Digital photography has created a new phenomenon that I call “lead finger syndrome.” Once reserved for fast drivers and known as “driving with a lead foot” has now migrated into the world of digital photography. Being one from the “old days” of film I was certainly more conservative with both the frequency and duration of time I pressed the shutter. But given the fact that every digital capture is free, I’m much more prone to lay on the motor drive. I still haven’t developed lead finger syndrome, but I do come back from a shoot having taken more pics than in my film days. While this certainly increases my chance of capturing that killer photo, the cause effect relationship presents a dilemma when it comes to editing.
What am I going to do with all these pics? Where do I begin my editing? Where will I find time to sort? Where will I store them all........? The questions go on yet the answer is relatively simple and two fold. 1) If you absolutely hate to edit, you have to find a compromise between how much of a lead fingered photographer you want to be relative to the amount of time you want to spend in front of the computer. If you return from every session dreading the edit, shoot less to make your job easier. If you decide to be a lead fingered champ, graciously accept the fact you’ll stare at the screen toggling the right arrow and delete button a lot. 2) Edit like there’s no tomorrow - If you love the sound of capturing images at eight frames a second to the point at which you fill your buffer, you will have a lot of similars. Within each series, there will always be a few that stand head and shoulders above the rest. Keep those and get rid of the rest. Shift-Click the throw aways and get rid of them in mass as it will allow you to more clearly evaluate the best ones. Be ruthless as nobody is going to buy the photo of the one that almost works.
Here’s what I do. When I get back from a shoot, I do what I call a Quick Edit. I immediately discard the softly focused, poorly cropped, poorly exposed, eyes closed, etc. unmistakable throw aways. If I notice any killer pics, I assign them five stars. For this Quick Edit I’m doing the obvious for only the best and worst. The reason is I’m still emotionally attached to the photos and if I try to rank them into a more fine tuned hierarchy, my sentiments, challenges to get the image, etc. get in my way and it becomes too subjective. With this in mind, I separate myself for a period of time and revisit each folder a month or so later at which point I can be much more objective.
When you’ve reconciled that it’s time to perform a solid edit, as stated above, be ruthless with your decision to keep an image. Ask yourself the following: Is it better than ones you already have of the same subject? Is it to be used as a place holder in that it’s the best one you currently have of that subject? Is it technically and creatively sound? Does it have potential to be used in conjunction with another image in a montage? Does it have potential stock or sales likelihood? Is it one of the top five in a series of twenty or more? If you answer YES to these questions, hold and rank the photo. If not, eliminate it from the folder. All this being said, there are photographers who simply can’t stand the thought of deleting any capture. If you fit this mold, get yourself some external drives and copy all your files to feel secure. But on your desktop, cull the folders to make your everyday work flow that much smoother. Each of the three accompanying photos were the best in the series or circumstance from when they were photographed - trust me, many of the others were deleted.