Tuesday, January 15, 2008

edit boldly

Editing is important. Really important. 99% of what you shoot is probably bad. 99% of what I shoot certainly is. But I try then to only show the good 1%. I struggle to make decisions about which images I like, or not. I don't show all the variations on a particular image. I'll spend the time to pick the version that really says what I want to say. I think that's important for several reasons. Firstly, it keeps the viewer interested. I'm showing them the best shots - in my opinion. I'm not putting out five variations of each image and expecting the viewer to pick the one they like. For one thing, that gets boring very quickly for the viewer. Secondly, it stops me from developing my own viewpoint. If I ask you to pick, you'll decide which one you like - but that one will be different for every viewer. If I make the choice - you might not like it, but it is my view. My style. My statement about what I wanted to show you. As I go along, picking the images I like, I refine my view. The next time I go and shoot I'll make some of those choices before I press the shutter. I'll have refined my own personal way of seeing and spend more time heading in an interesting direction. Hopefully I can go further on that second attempt than the first time. Editing is a big part of that process. You have the time to contemplate the images and pick what works, for you. You get to reject what doesn't work, for you. You can start to express yourself more strongly, by what you don't show people, just as much as you can with what you do show. If you find yourself unable to pick between two shots, or want to upload both versions, try anyway to pick one. If you can't, then there can't be anything different about them - so just pick either one. But if there is a difference, pick the one you personally like. Be bold. Make a decision. Edit bravely. I also have the luxury of not being paid for many of the shoots I do. People ask me to take a picture or a portrait because they like my previous images, or I ask them to let me shoot. They've asked me to take the picture and part of that is I get to decide what I show them and what I don't. Often I get asked if there are any more - but part of my process is that I get to decide what they see. I edit the images, so there aren't any more that I think were good enough. If I start showing all the images or giving them permutations and choices, the perception of the quality drops. I didn't share those other images in the first place, because I believe the best images are in the final edit, not in the discarded shots. Someone might not agree with my particular choices, but that's part of expressing your own style. This editing process helps later when you shoot, as you start to know when to stop shooting. I find more often than not, that either the first or last image in a sequence is the best one. Either everything fell in to place straight away and the first shot was great. Or, I'm sketching and striving towards an idea that I know is there - once I get it, I move on fairly soon afterwards. Editing heavily after the shoot, helps inform me when I'm shooting if I've got the shot or not. I know more about what I like and what I'm aiming to get. So I can shoot more variety. I don't keep working on the same idea once I've got the shot. I can move on and expand the options. If I shoot just one idea over and over again, that'll be the best shot I'll get all day. If I can edit and understand when I'm done with an idea, I can take more distinct images or ideas. The more I shoot the luckier I tend to get with the results. The collage above (click it to see a larger version) shows all the images I took last week. There are 6 images ringed which are my favourites, but really there is only one shot that I like from the whole day. 393 shots. One good one. Some of the sequences were shot in burst mode, in part to get her attention. But you can see the variety of locations, lighting and styles we went through. Lots of shots to get good expressions too.

8 comments:

mk said...

I've been trying to get better at this and know that there's still room for improvement. Since flickr is really my only constant photo outlet right now, I've been trying to mesh my desire to have it be a collection of fun stuff that I like and enjoy posting, sometimes despite total quality, and my desire to have people actually want to continue looking at it. But flickr has also been a good exercise in making me understand what keeps attention as I am turned off to the streams of certain people whose work is dreadfully repetitive, who post every single shot they take or who insist on posting a new explore poster for every shot they get into explore.

I've also been thinking about photos that I take that will never see the light of day. When I'm out on a flickr walk, I generally take a lot of shots. I'll process some of my favorites but if I shoot again within the next few days, the rest of the first shoot frequently doesn't get looked at. Does it matter? I've decided not. It's not like the world NEEDS to see anything I've done...it's just been something I've been thinking about as I shoot and then archive.

Gordon said...

Thanks for taking the time to comment.

I think there's also a couple of levels of audience that have to be considered. Depending on that audience, you'll end up showing different stuff.

There's the best of stuff that you want to share, to show how you see things.

Then there's the things that are the development of ideas, or that you are looking for feedback upon. Probably these are really just of interest to other photographers or friends.

Then there's the party snaps that you want to share as records - not good or great photographs but memories and stories that you want to share - a different audience.

In the case of the shots of Vivian, there's one or two that I think are actually quite good. Then there are about a dozen that I thought were good to share with the parents/ family. A different audience and a different expectation/ interest level.

