Stronger Photographs With One Decision
I think a lot photographers put all their creative eggs in too few baskets. They look to the work they do with the camera as job one, which it is. But it’s not the only job. It’s the sexy job, for sure. But it’s insufficient. Some photographers lean heavily on post-processing or development; you could also call it stylization. Less sexy, perhaps, but like you, I get a lot of joy out of seeing my chosen images get refined and come to life.
There are so many ways to think about both the camera work and the development work, and the creative opportunities in those two areas are almost limitless. I don’t know anyone who would deny that choices made with the camera and in development have a significant role in whether the final image succeeds or not. Whether it’s poetic or iconic, or whatever you hope your photograph is or does.
But what about the edit?
What about the choice of that one final image from among many? In the case of a body of work, what about the choice of the dozen or two dozen final photographs that get pulled from what might be hundreds or thousands of sketch images or possible alternatives?
How might we be thinking about that and the other choices and processes that surround those choices? And why are so few photographers talking about it when I know so many of them are overwhelmed by it? I wonder if it’s as simple as believing that it’s just not as important. Just pick something sharp and well-exposed and move on? Pick all the images that aren’t stinkers and call it done?
I think one of the most overlooked ways to improve your photography right now—without the need to upgrade your camera or get the latest version of your favourite lens—is to get pickier. To begin thinking about the edit or choice of final frames more creatively. More intentionally.
Ansel Adams said 12 images a year was a good crop. I don’t generally think of my photographs as plants, but I like his point. And I think our work would be better if we were more selective, more creative about the ways we looked at editing and more intentional in what we did with our images. I think we’d make better, stronger photographs.
I wonder . . . when you edit or select your best work, which questions are you asking yourself? What criteria do you have for making that selection? How much do you trust that process? Are you still deleting everything that doesn’t make the cut the first time around? Are you looking for quantity or quality—and do you have a clear system for understanding what that means to you?
I’ve heard it said that photographers are their own worst editors, but I wonder if that’s only because we often don’t give the editing as much thought as we give to our gear or our camera work.
Your work can be so much stronger simply by choosing stronger photographs.
In my last video, I talked about three ways we could love our photographs more. This is the big one: desire more for them. Demand more from them. Hold out for the very best of them. Never settle. But how do we do that?
In a couple days I’ll be inviting you to join me for this year’s Beyond The Shutter course, which I created to help photographers get clearer about one big question (and the others that follow when you start asking it) and that’s this: