Thursday, April 24, 2014

Editing Your Images And Your Image Library

I struggle with to many images in my photo library. They're difficult, expensive, and time consuming to manage. Failure to properly manage photos results in lacking creativity and the reduced time allowed for actually taking photographs. For this article, "editing" photos refers to deciding what is a good and bad photo.

Learning what constitutes a good and usable photo is a hard-learned skill for photographers. At first, I wanted to keep every photo taken. Now, many years later, I'm learning that less is more.

My method of choice is Lightroom. Far from perfect, but probably the most utilized program for keeping a photo library. As an amateur, whatever is used most has major benefits. When I first installed Lightroom and learned a few basics, I quickly reduced the number of my images by half in a few weeks.

How do you reduce the number of images by half and never miss any of them?
  • Find duplicate images and remove those.
  • Quickly browse and remove poor photos. 
  • Find images that just aren't appealing or useful and remove them. 
In my case, that was about 15,000 images from many years of digital photography and never using anything except Photoshop and the standard Windows file management tools. That is the wrong method and the sooner you stop, the better you're overall productivity will be.
  • Why not use Bridge? If Adobe Bridge is all that you have, by all means use it. The basic idea is the same, it's just that Lightroom has so many other benefits later on after you get over a steep learning curve with Lightroom. Bridge is no picnic either, but it does come with Adobe Photoshop at no extra cost.
I don't know the psychology behind this, but it's easy to think that photos are keepers that really aren't. I think it's something that the moment you've captured will never happen again and that makes an image valuable. It doesn't. I've taught myself to look at a bad image as a liability.

Bad images are a liability because:
  • They take up space on a hard drive. That increases the cost of storage and takes more time to back them up.
  • They make it more difficult to search for good images. When you search for good images,you have to fish through so many bad that it's a chore and wastes time. 
There are many photographers, far fewer photo editors. If you want some interesting insight as to what is a keeper, read interviews with editors like this interview with a National Geographic Photo Editor. These are the few people that rely on their knowledge of what constitutes a good photo for a living. In this interview, I learned that I should always keep the RAW file because that is the format that a paying magazine would want if they use it. That fact also tells me that I should strive to get the best in camera shot possible. Are you going to keep RAW files for images that obviously bad and still have drive space for these good ones?

I have developed some quick guidelines for keeping a photo, but I keep adding to them as time goes on.

  1. Would I print this photo? If it's not worth printing, it might not be worth keeping. 
  2. What is the point of this photo? No point, no point in keeping. 
  3. Has it sat on the hard drive without being organized yet. If it's not worth the time to organize and keyword, is it really worth keeping? 
  4. What would I pay for this image if I needed for an article? If I would pay much, I delete it.
  5. Sentimental value? If so, keep it, but organize it as such. 
  6. Do I have others that are similar? If so, delete the worst of them. 
  7. Is it worth uploading? If it's not worth uploading to a website, it probably isn't worth keeping. 
  8. Is it worth basic edits in Photoshop? If it's not worth the time, it might not be worth keeping. 

I waited far to long before I started realizing the benefits of learning to edit. Deleting is pain and pain is a good teacher. I take fewer bad photos now simply because I don't want to delete them. Editing is an easy way to build on skills. Take the time to listen to the professional editors even if you're not trying to sell your photos. It's free advice that will improve your overall portfolio.

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