I suppose that the flick friends/ family levels can be used to somewhat filter this, but really I wish there was some way for multiple photostreams or something.

Holly said...

Hmmm...I guess your editing of your work, deciding what to show versus not show, is different then mine. And, I guess, we may be talking about different things here.... Are you talking just about editing down to the best to display on your blog? Or the best to show the parents? I will often post a sneak peek to clients on my blog (unless they object), and sometimes it can be difficult to keep the number of images that I show, in that sneak peek, down. I try and limit it to images that I really like, good examples of my work, and images that will have the client anticipating their private online gallery.

For their gallery, I post a lot of photos, probably more then I should. Here's my reasoning behind it, though. As a parent I know that my children have certain unique looks, faces (if you will) that are really part of their personality. Though I may have very similar shots, if the expression is different, and I'm pleased technically with the photo, I will include the very similar but slightly different shots. How am I to know which one will speak to the parents? I may have my own opinion, but it's my opinion, someone who as only just met these children and can't possibly know their personalities as their parents do.

Of course, for my blog, I would not post endless variations of the same shot, as that would be boring for most people (beyond the parents/relatives of the child). I'm sure that is what you are speaking of. But I'm curious as to how many images you actually supplied to the family in question? A few more? Many more?

I'm currently working on a client's gallery (posted their sneak peek on Monday on my blog). I'm working my way through processing the images, sometimes I will nuke one, as I'm processing, as it's just not coming together as I would like. Your comments have caused me pause, about leaving it to the parents to choose between very similar images (of the newborn, there are some of those), so I will certainly look at it with fresh eyes when I get back to working on it. (thanks for that! :-))

I guess I don't want to short change the newborn shots, as it was certainly easier to get different looks from the older siblings. :-) Sometimes, in that case (of a series of similar shots), I will do one as a colour version and the next as a bw. Sometimes, if I really like the image, I will do it in both colour and bw.

As always, Gordon, interesting stuff to think about!

Gordon said...

Holly, thanks for being here. In this particular case I gave the parents 23 shots to choose from. Out of those there are half a dozen that I'd class as fun outtakes - not really good shots but just ones that I wanted to share with them. So that leaves about 18 shots that I'd consider as pretty good. Really though I should probably remove about 10 of them if I was more confident and just provide the good 8 or so that are left - maybe just the 6 ringed above.

There's one I'd consider a shot I'm actually happy with. There are half a dozen that I think are good enough that I should really share them with the parents. The others - well, part of me shooting is that I get to make the decisions. They've come to me because they like my pictures, my view, my opinion. Lori who occasionally reads my blog understands this well. She asked me to shoot her portrait. We went to quite a few different locations, a couple of outfit changes, shot for maybe 3 hours and I think I showed her 9 final pictures. Again there, 3 of those were fun outtakes that I wanted to share - not what I'd consider good shots - so three hours of shooting, 6 real final images. I think my opinion should count - not just for the people who see the pictures, but so that I can learn from what I pick and perhaps more importantly, what I leave out. You occasionally hear about this in the commercial world too - an editorial photographer who turns in one image from a shoot. The best image. People hire you or ask you to shoot, because of your vision. Express it.

Gordon said...

there is of course the commercial aspect - if you are selling the prints and expect the client to buy copies of all the images, then more variety might well help.

But often people just get fatigued by lots of choice - if they are only going to pick a couple of final shots, then pairing the choices down as far as possible is actually freeing them up to look at the images - and a smaller set of well edited images will give a stronger impression than a larger set of all mostly good images. I'm now striving to have people keep asking me 'is there more?' rather than have them satisfied with what they've got.

MikeW said...

if someone hadn't invented digital cameras, you'd be:
a) Broke and out of business
c) Forced to get better percentages

(BTW, sorry to bring some humor to this very serious blog)

Gordon said...

film would have cost a whole lot less ;)

Holly said...

Yes, I see your point Gordon. In my case I think the more I provide the better, as my clients tend to buy one of two DVD options (of their images, ready to print). Giving them lots of choice, lots of different expressions, etc., makes them more inclined to purchase the higher priced DVD option as they can't limit themselves to just '15' images, so it works in my favour.

I did have a 'headshot' client, and for that client I did do as you suggest, and limited the options. I knew he was only choosing a limited number of images (I think ten), so just choose the best of the different poses/locations.

Ok, better get back to working on a client's gallery so I can get it uploaded today! Thanks for posting interesting discussions/thoughts on your blog, Gordon, it's always an engaging/entertaining read. :-)