Editing Is A Way To Give Form To Your Work
So many times people ask me how do you know which picture to take? If I take, they're saying to me, 10 pictures, how do I know how to pick the best one? So it's almost like the very moment when you are out in the world and something comes to you and you know that it's the moment you raise the camera and you capture that moment. If you happen to be lucky enough that the thing continues and you move with it and you make a number of pictures, afterwards you're gonna look for the one that sums up the entire experience. It shows the action or the story if you want to call it a story, but it also shows you the way you move through that time and how you kept pace with it until finally the event reaches a kind of peak moment. It matures as your consciousness, as you follow it, matures with it. So often that picture will just stand out by itself, you don't need me to tell you which one is good, but then again, there may be several that have similar properties, one's got a littl...
e more space on the bottom, or one has a little more air on the top or one has a cluster of people that are denser over here with more space on this side, it's really hard to know. But if you are honest with yourself and you, let's say print out three or four of them. I mean, when I lay out a book, I print out a lot of pictures in this sort of playing card size, so that I could put my thoughts down on the table and look from one to the other to see how the pictures are holding up together. Are they adding anything to the run of things, and they're not from the same sequence. They're from many different places maybe over different years, but I've collected them together to try to edit them, so the same problem is there whether you're editing something you just made, or whether you have stuff from the past. I think that we all intuitively know. If you were to take three shots out of the 10 you just made, three that you couldn't quite decide and you were to print them out the shot, and look at them as prints. A print is very different than an image on the screen, the print means you just made a commitment. You've pulled those off the screen, you popped them out on your little printer, now you've got them in reality and you're looking at them. And you think, well, the middle one's not so great, and you put it aside. Now you've got two left. So you look at those two and you think, well, okay, this one's gonna go, and you put it over here, and then when you look at this one, one of them comes back and says, well, wait a second, reconsider me for a moment. I think the picture that is asking to be reconsidered, maybe, we don't know for sure, but it's happened to me enough times, I call it the sticky finger thing. You probably saw cartoons when you were a kid when somebody's got something stuck to their hand and they're trying to get rid of it and they keep doing this and then they take it off and they say yeah, and they go to throw it away and it's stuck to that hand now? Sometimes picture's like that. They stick to you, and you think, oh, okay, it's, something in me is not letting me throw that away. Trust that, and then pick those two, let's say that they're an argument waiting to be restated. Then you're gonna have other pictures, and you're gonna let's say build toward a book at some point. When you have these pictures and you try to put them together in some kind of continuum, the one that is strongest in relation to its partner and in relation to the whole becomes the thing that will give you the direction that all of the prints are sort of discussing among themselves and they're taking you someplace, and you're gonna come across this when you lay out a book, when you want to make an Internet blurb book or Photoshop book or some manufacture that offers themselves on the Internet. You're gonna have to lay those pictures out, and it's not just 52 pickup where you just throw them up and whatever lands is the order you put them in, although sometimes that's pretty good too. But it's better that you use your mind and your emotions to make decisions because those are only gonna help you refine everything you know or care about in photography. So just consider that, I'll sum that up. You whittle down the take from 10 to three, because those three are interesting, could be two or one, but let's just say three for argument sake. You then print them out, so you have something to literally hold in your hands, and then as you see them for real, they're gonna talk to you, and if you have any doubts, you bring along some other photographs that are in the sequence, the overall sequence, and you begin to see how they work with each other. It's a process of elimination, a process of getting to really know the images you made, I really ask you to seriously consider this. Looking at them on the screen is not tangible enough. A lot of light comes through them, they look really great, but they have to hold up as a print. Photography is about prints, even though we're living in the digital and virtual age. A print gives you something substantial, and you want your photographs to be substantial, you want to convince people that you're an interesting person and photographer and that you've got something to say, make a print, and that will help guide you to the very best of the three that you've made in camera. (upbeat music) Let's talk about the overall editing process. You've just come back from a trip, and you've shot a whole chip, and you have 450 frames, and you've loaded it into whatever process you use. I'm using Lightroom, so let's say I dump it all into Lightroom, and there they are (flapping lips) 450 of them. So what do I do at first? I sit back and I give myself a tour of what it was I saw. I just hit the arrow button, I blow them up so that they're screen size, and I just go through them and I look at everybody, I say, oh, hello, yeah, I remember that moment, and that light was beautiful, and these people were fun to have dinner with. It is all kinds of stuff in your take, right? So I just do it to familiarize myself. I don't make any selections at the first go around. I've been doing that same approach since I started photography. I just familiarize myself with the overall content. Who was I in the course of that chip, which might be three days or something like that, who was I? What was I naturally interested in? What was I drawn to? Was it beautiful women? Was it the quality of the light? Was it tiny things far away in a big space? Was it close-ups? I mean, what was going on for me in those three days? This contact sheet of 450 pictures, more or less, is a story of what your interests were during the period that you were making this picture. So if you read the overall story first, you'll get a sense of, oh, I had leanings, I had passions, I had questions. All these things are part of who you are, and then after you've familiarized yourself with all these images, let them rest. Come back the next day and sit down and look at them again and anytime your impulse says, hmm, I like that, hit the five button, so that you put five stars on it. Just hit it. Don't even think twice, should I or should I, that doesn't matter. Just hit, I like that one, bing. Onto the next. When you're finished, you can go into the computer and you can choose to view all the five-star images. You might have 90 of them, let's say 90 of them. Wow, 90 impulses out of 450. That's quite a good, that's quite a good thing, that's not quite 25%, but that's pretty good. Then you look at those 90, and those 90 are going to have some interesting things in them, so maybe you'll squeeze them down in some way, and you keep on doing that. You keep going through them and give yourself a little time, because very often when you come back from a day of shooting or a trip, you're so anxious and hot to see your pictures that you'll make a lot of bad decisions. It's better to let them sit a while, and have a moment to kind of collect yourself and then when you look at them again and again, you can just begin to compress and compress and compress and maybe out of those three days, you wind up with 20 pictures that you really feel capture the sense of who you were during those days and what you saw and what your appetite took in, and that's your, that's your cut. And I would take those 20 pictures and not question them again, print them. Print them let's say eight by 10, or four by six, or whatever size suits you. I like them a little bigger, because that means you've made a money commitment to putting the paper in, and the time, and then you get back a nice little stack of pictures that have some quality. You can read them. I make these things really small, because I'm laying them out on a table, but you're gonna read these pictures and be able to show them to people. And that's how you build over and over. If you keep doing that every time you have a little shooting, by the end of the year, you'll have 500 photographs that you want to look at, and out of those 500, from the big picture, you'll be able to pick, let's say, 50 that are killer photographs, that really say to anyone who looks at them, well, I made these pictures and this is what I think is interesting photographically. It will identify you, and I think that, the shooting process, the editing process, the printing process, the showing process, all these are steps in you refining your identity, so that when anyone looks at your photographs, they know that you made these pictures, because they can see the clarity with which you appreciate the world that you go out and photograph in. It'll give you a lot of pleasure.