2015 Top Ten Third Pass

Selecting My Top Ten Photos for 2015 (Podcast 504)

As has been my tradition since 2007, I have taken some time over the past week to reflect on the images I have made during 2015, and worked through the process of editing down my favorites to just 10 images. Today I'm going to share my thoughts on the process,...

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Martin Bailey
Martin Bailey is a nature and wildlife photographer and educator based in Tokyo. He's a pioneering Podcaster and blogger, and an X-Rite Coloratti member.
  • Lloyd Kasper
    Posted at 19:18h, 04 January Reply

    Martin, this is my second attempt at doing my top ten for the year, for me this is a great personal exercise in looking back and comparing to my previous year.

    From completing this for 2014, I set up a Lightroom Keyword to start tracking my images during the year, and then over the last two weeks, I have been reducing this number from Approx 118 Photos down to my Top 10 from the last 12 months.


    And this was my 2014 Images


    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 23:27h, 04 January Reply

      Nicely done Lloyd! I remember your set from last year. The Brisbane image is still just as spectacular. 🙂

      Another great set for this year too. The lion is probably my favorite. What a great expression!

      Thanks for sharing!

      • Lloyd Kasper
        Posted at 07:09h, 05 January Reply

        Thanks Martin. I really love the 6 week old Monkey image. That’s absolutely an amazing photo.

  • Steve
    Posted at 01:46h, 05 January Reply

    Beautiful images Martin, as always. I did this last year following listening to your podcast, and I’ve done it again on my slightly new website (I switched services from Portfoliobox to SmugMug)

    My top images for 2015 are at http://www.stevenjamesmartin.com/2015review

    I’d love to hear any thoughts you have on them or the website in general.

    Best wishes,

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 21:04h, 05 January Reply

      Great selection Steve! The warm feel of the cat on the sofa is great, and your composition for the Bali rice fields shot is really nice. The site is looking good. Nice and clean.

      All the best for 2016!

  • Alexander Jemeljanov
    Posted at 04:40h, 05 January Reply

    Hi Martin, thank you for such great shots, it is important to try reach next level in photography and to have one leader closer to personal level. Otherwise trying to go on top and resemble best world class photographers can lead to depression at some point

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 21:38h, 05 January Reply

      You’re welcome Alexander. Thanks for stopping by.

      All the best for 2016!

  • XtoF
    Posted at 04:55h, 05 January Reply

    Here is my selection: http://www.xtof.photo/2015/bestof/
    Last year I read your post a little bit late, but I firmly intended to do the exercise this year. It was very interesting, indeed. Thanks for the advice!

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 21:07h, 05 January Reply

      Nice selection XtoF! Thanks for sharing!

  • Wild Drake Photography
    Posted at 05:26h, 05 January Reply

    Hi Martin,

    2015 marks the first time I’ve put together a Top Ten images list: http://wilddrakephotography.com/2016/01/03/top-ten-favourite-images-of-2015/

    Through the process I have come to learn that while I prefer landscape / nature photography, I tend to include other, often man-made, elements in many of the images. As well, I took a variety of more random images that don’t fit this category. I expect that this year I will continue to refine my style and work on improving my photography skills.

    I enjoyed your blog post / podcast and the great photos, and always look forward to more insights from you.

    I hope you have a great year of photography and in general.


    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 21:14h, 05 January Reply

      Nice set Drake. I think the window cleaner is my favorite. Nice graphic elements and structure. The plastic chicken is fun too. 🙂

      Thanks for sharing. Have a great 2016!

  • Chris
    Posted at 08:16h, 05 January Reply

    OK Martin. You’ve managed to inspire me to go ahead and pick my own top 10 for 2015. My pool of choices is shallower than yours but it will take me a day or two to make my selection. See you back here then. Chris

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 21:16h, 05 January Reply

      I look forward to seeing your selection Chris. Good luck!

  • flatworldsedge
    Posted at 09:24h, 05 January Reply

    Thanks again for an amazing year of content! I’m still playing catch up with the last few podcasts, but have been looking forward to this one for weeks. It’s great to hear your thought process, and I’ve been mentally preparing myself for this exercise ever since running it late last year for my 2014 top ten.

    From yours, I love that nuanced balance of dusty grey/blue blur behind the crisp orange of the fox, and the incredible portrait of the Himba girl. The way the light gives that punchy emphasis to her eyes and casts shadows from her hair, but then melts away to a low key glow is breathtaking. Magic work!

