September 26, 2012
Being objectively challenged
One of the hardest things about being a photographer is to find objectivity about your own work. Self-expression is just that; the expression of your deepest musings. So on one level everything created through that motivation should be revered. Unfortunately the deep personal attachment that comes from being involved in creating a piece can shield us from being able to objectively gauge our work.
We know what we are trying to say through the work and we’re emotionally involved in the process so it’s exciting for us. However if we are inviting the outside world to share in our expression the images must not only speak to us but also in some way need to be accessible to our audience. As the artist, we are an objectively challenged judge who needs to make impartial decisions. Argghhh…. great?!!?
Belgian chocolate or jellybeans?
To develop good editing skills you must try not to get too precious about anything you create, as almost certainly your best work is yet to come. If you are on a path of learning (anyone breathing falls into this category), and thus are aware that your work is better now than it was 6 months ago, then you are acknowledging you are growing as a practitioner. It’s a fairly safe bet that you will continue to learn/develop skills. Trust me, in years to come you will look back to see just how much your work has developed.
I view editing as a means to sort out the fine Belgian chocolate from the jellybeans. I keep a copy of the original file of every image I shoot and I suggest you resist permanently deleting anything as part of the editing process. Hard drives are cheap and you never know.
The Beatles wrote some crap songs
We need to cross-examine each image to better estimate its merit, independent of our relationship with the process. We are trying to establish if the technical aspects of the shot will stand up to scrutiny and if the subject matter will speak to an audience.
These are some considerations that may help to determine if the work is fit for its purpose. It’s time to get tough when assessing your work, remember we are looking for hit singles…the Beatles wrote some crap songs but they were good at editing.
Is this an average photo of an exciting subject, or actually an exciting photo?
What is the photo trying to convey? If you set out to communicate a specific narrative, will the image alone convey it effectively to the audience or does it need to be propped up by context?
Is this an image that anyone else will care about? If it’s a shot of your dog sleeping…probably not! Yep I know your dog is special to you, but your audience won’t have the same emotional investment in your dog so unless it’s a particularly stunning pooch the image belongs in the family album.
How does it compare to the strongest images you have taken?
Could I do a better job if I were to re-shoot this image? If it’s a definite yes, and a re-shoot is possible, go back and do it again.
Is the exposure fit for the intended use of the photo? Is there sufficient detail in the highlights and shadows?
Are the areas of the image that need to be sharp actually sharp?
Are the parts of the image that need to be included, complete? (Did I crop out someone’s feet?)
Was the subject lit as well as it could be?
Is the composition strong? Can it be improved by cropping it differently? Can the image be flipped to improve how it reads?
This shot of a wet autumn leaf is one of my favourite photos I have taken. some how I missed this image when I first edited the shoot and found it 12 months later.
Quality Not Quantity
Work that is strongly edited will be down in numbers and therefore more potent as a folio. “Less is more!” We need to be able to separate ourselves from the process enough to be able to see each photograph for what it is.
Keep open to the fact that there are no definitive rights or wrongs when assessing work. Some images are gifts that bare no resemblance to our intentions but are fabulous none the less. There can be alchemy involved in being a photographer and you need to be on the look out for the unexpected, a beautiful accident will still be a valid photograph.
Finding the Bestest
It’s as vital to be “actively looking” when editing as it is when we are shooting. Next time you do a shoot try and edit back to the 5 strongest shots and know what questions you asked of those images to get there. When you have 30 or more of the best of the best images edit them back to the top five. Keep going through this process with all of your work until you have your top 15 shots of all time. This filtration process will help you become a ruthless editor and sharpen your skills of observation when shooting.
Images and text © Andy Rasheed 2012
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