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Street Photography: The Art of Photographing Strangers

Lesson 18 of 20

The Street Photography Editing Process

Ashley Gilbertson

Street Photography: The Art of Photographing Strangers

Ashley Gilbertson

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Lesson Info

18. The Street Photography Editing Process
Work through a three-step culling process for street photography. Start with culling photos in Adobe Lightroom using a star system, then continue narrowing down the frames.

Lesson Info

The Street Photography Editing Process

I work in a three step editing process um editing is really difficult for even people who are good editors you know even photo editors who work at this professionally every single day you know, choosing which picture you like it's a cz much quick it's very subjective festival but it's also a question of style you know what type of work are you what are you trying to say how you trying to say it and you'll see in here that you know, two pictures of almost exactly the same frame will say completely different things about the person you're photographing and this is one of the reasons that it's important to actually get to know who it is that you're photographing a little bit at least now how do you represent that this is all surface level to a point um you're getting impressions of the people that you're photographing and trying to represent them but having some information about them is better than none you know I can photograph in politics is a great example of this you go on and you ha...

ve thirty seconds they call those spray a thirty second spray with a politician on dh they move on but in that thirty seconds you have shot continuously for the whole time on how many frames you gonna get three hundred fifty in that you probably got five or six completely different explosions like expressions they will illustrate fallacy is completely different points of view on ah in a photograph so how do you want to do it? You want to show them with resolved you want to show them with, uh, exhaustion and you wanna show them with frustration you'll get it all you know so it's it's very it's very much like editing is very much subjective and it it starts it's very I find it easy to get overwhelmed by it so the way that I stop myself from being overwhelmed us to do it in a stage or step by step process so at this point is usually when I go outside and try to find something else to do because I don't even want to look at one thousand one hundred seventy pictures so I did that yesterday and put it off so we got it down to one dn't sixty three so this is my three star edit and I want to show you guys like I think the working process of how we actually do this at least to me is really it is really interesting. So you tell me if it's too much, but I'll go through these quickly um and you can see the different types of frames that I'm shooting as I'm trying to find the picture that I actually want and while I'm looking this is this is this is my initial three star edit full senate is a c list what I'm looking for is an a list or a five start at it they're my top my final files so I work up towards that so I'm looking through my three start at it and I want to find pictures in here that I think it worthy of moving up moving up in the rank like that picture I like um because I see the person outside in the background a little bit doing something I see that the guys like frames between those two bars so I would put that up tio four or five um okay so like like I would put that up to a four star forsa maybe but see how empty the frame on the right hand ciders like I like the silhouette and I like the lady walking through but I don't like that empty space on the right it's okay it's got different layers but there's nothing I don't really like the forms so much looks empty there that's maybe okay that's maybe but it's a little bit boring it's just red window like I liked depth in my photographs all right and then these two at the front of the courthouse so pictures like that like she she doesn't look good I'm not going to use this picture of her I'm going to try to find a picture that gives her some sort of dignity or something you know that helps us relate to her a little bit, I hope I like that sort of inquisitive I like her eyes on this I love that and then the wide angles he was talking about tight and wide earlier that it's good to try toe present both options like in this I like the tight photographs I don't like the wide pictures and this is when I was talking about the capture time like I'm sorting by capture time here so this is from my thirty five millimeter this is for my fifty but I'm shooting you know you saw me with in the video like I switch cameras and start changing about how I'm shooting what what's local income shooting that I quite like maybe that could work I like that actually what is it about those particular ones where you're saying I like that is it her expression is her expression I like I like that her expression is sort of open like I like in this normally I would keep away from my contact but in this I like the eye contact and I liked the person walking out with the frame in the left hand side it gives the picture where it's like this there's no movement to it and there's no there's not as much depth here there's actually some depth in it but I like the direct eye contact um and I think with a little bit of post production like lightening up my eyes a little bit it could be a nice picture here she looks like she is so aware of may and she's waiting for me to finish that's brian so then this four I can see four here of the guy carrying the window so that to me is a definite no I'm looking at the shape of the window on the edge of frame I'm always looking at the edge of frame when I'm shooting like that's a maybe except it's a little bit messy I think there's some movement which doesn't normally bother me except on a picture that's as graphic is this you know you should try to have clean technical elements I think on an emotional picture somebody crying, somebody laughing like it's, not it's, not his problematic to have some sort of movement stuff like that in that because you're looking so much of the content of the picture. But when it's this graphic you're looking at a square in this box with a perspective, it should be technically technically proficient um and then it's just a question of where do you want that line? I like the line there because it looks like it's actually becoming part of the building. I also like how it's chopping his body off halfway through I would choose that one um no, not that so I stick with the people that I'm photographing like she gave us permission to take pictures andi I just started working up alongside her and walk up the street with her