Edit As If There’s No Tomorrow

Digital photography has created a new phenomenon that I call “lead finger syndrome.”

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.

Outdoor Photographer Tip Of The Week

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.

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5 Comments

    Thaks for the reminder, I agree wholeheartedly. I feel priviledged to also have had a film-days background and because of it I was initially overwhelmed with the number of takes at the end of a shoot, not only had I discovered that I had a lead finger, but also that I had become quite lazy, initially thinking that this fantastic new technology was a blessing! It is in many ways, but had to fight the temptation to rush the shooting and slow down, much like during the film days. And beyond that it took a while to discipline myself to be relentless when deleting the bad-to-so-so-ones, and there’s usually lots of them.:) The difficult part now is often to decide between the 5* and 4-4.5*. But that’s me and it’s nothing new and quite a separate and different challenge!

    I’m not a professional photographer by any means but I know the lead finger syndrome well and have reminded myself frequently not to get to crazy with the shutter. One thing I’ve done to try to limit the photos I store on my hard drive is when i start a new folder for LR (I organize according to months) is to do a quick review of the previous month to delete the non keepers or the ones I wasn’t quite sure about at the time of first review. I feel I delete more since I’m not freshly attached and sometimes find it easier to hit the delete button.

    I do not turn on the multi-shot method, and continue to use the old film system of waiting for the decisive moment. I lose a few shots, but I am out with the camera more than sitting at the computer.

    That said, I have my USER mode set to burst for use with my two Pentax M series lenses (100 macro, 400). This allows me to catch wildlife with 40 year old lenses.

    As many of you, I began photography in the days of costly film and the darkroom. Now, I have been told, you use the card like a roll of film. Indeed I do and need to allow myself a higher level of freedom and will continue to work on that. However, I will always spend the time in an effort to know what I am trying to create rather than tripping the shutter and picking the best from what happens, not knowing what I my objective was in the first place. As with all forms of art, I belief the artist must know what emotion/message they are attempting to convey.

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