Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Editing: The Other White Meat?

Editing is the process of selecting the best images from your photo shoots. Whether you call them “selects” or “keepers” or however you might label them, these are the images you believe are the best or best accomplish the purpose of your shoot.

Editing is a less-talked-about skill, certainly in terms of it being a "hard" photographic skill. It reminds me of those ads that designate pork the “other white meat.” There's so much written and talked-about regarding gear, shooting, post-processing, retouching and image manipulation software that editing must feel like a neglected little piglet-- The runt of the litter.

But editing is wildly important! It's where your discerning eye, your eye for detail, your general sense of aesthetics and judgment regarding what works and what doesn't work shines like a “ringer” suddenly and significantly brought into play.

Have you ever looked at an image some photographer has posted on a forum or a blog or elsewhere and wondered why in the world did they pick *that* one? More so when it's somewhat obvious the photographer has tried, really hard, to make the shot work? Maybe it's just me but I sometimes think Lightroom and Photoshop have meant more photographers are working harder than ever before trying to make silk purses out of sow's ears.

When film ruled and the processing costs were greater and the ability to manipulate images was less, I think photographers were forced, by economic necessities and limited processing technologies, to become better editors. (If not better photographers.) Just sayin. Probably not for the first time.

I've also said this before and I'll say it again: You cannot frost a turd! Well, actually you can. Certainly, you can try. But under all that caked-on frosting, it's still a turd. The only difference between one frosted turd and another is how quickly viewers might come to the conclusion the photo is, in reality, a frosted turd. (I'm not saying I don't ever frost turds. I do. And so, probably, do you.)

What makes this worse is, often enough, I'll bet there's images amongst the many a turd-froster might have captured that aren't, well... aren't turds. But, for some reason known only to the turd-froster -- probably some small and insignificant thing that created some sort of bond between artist and turd -- a turd was chosen.

So much regarding editing, of course, is purely subjective. My opinions of the worth of one capture versus another aren't necessarily more valid than the opinions of others, regardless of my professional experience. The truth is, there are many shooters out there, pros and hobbyists alike, who are as good or better shooters than I am, whether they're shooting glamour or just about anything else.

Along those same lines of people being better shooters than me, the "skill" where I sometimes think I might have an edge over some of those people, not all of them but some, is via the process of editing. It's too bad more photographers, myself included, aren't “sharing” more of their raw images from shoots, along with the shot they (or I) decided was The Shot.

An explanation of the process photographers use to edit their shots down to that one shot might be quite revealing, regardless of whether the shot they decided is The Shot makes some sort of artistic or technical "sense" qualifying it as such... Or, in reality, is a turd, frosted or otherwise.

I don't remember the name of the hot little tamale at the top. I only recall I shot her for Playboy/Club Jenna a few years back. She's not outside on a small patio. She's posing inside a home in front of a glass sliding door that looks out to the small veranda.


HMetal said...

Good post jimmy. you should have called it "Frosting Turds." :)

John said...

Agreed - good post, Mr. D.

Lee said...

"It's too bad more photographers, myself included, aren't “sharing” more of their raw images from shoots, along with the shot they (or I) decided was The Shot."

I've always thought this was a terrific idea. It'd be nice to know how close my starting point is.

Don said...

This reminds me of a time in 1980, when I was picking up some processed film form a lab here in Houston. While I was there, a guy came in to pick-up his film and contact sheets. After he viewed his work, he started swooning and proclaiming that every shot was "perfect". I don't know about you, but I have never seen a complete roll of "perfect shots" from anyone. The guy behind the counter and I had quite a chuckle after he left. Over my 42 years as a photographer, editing has become the single most important aspect of photography. George Krause used to stress this the most, while he was teaching at The University of Houston and The Houston Center of Photography. It helped many young photographers improve their work and most became very good photographers.