until until the situation got a little more interesting like I don't like these because it will take there's a car growing out of her face um but I like a little girl asleep again the car starts running a picture like I like this except it's just not there you know like it's not saying anything it like I like the pinks and the colors in it but I'm waiting to something else to happen like that that posture is getting better like that's a pretty big girl to be carrying around in your back right? So I sort of want that reflected their maybe maybe that one I like we'll have a head is funny turning like that okay, so this is, um this is k one he's a samoan man who was living under a bridge um so choose one of these so again type and wide like these words don't work for me there a little bit messy so I would go I would select that but I'm not that compelled by the picture um so I'm not going to select any of those but I want you guys to see how I'm shooting how I'm shooting and giving myself a choice between different types of pictures and I'm pulling back and I'm going in when I'm shooting I create a visual variety for you to choose from when you're compiling your compiling a story of photographs of street pictures if you're putting together a book of pictures of you know from the street they can't all be from the same distance away from the person in front of you you can't always be this far away or this far away there has to be range that has to be like a dynamic visual approach okay, so now we're pulled right back and this is, um this is a man from kenya so this I felt like something start something was happening because he's getting closer and closer to me quite like that it's almost like he's presenting his friends threw us maybe they're that okay, I'm going back putting those back down three you're out that I like can you go see like I like how the right hand side of frame is a little bit open and then this dark silhouette of his arm actually comes into it like that we're looking we're focused more on the group of people that are under the bridge rather than focused on you know him with his scarf in the right hand side of frame. Okay? If I had to choose one of these, I think it would be that one, but I'm not gonna choose any so she was she was great two photograph likes to look at my lines behind ahead while we're going through this you see, uh, see how I'm moving the camera around while I'm shooting? I'm trying to find a place that her hat or her bonnet well, naturally fit against the back of the train station. I'm not that looks unintentional. It looks accidental, like there's. Something growing there's. These lights coming out of a hat, unlike that tension can help sometimes, but normally it's better to try to find, you know, clean backgrounds and clean lines that you're using. So I'm looking at how the hand is against her phone like that. Okay, so it looks like I found my frame. That's. Cool. That's. Cool. But she looks, uh wait. Now, this is when I selected, I already worked it. I can undo that. But so that's, the one that I like and it's gonna perfection normal so we can work that one later on, right? I like this one. Where she's, looking away from the camera a little bit. Um she's looking down the lines really beautiful like this, her smile and then those lines on the ceiling above her it's like a I don't want to say that like frowns, but it completes the circle, but it was just like her expression, uh, this guy's pretty cool, um and what I was looking at when I was shooting this was like the repetition in their hats and then the different sort of the different expressions that they had like this guy was totally lost in his world here like a walkman not a walkman it was a dvd player or something like that or cd discman yeah all right so I like this guy's I like this guy smile a lot that's pretty good okay, so look at the top right of frame like I like that skylight being up there because I feel like engquist way start showing people how the picture is being lit which gives it a little more depth when you start seeing where the light is coming from I used to frame so that you couldn't see where the lighting was coming from but I've since changed that because I think that it gives a lot more richness to the layers of the pictures when you can start seeing you know with uh how the picture is lit maybe okay, I like that but the frame is a little bit messy it's outside the station it's a totally messy picture like like the intention is that right? You can see what I'm trying to do but it's just and this is most of street photography you're almost there like I've I've tried to put together exhibitions from the agency called almost there but not um this is outside court this is the guy I was talking about who was, um at the smoking. Okay, I like that not so much. I like his eyes but I think what I like is thie smoke um and I think that rainy sort of misty city in the background this is brian begun so you see that you keep working situation until like more elements come into it it gets richer. I don't just you know, I could wait to say all right that's enough, but I think it's a street photographer one of the keys is saying is not enough, you know was saying that there needs to be more elements involved in this and I think if I had more time in a situation like this, what I would love to do is wait until he gets other really packed or wait until there's like lots of birds and maybe a dog and more people in somebody doing something weird and somebody else doing something funny and a couple and you keep waiting and you keep going back to that corner or that alleyway and waiting for the situation to become mohr mohr developed and richer and it's like that's one of the differences between good photography and great photography this is obviously not a great picture, but it's when it's when you actually start going back and trying to find more visual elements in there I think when you look at people from the geographic um sort of teach this and that is go back and keep going back and find something that makes your picture really stand apart from other people's you know find that extra element or two I don't like the cause I think he's getting lost in the wall so I don't like that angle like this angle with the staircase I'm sure you guys know this spot um it's one of the places that he used to go to use his friends okay so while we were there um he said this is where we used teo use drugs and people would smoke crack and he's like look here's the kicker is the guy's smoking crack now which amazingly actually still happens today in that same spot with summer security at the market um so I like this frame so let's say to me it's between that that not that not that I think that the balance it's starting to get lost we're paying too much attention to the stairs so I feel