    I totally get your note on running separate selections for different genres. For me that would be one for stock of my daughter, one for stranger street portraits and one for low light landscapes. And it would be a total cop out! The real interest of the selection process is where the genres we shoot clash against each other. When I’ve thought about choosing between portraits, it’s a useful exercise, but much less enlightening than trying to choose between a stranger portrait, an ice cave and a tilt-shift wildlife shot. It feels like mixing of genres really forces a new perspective on ones photography, and far more scrutiny of the essentials beneath each image, whereas comparing in genres (for me at least) is a lot more subject matter driven.

    It’s been a superbly revealing and useful exercise all over again, and I’m kind of excited to share the final set by way of crystalising the process. I have to say I was at 11 for ages, but couldn’t make any selection of ten feel coherent and representative until I jumped over to my Getty Images stock uploads to grab a shot I’d previously overlooked for “portfolio” use. It gave a little fizz of humanity and really lifted things, even though weaker than some 7-8 other shots who, though technically stronger, couldn’t make the glass slipper ever finally fit.

    Final selection Top Ten Photographs 2015.

    Thanks again and have an amazing 2016. Safe travel to all!

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 21:26h, 05 January Reply

      Thanks for sharing your selection Matthew. I remember your set from last year too. Both contain great images.

      The first shot in your 2015 set is surreal. Beautiful! Lovely soft light and clarity in the little girl shot too. And that’s a really nice Skógafoss angle. Well done!

      Thanks for the kind words about my work too.

      I’m with you about the clash of the genres too. It does make it more difficult and beneficial to pitch these against each other.

      All the best for 2016!

  • Steve Wolfe
    Posted at 09:46h, 05 January Reply

    Hi Martin,

    I just finished selecting my 2015 Top Ten Photographs (http://www.stephenwolfe.photography/blog/2016/1/4/my-2015-top-ten-photographs) yesterday, and then I found this episode today. I made my first top ten list after listening to your 2014 podcast. I greatly enjoyed this exercise both times and found it to be much easier this year even though I made many more photos. I’m thinking that maybe practice makes perfect :). Thank you for another year of entertaining and informative “blogcasts.”

    Happy New Year!

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 21:31h, 05 January Reply

      Hi Steve,

      The set looks great, especially the flamingo which is classic in black and white. For some reason though, none of the images open any larger when I click the thumbnails. If they should, you might want to take a look at that. In case it helps, I’m using Firefox on Mac OS X.

      I’m pleased you are finding the exercise useful. The process itself does get easier with practice, for sure.

      Thanks as always for stopping by, and for sharing your work. A Happy New Year to you too!

      • Steve Wolfe
        Posted at 10:00h, 06 January Reply

        Thank you, Martin, both for your kind words and for pointing out the linking problem. I believe I’ve solved the problem, so I hope others will have a better experience. If you’re interested, please feel free to take another look.


        • Martin Bailey
          Posted at 10:18h, 06 January Reply

          I’m pleased you were able to fix the links Steve. I certainly am interested, and just took another look. The flamingo shot is even better than I expected. That’s a classic! I love black and white animals, and that is one of the best I’ve seen. Take a look at Christian Meermann’s black and white animals here, if you are interested. You have to scroll down after clicking to view the gallery.


          Your boat on the short in the Isle of Kerrera is another favorite. They are all very nice though. Thanks again for sharing, and all the best for 2016!

  • Glenn Smith
    Posted at 15:37h, 05 January Reply

    So another year has gone and time to find the top ten shots for the year. Not an easy task, it took me 3 hours this year to finalise my top ten, as Martin says its like asking to remove some of your children, even though the other shots are still in your library, Very hard.


    This year only Bird and Mushroom shots made the cut and one Moon shot, so looks like I need to work more of my other work landscapes and flowers. some were in the last round but had to go to make the final ten when looked at closely they didn’t stack up with what I had. its a hard world out there in the battle for the top ten.


    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 21:36h, 05 January Reply

      A great set Glenn!

      The birds are nice and crisp, with many great poses. I love the moon shot too. So many people concentrate on the full moon, but a partial moon shows much more texture in the craters, and so is generally a favorite for me too. You’re getting some lovely light in your mushroom shots as well. Very nice!

      Thanks for sharing, and all the best for 2016!

