feel like the lines lead better and I like the position of the couple better.

  4. In regard to the picture of the mom and daughter, I would pick the right one. It seems softer to me and the lighting on their faces is more pleasing to my eye.

    And as for the picture of the couple, the one on the left grabs my attention more than the one on the right. I like the "straighter" line at the top and I like the positioning of the couple better as well. It feels more loving. :)

    I'm no pro though. :P

  5. For the couple I prefer the picture on the right, but I would crop the large triangular dark shadow from the bottom. I prefer it because:
    -the extra bit of sky helps to balance that mass of concrete foreground
    -the curved lines at the top are more interesting and they assist the converging lines that point to the couple. (the lines on the left picture just want to pull your eye out to the sky, not to the couple.)
    Also, I like that they are individuals holding hands for this shot.

    The Mom and Daughter picture is a tougher call, but I like the one on the right again. On the right side picture
    -the Mom's face has a bit more exposure with softer shadow. (Possibly retouch the necklace to make it less distracting?)
    -Mom's sweater might yield more detail with less noise because of the extra exposure
    -the picture looks like you may have opened up 1/2 stop and put the grass near the daughter's hand just enough out of focus to stop distracting the eye
    -the daughter's hands are not clenched but are soft


  6. Mom and daughter….left…her eyes go "pop" but also no mom is gonna buy a photo with that "underhung" chin no matter how good you expose it….and I prefer the girl's hands on the mom's back…
    Image above, I'd pick the left but crop it in to the same crop as the right one :-)

  7. Minotaurus007 says:

    Trying to extract special criteria why one photo works is one thing. However, there are endless criteria! You end up rationalizing about one thing while disregarding others. And more: today you may like image A more than B, tomorrow you might chose the other one: depending on your mood.

    Try multiple comparisons. Write the results down (this can be done by the computer). After a while, without even noticing what went on, you get the best picture. And this is the result of a perfect subjective rating, a rating that takes *all* aspects into account. All aspects of a picture, and all aspects of the observer.

    After some time you have a collection and can *then* try to correlate some aspects with the strength of a picture to get the key elements of what you are looking for. But even then: most of the time the combination of criteria makes a good photograph.

    As a consequence I use PhotoMechanic to sort out the best portrait of 3 similar frames to throw away the other images. Thereby reducing the amount of pictures from 1000-1500 to 300-500. Sometimes, I repeat this process to have some 100-200 pictures.

    These are then compared with the technique described. Often I am really surprised when see the winner. Only 10 comparisons may be enough to be sure.

  8. Hi Rob & Lauren,
    After you cull all your images from a session, do you only keep the RAW files that you approved and delete the non-select RAW files ? Just trying to get a handle on how to better manage my space on my hard drives!

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