like that that when I like a lot think like that portrait of him especially having got to know him and know how rough this area is in his history and what it brings up to him you know I think it's a little bit reflective of that okay so we're through the three star and then in light room um you quick on four stars and it cuts it'll down so it's only showing you the pictures that you've chosen this four star so we just went from one hundred sixty two fifty one so we do the red ones because pretty a lot faster. Okay, I like this. Is there anything better than that? No, I hate the empty space on the right hand side there needs to be a person that it's like begging for a person and that's enough. Okay, so the closest we got to anything being usable from here is that what I would have loved it if there was a person on the other side of the wall but not today right deadlines from outside the court maybe I like eyes again. I like her eyes but I know that there's something better coming up with a lady walking out I want that depth in the picture like that. I prefer that I have face looks a little bit weird and that but I think when it's latin a little bit and it's flattened out so that like that darkness in, huh? I he's pulled back a little bit. She wanted what looks so strange. So I like that picture of that siri's the window I'm not feeling um see, this is almost there but the car's is making me crazy if I was going to choose one, it would be that like the little girl looking with my eyes open but what I want is that is that kagen and go with her eyes closed and then I would be happy with a picture but as it stands I'm incredibly displaced you're not trying to shoot a picture that is going to be on a museum wall every day that you go out, you know, once every couple of months you might make a picture that you're really happy I went to an exhibition in lausanne in switzerland on dh the curator was putting together a retrospective of my reads work and he said the guy's been working for fifty years and I'm putting together a series of one hundred pictures so your hit rate is a photographer should be around to pictures per year some years you get one some years you get three, but on average you need two a year so you guys should think about that like you're not going to be you're not gonna be creating the pulitzer prize winning masterpiece every every time you go out in fact, it will be really rare yeah is there a a particular reason that you coal in light room as opposed to photo mechanic since it's faster? Yeah, I call them down and enter them in light room um because I cataloged them in here and I like to streamline the process because they're all roll files any shooting raw I can't do anything with that in photo mechanic when I try to open them in photoshopped it adds another step to the process that I don't necessarily need like I'm not a news photographer now necessarily, but I still I don't enjoy spending all my life and three different programs working on the pictures so I try to keep it down and light room I like I like getting it down to a five star edit and then just working on the pictures on screen exporting f peeping into my client and then going to sleep okay? I say so because infront mechanic you can he can flag them differently but you prefer toe export it's just a different step I guess yeah, it is a different step on actually another reason that I do this is to step process so I duel with captioning of the batch pictures in like the batches of the difference of the groupings of pictures let's say in photo mechanic and they've got like what I would call a pretty rough caption sometimes if I'm in a real rush right down the person's name age, the email address and phone number in the caption put down where and when I shot it on then go to sleep and then when I go into latin room and I'm working on this and I get to a five star at it before I start working and toning the picture I will finalize the caption for each one of those things so I've got a final well written caption that has all the information that I need and then I saved that caption information onto the role file said it forever always on the original role file I have that properly written caption um and then I turned so it's a way of it's a way of editing at the same time as making sure that I don't have to go back into that original and rewrite the caption because god knows about do that a lot of times um okay there's that except it's not it's not much of a picture so I don't want it no yeah it's definitely that one okay no yes and once you start getting smaller groupings like this it becomes immediately obvious where the pictures are. Yeah it's definitely that one one of things that I do when I'm looking at these photographs is like it's really hard to edit your own work um it's especially hot too divorce yourself from the emotional experience of making these pictures s o you know, I might say that no matter what I have to keep this picture in because you know, it was such a such an interesting day spent with him walking around and I really connected with him and I liked him um and it was not easy in the end it doesn't matter you know your picture that you're going to present to the rest of the world nobody's going to know that that was not easy for you to get so you have to be pretty brutal which is where your friends and your family can come in and help like I'll tell you my wife has no problem coming in and telling me when my work sucks which is hot at the time but I appreciate it in the long run um same thing with some of my friends um another thing that I try to do because usually go by yourself when you're doing this so when I'm editing and I'm looking at let's see we've got a five star at it here so we can get this down yes that that I'd prefer that okay so I try to look at the work as though it's somebody this sounds bizarre but I try to look at it like it's somebody else's I try to imagine one of my peers that I dearly respect and I say okay what if ed cash she shot this picture and I saw in a magazine when I say dead still got hurt coeds losing it then I'd call ed and telling that you know like you try to imagine it somebody else's it's it's really did it comes with practice except imagining that is not yours makes it easy to judge the picture uh that is out so I'm just I'm downgrading some of these he's out when we're toning which we're about to go into you know like I'm looking at this picture and it's almost the except for that stupid car in a lot of types of photography you know whether it's fashion or commercial art you can go into photo shop on dk loan the car out in photojournalism in street photography is absolutely not like there are not many rules as faras we will be as faras toning goes but that is the rule like there is no manipulation allowed at all in our picture it's