Photography and editing

Prague abbey Ken Rockwell drops another article on “ow to make good photographs,” this one emphasizing composition and urging you to carefully study your image before taking a picture. He has a particularly formalist bent, but the basic idea of thinking and experimenting before shooting is important.

The only way to ensure strong composition is to look through your finder and make it that way before you press the shutter. Move yourself around to change perspective, which moves elements around in your frame. You can change the relative sizes of elements by moving in and zooming out to maintain the same framing. When you do, closer elements just got bigger while distant ones just got smaller.

This is all true, but there’s another phase of thinking and work that takes place after the picture’s been taken that often gets under-appreciated, which is editing. Editing is looking at your photos after they’ve been taken to figure out which ones are the good ones. What happens during editing is just as important as what happens while shooting. Photographers who post 50 photos from a single day just don’t get it, or they’re not trying to make art. You need to do the hard work of finding the one or two images that rise above the rest by a confluence of factors. Forget what you were thinking while you shot the pictures, and forget which ones you thought would turn out the best; invariably, the best pictures are the ones you didn’t give a second thought to while shooting.

My photoblog isn’t really about taking pictures. Most of the photos I’ve posted so far are years old — it’s about looking at old collections of photos with a new perspective. Editing. Take today’s picture, from a trip to Prague in 2002. I enjoyed this photo at the time, but only years later does it stand far above most of the others. Mastering technique and composition is critical to becoming a good photographer, but so is the ability to look at a hundred photos and realize that the best way to represent the whole group is to just show one.

4 thoughts on “Photography and editing

  1. The other weekendy clickables doesn’t have comments so I’m saying it here: HDR is the scourge of digital photography. Ugh.

  2. Agree with the editing. Every now and then I go back to my old photos and re-crop, etc.After the experience has faded it makes things like composition stand up more. (Also fix things like noise or fringe colors.)

  3. That’s weird… i just turned the editing back on.

    I’ve been going back a lot more because of two bits of techonology. One is Lightroom, which is mainly because I have a computer now that’s fast enough to run it, and the other is called John’s background switcher. I set it to randomly change my background image every few minutes, but the cool thing is that it’s set to also make the images grayscale, so I get a fresh perspective and look at photos I haven’t seen in years.

    Also, I realized that all the photos I’d ever taken with my first digital camera, a Nikon 995, were on ISO 100. Doh!

  4. I hate that my camera doesn’t have an ISO selector on top, clearly visible, as it is on my film cameras. I always forget what was the last setting, end up shooting 400 or 800 in broad daylight and have to run noise ninja.

    I go back for a bunch of stuff: noise, color balance (I’m very used to the CMYK model, have to fix photos to look better on screen) and other stuff I’m much better at now than years ago. The chromatic aberration / purple fringe is a common fix. Also fixing skies, before I started using filters all my skies were white.

    If you want to get tips on composition, technique, etc; and don’t have a bunch of photographer friends to bug, I’d recommend joining a microstock site. The money is crap, but there are many photograhers in the forums and they give good advice, much better than the pageview collectors in flickr. Many of them are from European countries, they have a less touristy/stock aesthetic.

    I like the new look on the blog, btw.

Comments are closed.