Editing New Orleans with the No.1 Ladies Photography Group
This February I am focusing on the set of images that I captured in New Orleans and how they have helped me to find my photographic voice. Today’s post will look at the photo editing process, and how important other people’s input can be to help you gain new perspectives on your work.
Photo Editing – Images of New Orleans
Editing is such an important aspect of photography. And by that, I am not talking about spending hours in Photoshop or Lightroom making touch-ups and adjustments. Photo editing is a process of selection; deciding which images best convey your overall ideas.
As my photography mentor, Dawn Jutton, stresses the importance of taking the proper time to set up and consider the composition of the shot, so too should time and thought be taken after. This is especially true for the contemporary photographer, as the digital medium allows images to be captured virtually ad infinitum. Unlike when photography was confined to film and you were limited to a set number of images (yes, you could buy more film, but that could get pretty expensive), digital allows the freedom to shoot continually.
This can be a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, as long as you have a big enough memory card, you are free to take hundreds of images per hour. Which means that you will never be caught out unable to capture that unexpected image at the end of the day because you have used up all your rolls of film. However, it can lead to a ‘click happy’ approach to your photography.
I speak from experience. Because this is what I was doing in New Orleans. Shoot first, edit later was my mantra. Do not miss a shot.
The result? Hundreds of images to wade through when I got back.
As it happened this wasn’t a bad thing. Arriving home in the mid-afternoon I was determined to beat jet-lag by not going to sleep until the evening, despite having been travelling for 24hrs. Uploading and categorising my photographs seemed like the perfect task to help achieve this. And it worked, while fighting fatigue, I dutifully uploaded all my images and arranged them into appropriate categories.
Here is the first part of the overall photo editing process; categorising. I was aware throughout my time in the Big Easy that I was amassing images that were inspired by certain visual cues, such as doorways, or colours. In addition, I had images that were location based, such as those from the famous cemeteries of the city. Any image that didn’t fit was filed in a miscellaneous file: ‘other’.
And there the images sat for a long time. I wanted to do something with them, but was not quite sure where to start. Sometimes having a purpose for doing something is the best motivation. Yet with these types of images the editing can occasionally reveal the purpose.
Recently I have started to engage with this work again, and after a session with Dawn Jutton, began to reevaluate the scope and purpose of the work. Through this I was instigated into the second round of the editing process. You will often find, with our ‘click happy’ digital apparatus, that you have multiple shots of the same thing. This is great, it shows that you were actively negotiating with the subject matter and your translation of it through your lens. However, when you come to edit your work, unless you are explicitly using a series of images of the same subject, then finding your preferred shot out of this range is a vital first step.
For example, in one of my categories, Signs, I had these images:
The same subject matter, framed differently. The decision to be made is which of these images do you prefer? For me, I have gone with the landscape composition, as it is more visually appealing, perhaps as it is in contrast with the vertical lines of the lamp post and pylon in the background. There is no right or wrong answer here, and you may may well have chosen a different image, but the editing process is about personal artistic decisions, not choosing a hypothetical ‘perfect image’.
The photo editing process then continues through all of your images. The goal being, that once complete, you will have approximately a third of the images that you started with to work with. From then, with all of these photographs laid out on the desktop in front of you, it is much easier to identify other, more nuanced, threads, themes, and narratives throughout the body of work.
Another stage of the photo editing process, does take you to Photoshop, or whatever editing software you are using. Again, however, it does not involve any fancy techniques or tools. As with so much related to photography and photo editing, it is simply a process of looking and evaluating.
Cropping an image can drastically change the focus and outcome of the photograph. It doesn’t necessarily have to be done on photographic software, either. Sometimes just using your hand or a piece of paper to shield certain areas and experiment with new framing can be hugely insightful.
For the image that I had chosen above, it could quite easily have been left as it is – there is no obligation to crop your images. But after looking at the image for some time, I decided to try going in closer, cropping in the left-hand side of the image so that it is tighter on the signs themselves, shifting them to the side of the frame.
Another important aspect here is to work with the image. Do not worry about the conventional aspect ratios of photography. You are looking to crop the image to the proportions that best suit the visual aesthetic you are aiming to achieve and create the best narrative.
Sharing Your Work
I also presented the images, and my thoughts on the photo editing process, to the January meeting of the No.1 Women’s Photography Group. It was through these processes that I started to see the work in a new light. Find aspects revealed that I had not considered. What became clear was that showing your work to others in its rawest form can yield interesting insights as they often see things you had not considered.
There is also the luxury of having an impartial audience give you feedback. This seems so important with a set of images like this, which for me were imbued with so many emotional responses. For them however, they did not come to the work with this prior knowledge, they were seeing the images with fresh eyes, seeking meaning through my images alone. As anxiety inducing as it can be to share your artistic work with others, in the right environment it is an essential tool for conversation about you artistic process and ultimately progression.
I am still editing all my images, I daren’t even count how many there are. It is a big job! But with this photo editing process in place, it is a clear path to follow to get the job done.
For my previous New Orleans post, see here. And keep an eye out for the final post in the series coming up next week.