Capture-recapture estimates of abundance using photographic identification data are sensitive to the quality of photographs used and distinctiveness of individuals in the population. Here analyses are presented for examining the effects of photographic quality and individual animal distinctiveness scores and for objectively selecting a subset of data to use for capture-recapture analyses using humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) data from a 2-year study in the North Atlantic. Photographs were evaluated for their level of quality and whales for their level of individual distinctiveness. Photographic quality scores had a 0.21 probability of changing by a single-quality level, and there were no changes by two or more levels. Individual distinctiveness scores were not independent of photographic quality scores. Estimates of abundance decreased as poor-quality photographs were removed. An appropriate balance between precision and bias in abundance estimates was achieved by removing the lowest-quality photographs and those of incompletely photographed flukes given our assumptions about the true population abundance. A simulation of the selection process implied that, if the estimates are negatively biased by heterogeneity, the increase in bias produced by decreasing the sample size is not more than 2%. Capture frequencies were independent of individual distinctiveness scores.