  • Jon Stallings
    Posted at 02:00h, 06 January Reply

    Hey Martin, very interesting podcast. I don’t think I have ever heard anyone talk about selecting your top photos as an important process to growing in our craft. I think about how hard a time I have just deleting poor images after returning from a shoot. Hopefully I can find sometime next weekend to pick my top ten.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 09:55h, 06 January Reply

      Thanks Jon! I really do think this is an important skill to develop, and many people don’t “practice” this enough to get good at it. Of course, it’s always difficult, but at least with this, we are only looking at our best work, so it’s in some ways easier than deleting images.

      BTW, I don’t actually delete many images after a shoot, unless there is something technically wrong with it, as in, the camera went off in my hand etc. I remove stuff like that, and I sometimes thin down bursts of identical images, but otherwise, I keep pretty much all images from a shoot. This is personal preference of course, but I feel the time required to delete images costs more than the additional storage required to save them. 🙂

      All the best for 2016, and I hope you come back and share a link to your top ten once completed.

  • Thomas Mauer
    Posted at 07:33h, 06 January Reply

    Hi Martin,

    Selecting the top ten photos each year is a quite hard challange, especially if someone is not focusing on one area of photography. This past year I photographed in genres like event and dance, portrait, nature, street and travel – and I like all these different genres and don’t plan to limit myself on any. As photography is only my hobby I guess it is okay.

    Here is my top ten (without any street or travel photos): https://goo.gl/photos/8a5KEqAspmqfJxrb7

    Thanks for the great podcast – this is very inspiring each week!


    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 09:59h, 06 January Reply

      I think it’s fine to mix your genres Thomas. Thanks for sharing.

      It’s a great set. The two doggies running is excellent! The expression on that gorillas face is classic too. Very nicely done!

      Thanks for the kind words, and I hope you have a wonderful 2016!

  • Douglas A. Shoemaker
    Posted at 12:27h, 06 January Reply

    Fantastic inspiration Martin!

    This is my second year doing this exercise, and you may be able to tell I have added a faster lens to my kit, as well as an off-camera flash.

    Top Ten 2015: https://flic.kr/s/aHskrjAXSZ

    If interested, my Top Ten 2014: https://flic.kr/s/aHsk7LycHs

    Thanks for all that you do!


    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 13:41h, 06 January Reply

      Thanks Doug! I’m pleased you found this useful.

      Thanks for sharing your selections. Unfortunately the 2015 link is showing me a Page Not Found error.

      Great set from 2014. I really like the atmosphere and mood that you’ve captured in that one near the end with the mountains in the rain. Great light and moment.

      Please repost a link to the 2015 when you can, and all the best for 2016!

  • Douglas A. Shoemaker
    Posted at 22:05h, 06 January Reply


    Oops! Please take a look at :


    Thank you,


    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 22:48h, 06 January Reply

      Thanks Doug, but that’s still returning a Page Not Found error.

  • Douglas A. Shoemaker
    Posted at 23:23h, 06 January Reply

    Yikes! Last try:




    • Chris
      Posted at 23:32h, 09 January Reply

      That link works for me… really enjoyed these with the colourful style

      • Martin Bailey
        Posted at 09:26h, 10 January Reply

        Interesting. Maybe you have to be logged in to view the images. I haven’t logged in to Flickr for like a million years.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 09:37h, 10 January Reply

      Ah, no. The link works for me too now. Finally I can see your images Doug!

      What a great set. The opening shot with the four ibis is beautifully composed and great light. Really nice! The family shots are true treasures. You are recording your families year artistically and with great sensitivity. How lucky you all are to have these images!

      I think my favorite is the graffiti shot with the city in the distance. Great color and composition.

      Thanks for sharing, and have a great 2016 Doug!

  • Chris
    Posted at 23:31h, 09 January Reply

    Hey Martin… It was tricky but here is my Top 10 http://www.mostly.photos/blog/2016/1/9/top-10-photos-of-2015

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 09:27h, 10 January Reply

      Beautiful set Chris! You’ve captured some lovely light in most of these. The scenes themselves are incredible too of course. Very well done! Thanks for sharing, and all the best for 2016!

      • Chris
        Posted at 07:41h, 11 January Reply

        Thanks Martin, have a great 2016. Thanks for taking the time to view.

