We've all done it before. You spend over 30 minutes editing one photo and realize that its just not "right". You flip screens to a change of scenery and then realize to yourself, "...I still have 200 images to go through!!!!"
Ok, so maybe you haven't gone through that exact scenario but we've all had differing degrees of the "editing blackhole" we can get into.
Almost all of the workflow tools out there, Aperture, Lightroom, there are multiple ways to organize, evaluate and separate the good from the bad. I'll put together another workflow article forward soon.
Here are some tips I use to shorten my decision making at editing and reducing the load.
1. Remember what the client/viewer wants to see
Whether you're talking images for a client or for your own portfolio, you have to keep in mind what they "want" to see. If you have client meetings for a job, you always ask them "what they ultimately want" and is required for the job. You have to remember what they tell you as the overarching theme throughout your editing. I don't suggest you can't be creative but you need to give them what they want or they won't ask you to do it again.
The same goes with the viewer of your work. For your own work, you need to decide what theme you want for that series, or images in that set. If you decide the focus of your work is going to be a black & white macro series on food, and you throw in a close-up bokeh shot cause you thought it was cool, it just doesn't fit. Its a different theme. Keep remembering what people will think when they look at the entire set you're editing.
2. Be brutal, don't be kind with your work
We are our own toughest critics. I know I am. Anything that anyone can say about my work, I've heard it before in my own head. In fact, when I'm reviewing my images, I've called myself crazy numerous times. You don't have time to critically analyze each image you've taken. Take 3-4 things that you need to nail in an image/series, and if it doesn't meet those requirements, dump it. You can find those "things" the best in your own work, because you TOOK IT. Own your work, and own your mistakes. We all make them. This will toughen your skin. Your work isn't you... you need to separate yourself from it emotionally and be MEAN to yourself. If you say it to yourself, it doesn't hurt as much as some one else.
3. Make a decision and stick to it
Once you've decided to discard or keep an image, don't 2nd guess yourself. Stick to it. If you mentioned it once to yourself that you didn't like how this pose was, or that shadow, or that smile, discard it. Don't go filing through your discard pile thinking you've made the wrong decision. If you do, it doesn't stop there. You second guess every thing you've done. Walk a straight line and stick to it. If you can't defend your decision to yourself, good luck trying to talk to someone else about it.
4. Don't keep something to edit 51% more effort
When you look at an image, you know you can correct some things through a photo editing software like Photoshop, i.e. hair elastic on a wrist, or stray hair in the wind. When you start to completely rework the image into something that isn't what it was, it becomes digital art, and not a photo. There is definitely merit to digital art, but for photo editing purposes, there is a line that needs to be drawn. I use my 51% rule. If I alter more than 50% of an image, and this is subjective to your own eye, then I've gone too far. If I've liquified so much that the person doesn't resemble what they were before, then I've gone too far. If my scales for colour, exposure or anything have gone 50% different than what they were, its not simple editing. To me, I evaluate it as 50% more effort than I put into taking that image. That's too much, especially if you have to do it multiple times.
5. Work backwards
What I mean is, work in reverse order from how you took the images. I've recently started to do this when I took 4200 images on a trip to the UK and since my memory works much better on recent events than with older ones. I've found I recalled much more of my thought process of that image(s), or of how I remembered exactly what editing I wanted for that image.
Christa Meola, boudoir photographer, mentioned it recently in her Creative Live session and stated that many people thank her for that one tid bit.
Believe me, it works... I dare you to try it.
6. Use multiple passes to review your work
When I go through my images, I go through them a few times to evaluate whether or not an image makes the cut. Chase Jarvis put me on to this evaluation, and its stuck ever since.
My 1st pass - is it appealing to look at
My 2nd pass - is it appealing to my client
My 3rd pass - is it worth framing
My 4th or final - is it worth money
Within these passes, it takes about 5-10 minutes each pass. Its quite quick.
Its very hard to evaluate something one time through, and that's why multiple are much better. I always have images that make it 2 of my 4 passes, but when it comes right down to it, I'm happy with my 4th pass.
7. Set a time deadline
Give yourself a reasonable goal to get through it. If you want to review your images the evening you took them, say you'll review them in 30-45 minutes. Set a timer, and start going. People like meeting goals. Giving yourself something to aim for is better than having no end in site. If there is no deadline, many people don't work at it with 100% intensity. I make my own goals, and I keep myself motivated to keep on that timer and to reach those goals. It adds up. Once you start hitting those goals regularly, you'll be happy that you're reaching them. It much better being a happy editor than a sad, depressed one.
I hope these tid bits will help the next time you sit down to review your work. Keep at it everyone! Don't fall into that blackhole! Feel free to comment and share your tips.
Written by: jFotog