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The art of self-editing takes discipline and an objective eye. Self-editing is when you select from a whole series of pictures to keep the best and ditch the rest! This type of ‘editing’ does not refer to post production work where you touch up and improve photos; self-editing is the practise of deleting photos that didn’t quite hit the mark.
Never before has self-editing been more important for photographers. This is partly due to the revolutionary changes that digital technology has introduced, bringing with it practically cost free photos and huge amounts of storage space. Self-editing requires that you take a ruthless look at your work and only keep the photos that are top quality.
If you hold your finger down on a digital camera you can quite easily take dozens of consecutive photos in a mere second. This can be a useful technique, although it’s not always advised, to get the shot just right. However, you are going to be left with a majority of pictures that aren’t quite right. In a less extreme example, if you go out for a photowalk, or a day trip to the coast to take photos, you could quite easily come home with 100 photos or more.
This is a huge change from during the earlier days of photography when both cameras and film were relatively expensive as well as the cost of development. Now that you effectively have a fully kitted out dark room that can develop photos in a millisecond in your digital camera the challenges that you face have changed.
Self-editing your work is an important part of the creative process and although it can seem counter intuitive and the desire might be to keep every single photo the reality is that you will end up with better results if you use more discretion when it comes to what you keep.
So How Do You Self-Edit Your Photos?
You are most likely already doing a certain amount of self-editing by deleting the odd photo that is blurred or out of focus but to get the most out of the practise it is better to consciously make it a part of your workflow.
Self-Editing When You are Out on a Photo Trip.
This is something that I do frequently. I tend to take a lot of photographs as I am going about my day to day business in Center City Philadelphia. If I do not self-edit, I will end up with hundreds of photographs that I will have to edit and process later. Self-editing is easier if your camera has a monitor (it is difficult for me at least to get an overall view of the photo just by looking at the LCD screen).
When you are out taking photos it can be tempting to try to make the most of the time that you have by taking as many photos as you possibly can! Try to avoid this temptation and take a few moments throughout the day to go back over the shots you have taken and make a quick judgement as to whether they are worth keeping.
To reduce how much you will have to do this it is always advised that you pre-visualize the shot and plan the composition and settings on your camera. However, despite your best efforts there will still be some photos that are simply not worth keeping and so to save time later and memory space on your card you can just delete as you go.
Of course, often you will want to take a series of shots of a particular scene or subject to get the composition and lighting just right, especially if the light is changing fast such as during the sunset for example. In this type of scenario some self-editing becomes essential.
However, when you are out in the field don’t go overboard with the self-editing because sometimes a photo will look far better as a print than it does on the small LCD screen at the back of your camera! Only delete those that are definitely not worth hanging on to.
Self-Editing After Importing the Photos to Your Computer.
Once you get back home from your photo trip you have the perfect chance to do some self-editing as you import the image files to your computer for storage and later post production.
Seeing the photos on a larger screen will help you to decide which ones are worth keeping and as you do delete the ones you don’t want to keep you will free up storage space on your hard drive and keep your computer files free from a clutter of half decent photos that you won’t ever use anyway.
You can do this stage of the self-editing process in two stages. In the initial stage, as described above, only get rid of the ones that are clearly not worth keeping. Once you have narrowed down the photos to the better ones you should go through the remaining shots and zoom in 100% to carefully check the photo to see if the focus is spot on, there are no light spots or other imperfections and that everything is how you wanted it. Any photo that doesn’t meet your standards will have to go into the trash.
This can be a slightly time consuming process and slow down your workflow but in the end it will save you time and allow you to focus on the very best of your photos for further post production. Although it can be a little heart breaking, when after taking 100 photos you end up with 10 that were up to scratch, in the long run this is a much better approach than keeping 90 photos that you’ll never use or publish on your website.
Self-Editing During and After Post Production.
Once you have worked on the remaining photos and perfected the images using your post production software you can take one final look through them to make sure they are worth keeping.
By this stage it is unlikely that you will find many which you want to delete but it’s still worth doing just to make sure that you’re happy with them all. Again, be wary of being too harsh on yourself at this point so it’s usually better to go back later with fresh eyes to give them a quick check through.
Put a Weekend Aside Each Month to Sort and Self-Edit Your Work.
As well as consciously self-editing throughout the creative process many photographers put a weekend aside each month, or every few months, to go through all their photos and do a bit of self-editing. It’s also a great opportunity to organize your files, make sure everything is correctly labelled and stored in the right place on your hard drive.
This part of the self-editing process is usually extremely enjoyable because you’ll find that you are very happy with the vast majority of your work! This will give you a boost of confidence and might inspire you with some new ideas to further develop certain themes in your work or maybe revisit a location where you got some great shots.
Self-Editing will Improve Your Portfolio.
Once you get into the habit of constantly and consciously self-editing your work your portfolio will become much stronger as will the photos you post online. You’ll find your computer files are more organized and that while you’re taking photos you will start to become more aware of mistakes you have made in the past and begin to instinctively avoid them. As you become more accustomed to thinking out a photo before you take the shot you’ll also find you need to self-edit less as well.
Self-editing is an important technique to learn to incorporate into your photography practise. There are many advantages of self-editing and although it can be difficult sometimes to maintain your own high standards the results will always be worth it.
Do you self-edit on the field a lot?
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