  • Mauricio Duque A. (@jugglerofwords)
    Posted at 03:40h, 10 January Reply

    It is a relief to find that a professional has difficultiess selecting the top 10 as I, an amateur, had. But this was my first time so I tried to select the best of all my digital life. It was overwhelming and I was not able to get the best 10. I finished with 98 and stopped there. I was tired. As you asked for my best 10 and I have 98 I will not share them because it would be unprofessional 🙂 For 2016 I am already using lightroom and I am starting flagging my favourite pictures for a future selection. And now I have some additional criteria to discard or select them.
    Have a wonderful 2016, Martin. Many thanks fo sharing all your experience.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 09:22h, 10 January Reply

      Hi Mauricio,

      Thanks for not sharing your link. I would not have time to look through 98 photos anyway. 🙂

      But, you set yourself a larger target, and have done a good job. What you have now is a best selection of all your work to date. Keep that in a Collection anyway. When you get your energy back, how about taking your 98 and trying to get this down to a 50 image portfolio of your absolute best work? You could publish that as an album online and I’m sure it would be very impressive. You could then use that as a base to keep updating each year, by adding new good work, but you’d need to try to remove some images when you add new ones as well. Having said that, my Nature of Japan portfolio is currently around 70 images, though I do need to reduce this again at some point soon. 🙂

      You’ve already spent a lot of time on this for your year end project, but now that you’ve made a start, I’d love to see you do a top ten for 2016 at the end of this year, or start of 2017. And by all means, share a link when you have done that.

      Have a great year!


  • janetwebster
    Posted at 05:15h, 11 January Reply

    Martin, this is an excellent blog post. Too bad I read it after I did my 2015 selection!! But, I will be ready for next year. Seeing your thinking laid out as you made your decisions was very interesting. If you had to summarize your decision rules, what might they be? (This would make a very interesting blog post in itself. How do we begin to articulate something that often is a mysterious process.) I did my selection during one long night and put the resulting images into a video (https://youtu.be/OwWC5Er-Axo). You will be horrified – 145 images – but not necessarily ‘my best work’ – although I like all of them. I made my video for friends and family and interested photographers and to provide a glimpse of where I’ve been in the last year. I will be looking at how the other photographers in the comments applied your blog post (apparently from 2014) and will have a go at producing a ‘Top Ten’ list, maybe not for 2015 but definitely for 2016. Any activity that helps me develop a critical awareness is worth doing.
    Thanks again for all the effort you put into your blog posts. It really is appreciated

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 16:34h, 24 January Reply

      Hi Janet,

      My criteria for selection are varied, and I discussed some of them above. Quite often though, it simply comes down to which images I think are stronger due to composition, subject matter or more often than not, just how happy they make me feel. I believe that how we “feel” about an image on a very low level is the best indicator.

      When editing down a set of images from a shoot, I often select them all and start a slideshow in Lightroom, and if I get a slight sinking feeling as the next image appears, I downgrade its star and remove it from a selection right there and then. By the time I get to this top ten selection, all images have already passed that test, which is what makes this so difficult. At the end of the day though, I still feel more strongly about some images over others, and then, as the selection gets very tight, it can often come down to nothing more than having to remove something because I have too many images of the same subject.

      Thanks for sharing your link. I’m watching it as I type, and as I’m just catching up after a tour, I don’t have time to watch it all properly at the moment. They are beautiful images though. Do share a link if you do your 2015 top ten, and if not, I look forward to seeing your 2016 selection next year.

      All the best for 2016!


  • Tom Cooper
    Posted at 10:14h, 13 January Reply

    Hi Martin: It’s great fun looking at all the top 10 lists from the various posts. I selected my favorite 10 (base 16) photos. Some are part of a botanical series inspired by historical botanical art/posters. http://www.sutophotos.com/best_of_2015 Tom

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 16:37h, 24 January Reply

      Hi Tom,

      Great images. I particularly like the botanical work. Beautiful light and composition.

      All the best for 2016!


  • Derek Dreger
    Posted at 20:31h, 13 January Reply

    Hi Martin, What a great idea. My personal goal this year was to improve my portraiture photography and to learn how to use an ultra-wide angle lens. These are my favourite images: https://flic.kr/s/aHskrJwJtt

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 16:40h, 24 January Reply

      Thanks for sharing Derek!

      That photo of the two girls looking at the fallen soldier is very thought-provoking. Well done on a great year.

      All the best for 2016!


  • Ida Sahle-Dorn
    Posted at 18:32h, 23 January Reply

    This is not my “best of the year” selection, but only my favorites from Namibia.
    It was a GREAT trip, and so much fun!

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 16:43h, 24 January Reply

      It’s lovely to hear from you Ida!

      Thanks for sharing your Namibia work too. It’s always great to see how others saw the same locations.

      That photo of the balloon, seemingly with two shadows, is really cool!

      Have a wonderful 2016!


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