There are two kinds of photographers in this world: those who are overly critical of their work and those who aren’t.
Professional photographers usually hire people to edit their photos for them; which is actually quite common in commercial photography because of the amount of work that has to be done in a small amount of time. However, the best photographers I know still make sure they edit their work or at least do the final touches themselves.
Being able to be your own editor and critic also comes with the responsibility of being able to detach yourself from the work.
Here are a couple of tips to help you do so.
1. Have a checklist of the basics
Whether you’re using a film, digital or smart phone camera, it’s always good to have a checklist of basic characteristics that an image must have. These are your non-negotiables, that should help you with making an initial selection of photos after a day of editing. Personally, my three non-negotiables are that any given image must be:
Have the right color balance
Be in the correct resolution/size.
This list of non-negotiables could change depending on the photographer, but for me these elements are essential in having the right kind of image after editing.
2. Give yourself options
Once you’ve made your initial picks, go through your raw images again and find photographs of the same subjects shot in a different perspective or angle. For example, if your initial pick was a photo of a closeup of a plate of food, go through your raw images again and find a photo of the same plate in a wider angle.
3. Detach yourself from the experiences
As photographers, we go to great lengths to get the perfect shot. Whether it be battling different elements of nature, exhausting physical efforts or handling a difficult subject, our shoot experiences often taint the opinions we have about the images we create. Effort and time don’t always equate to getting a good photo.
If you want to be the kind of photographer that edits his own photos, it’s incredibly important to detach from the experiences. I realize that I detach best when I look at the raw images simultaneously as thumbnails, at this scale it’s important to rely on your instincts to identify which photographs are best. Looking at your images as thumbnails forces you to extract yourself from the experience, seeing it as a whole rather than as individual images which may trigger sensations and memories. I pick and choose the thumbnails I feel are the best and after I’ve made my initial picks, I run them through my non-negotiable checklist.
4. Think of yourself as the person who will have to look at your images
I say this time and again: editors/clients aren’t there to narrow down your photos for you. I work as a multimedia editor for an international news agency as my day job and I get really peeved when i get submissions from a massive google drive that i have to sort through. There are two things editors want when they receive a photo submission: the first is options and the second is a story.
Your images should be able to tell a cohesive story both individually and as a group. This cohesion has to be visible in the way you decide to process your images as well. Submitting a set of images with different treatments is a no-no, it doesn’t look good anywhere and what’s even worse is that it makes the set unusable.
5. Give yourself time
They say that greatness only happens in retrospect and I find that this is true when I look at the images that I’ve created. If you can afford it, give yourself some time between editing and submitting your work.
I’m usually not the biggest fan of the photographs I take on the day itself, however after a few days, I find that they aren’t as bad as I thought they were. Ask yourself some questions before handing in your work: do the images live up to your personal expectations? Do the live up to your past work? Would you upload this set to your portfolio? Do the images fit the story requirements or the client brief? If your answer to any of these questions is no, then it’s best to start from step 1 all over again.