a journalistic document and is supposed to be a representation of a time and a place and for us to go in there and stop manipulating that it breaks a contract of trust that we have with the people that were photographing festival and then as important as with our viewers when people look at our work and it's defined as documentaries street photography they expect to see reality so if you go in there it's not changing the picture then you which you know some of you guys might be really into and that's I have respect for it but you can't any longer kolet documentary photography or journalism it's called something else photography foot of manipulation whatever it is um so seeing as we can't get rid of things, we can't do things like that I'm getting rid of that picture the window doesn't make the cut I'm getting rid of it there are maybe that's okay here's an example for you guys um so we just went from one thousand one hundred seventy two five pictures um and no tears ok, my next step is, um my next step is to re caption these um so I talked about separating my experience in making the picture from the image itself, which is really difficult and I went through this a little bit before but I just want a highlighter and that is when you're editing looked at pictures that you like you know, forget about what you have respect for your friends and you're in your family who are looking at your pictures but what really matters is your vision and you might have ten people who prefer this picture and you're the only one who lacks this picture there's a reason that you like that picture it speaks to you and this is your vision, you know, like give everyone give those ten people a print of that picture that they like but the picture that you should be proud of the picture that you should like is the one that you choose just understand why it is that you're choosing it like what is it about that image that you think is more honest or more beautiful or more interesting like this is your vision? Yeah sir sizing here is not the vision of some you know established amazing street photographer you're either trying to copy his work our work when you're hired by an editor when you were hired by a client to shoot whether it's ah, whether it's a bomb it's o our war you're being hired because of that vision you're not being hired because you can copy the work of the associated press or of reuters or that guy works for this magazine it's your vision and you have to have confidence in that vision is not always easy I second guess myself a bunch of times and I send pictures you know, like I send pictures in my edits that I don't think reflect what I'm thinking or what I want to show so try to stay true to your vision and it's not always easy but you know, try as hard as you possibly can and understand why it is that you're choosing this picture that other people might not like so much like respect your style and it'll start developing so once I've got my a list editors ah wei my a list caption um photographs I'm sorry um I go into here I checked the caption so I finalize it so people walk through city hall plaza in seattle washington on november sixteen, two thousand fifteen did anything of note happen that day? No uh could talk about architecture it's fine um michelle owned off the spelling is correct forty seven outside of seattle court building in washington on november sixteen, two thousand fifteen she and a friend were attending a court hearing in an attempt to file suit for defamation photo by ashley gilbertson seven photo that's fine leslie I e eden who didn't give me her age volunteer for the jehovah's witnesses laughs during a break from handing out pamphlets at union station in seattle washington november sixteen two thousand fifteen that's fine my name is in there look so that's wrong I thought it was right I thought I did this right yesterday so there's always happened this is why you double interest jack um I don't know this guy's name um I asked him his name alfred chatter with him a little bit and he said don't worry about it um he gave you permission to shoot but he was just like why? Whatever don't write so um a man smokes under the cover of a tree outside the king's county court in seattle washington in a caption you should always have city and state and if you overseas you put in city and country in the first line it should say it should say who what where when and then the white could be the second or the third or more lines so a man smokes the action under the cover of a tree where outside the king's county court seattle washington when on uh november that was seventeen two thousand fifteen right? Yes thought about actually go with him seven photo so nothing else to say about it that's fine on dh then that one is also totally wrong the creative live team at pike place market okay um so brian tannehill forty eight outside um a market he frequented as a kid in seattle washington have you guys getting the idea that had this drilled into my head november sixteen two thousand fifteen uh mr tannehill um claims to be the, um subject of a famous merry fucking mary ellen mock photograph um of two boys playing with a forty five calibre pistol fine. Okay, so in lad room you have to save the meditator to the file now forever as a result of having done that my final edits always have proper captions. What I would do if I wasn't with you guys I would go back in and make sure that all of the photographs of ryan tannehill there were miss captioned with the creative live team were recaptured um are there any questions about captioning or you guys? I feel like I do pretty clearly but can actually ask a clarification question when you were talking about um not manipulating the photos are calling them something different if they were uh a big question that came up was so would you crop an image to remove the car versus, like, photoshopping it out well, I would never footage of it out and you can't. You can ethically, you can crop him, yeah, but then, like on that picture, the reason I didn't even consider doing that is not because I'm in enemy of cropping like krumping has its place. Um, but look, what happens to the picture doesn't work for me, it's too tight, you know, I think the like have floating in that space was what was compelling. Yeah, and so similarly, somebody had asked in terms of manipulations, kaz mob, could you rotate it to make it straight or there's? Some of the things we rotate to make it straight. I mean, when you do that, you're going to be cropping in a little bit like this what's the box that has the grid lines you're actually making, take a smaller, like that's. How much of the percentage you're losing their make that dark area when you start twisting the picture for straight a horizon lines, but there's nothing ethically wrong with that. A cz journalism goes.

Class Description


  • Confidently approach strangers for street photography
  • Refine your eye for strong compositions
  • Choose the right gear for street photography
  • Tell a story through street photography
  • Write captions to accompany your work
  • Cull and edit your street photography images
  • Use street photography tips for building a career


Find the courage and skill to photograph strangers in public. Work with renowned street photographer Ashley Gilbertson to build both the confidence and skills necessary to succeed as a street photographer. Learn how to capture people moving through everyday life in artistic ways. Find out how to approach people in the street -- and how to photography anonymously in public places when everyone says no.

From understanding gear and the nuances of focal length to working as a documentary photographer in a public space, take your passion for street photography to the next level. This class isn't for beginners learning shutter speed and aperture for the first time -- it's for anyone that's ever wanted to work in street photography but struggles to build the courage to do so.

Watch behind-the-scenes videos following a real street photographer in action. Hear tales -- and see sample images -- of street photography across the United States and abroad, including major cities like New York and Chicago. Build captions and edit images with Photomechanic and Adobe Lightroom Live. Dive into an art form that reveals the complexity of human nature with Street Photography: The Art of Photographing Strangers.


  • Intermediate photographers eager to try the street photography genre
  • Enthusiast photographers branching into documentary style photography
  • Advanced photographers struggling to come out of their shell to approach strangers

SOFTWARE USED: Adobe Lightroom 6.0


Australia born photographer Ashley Gilbertson is a well-respected documentary style artist that many consider among the best street photographers. From working on editorial shoots to personal projects, his work has earned him an Emmy nomination, the Robert Capa Gold Medal, and an American Society of Magazine Editors Ellie award. The street photographer is also the author of two photography books and a regular writer for publications like The New York Times and The Washington Post. Based in New York City, Ashley's work has been featured in major publications as well as museum and art galleries around the world. 



I have taken more than a few of the Creative Live courses. I have, in general, found all of them to be very good and I have learned something important from them all. Not always enough of exactly what I was looking for, but something useful and important. This course was absolutely amazing. The best I have taken. I would like to download it and see it again and again. Ashley's style was authentic, humble, yet confidence inspiring. The information he gave was focused and totally useful. He shared both philosophy and thinking as well as real tools to learn - whether they be soft stuff (like how to approach someone) or hard stuff (like gear and settings and such). I cannot recommend this class highly enough. If you want to learn to do "humanistic photography" (his term which resonated with me), this is best I have ever taken!


This was a terrific and wonderful class. Ash was superb. His stories were awe inspiring, his passion was evident and his ability to teach was flawless. I would take any other class by him and actually can't wait for more of the VII agency programs eminating from Ron's class during photo week 2015. A great great addition to Creative Live's orbit.


Wow, I loved this course - I watched the whole thing, and most of it twice, during the first run. Ash is is intriguing, a good teacher, honest. I found this class to be so inspirational. I especially loved his encouragement about talking to strangers, asking to take their picture- "what's the worst thing that could happen?" And the videos watching him in action were motivating- you saw him make connections but also saw him get rejected too, but he keeps such a positive outlook. Love this class, please more photojournalism!