July 30, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

SUDDEN STOP                                    GORGE WATERFALL : FINAL VERSION

This week I'd like to discuss the tricky problem of editing our work. If you've ever faced the problem of narrowing choices of what to include in a photo album, or deciding what to print, or what to frame, or what to keep, then you know how difficult these decisions can become. We frequently abdicate the process rather than cull what is after all our artistic work, and leave it for another day. Notice my title - it is rather easy to edit someone else's work, to pick out the obvious keepers and rejects. We have nothing invested in the process, and our decisive process is often a rather transparent symptom of our inability to edit our own work. This is not just limited to our photographic archives. In every marriage there are inevitable conflicts between one person's "stuff" versus the other person's "junk." On the geopolitical level, it is much easier to conduct a social revolution in another country rather than your own.

                                                              HUG POINT #2 : FINAL VERSION

So let's get the easy stuff over first. How should you edit your work? With fierceness, firmness, and finality. The first round should be getting rid of any mistakes that honestly you will not be able to "fix in post" no matter how much of a digital editing genius you are. Then take a look at what are essentially duplicate shots. Then decide what is the best shot of a sequence, and get rid of all of the inferior ones. Now you have eliminated most of the shots you clearly don't need to consider any more in the future, even if the future is only five minutes from now.

                                    OREGON COAST SEA STACK #1 : FINAL VERSION

Now the hard part begins. Take a deep look at what remains; the most important consideration is to divorce yourself from your own work. Make believe you are looking at some random snaps, forget about how much fun you had getting that shot, or how hard it was, or how good the ice cream cone was just after/before you took it. It is just a photograph - how good is it? And by the way, how large will this project be? Is it the best one to frame, or one of ten in a portfolio, or one of the fifty you will include in a photo book of your vacation? The lower the number the fiercer the competition.


Why all the angst? We weren't supposed to care about your photo decision making - but I'm just trying to help. The operative mission is to cull your image files to your absolute best, so that it will be easier to decide what that is, even if it's just going on Instagram. Your cat is very cute - how about just the cutest slice of his life? Storage is cheap these days, and while I don't really care about saving you money, I want to make sure that your life of backing up, and then backing up again, and checking your backups is restricted to your best shots, so that you won't go mad worrying about the fate of junk. if you've done much photography at all, you have realized that only music files rival your simple snapshot in their ability to quickly fill up your hard drive(s).


             FORT ROCK #1 : FINAL VERSION

While I finally have my archive under reasonable control (knock on wood), it would behoove everyone to simply try to eliminate some small percentage before you purchase yet another hard drive, even though you do get twice as much storage for the same price each time you have to do it. Surely there is something else you would rather spend $150 or so on?  If I can eliminate 500 photos from my collection, I  would avoid that next purchase by a few months at least. Since my Lightroom catalogue supposedly contains 51,000 images, this should be just a simple organizational chore. Do as I say, not what I do. The most important reason you should edit your archive, for whatever reason you set out to do it, is so you simply never have to look at that image AGAIN!

                                                              MACKENZIE RIVER FALLS : FINAL VERSION

My current editing dilemma concerns my attempt to come to to terms with my current book project. I am finishing up a volume of Oregon photographs, after having done two books on Portland. A lot of my favorite images will now finally hit the page, and my travels throughout the state, especially with my son, Benjamin, can now see the light of day after my concentration on the city. This effort led me to finally purchase a scanner to digitize all of work that was done on film. After the initial pass through more than a decade of work, I now finally have reduced the price of a "saved" image to about $2.00, so the scanner has more than done its due, since there are another two large boxes of prints, negatives, and slides to go through.


All of the images you have seen today have been eliminated from my book. While you might not like all of them, and will hopefully feel that my choices were correct when you purchase the book, it seemed a useful exercise to give them one more look before they were culled. There are various reasons they did not make the cut, not all of them fair, but it had to be done. In order to make the book somewhat of a rational exercise, I had to keep it to about 100 pages total. Partly this was to have it approximately match in length and price with my other three books, and I finally settled on that length as a goal. I won't bore you with the more anal considerations of layout, and the need to have not only an even number of pages, but a number divisible by four, that has led to some decisions unrelated to art or content. Throw in those more serious considerations, and you end up with some pretty good photos on the cutting room floor.

                                    DUNE GRASS DETAIL : FINAL VERSION

There were various reasons an image fell on the wayside. Often I just had another image that I felt talked about a subject - the coast, the mountains, etc. just a little bit better than the one I rejected. Sometimes an image was rejected because I simply liked the color or black and white version better, and now was not the time to discuss why I liked both. And sometimes there was just too many images on one subject for a book that I felt should cover most of the regions of the state, so the Gorge might suffer to show more of Eastern Oregon that my readers had never seen.

             SMITH ROCK #1 : FINAL VERSION

Harder choices revolved around my desire to make sure this was my book of Oregon. When you are showing a broad selection of images of our beautiful state it is pretty easy to get stuck on the iconic images that I have taken along with the rest of you. It doesn't really matter if my image is a little better than the average - I call this the Instagram problem. There are some places in the world that I have never been to , but now have little mystery, since I have seen "the shot" thousands of time on Instagram. Thus this image above lost to my other Smith Rock image because the one above is more similar to the standard Smith Rock image, while my other one seems slightly more unusual, at least to me.

                                    HAMBURGERS : FINAL VERSION

This has always been one of my more popular images, and I could now include it, along with a funny story, because the sign is atop a famous ice cream parlor in Cascade Locks. Yet it just didn't seem to fit in with the rest of my Gorge shots, no matter how I tried to justify its inclusion.


Other images lost out to my limit, no matter how much I liked the individual image. This would eventually include some personal favorites.


Unfortunately this included some of my "quiet" shots, because their inclusion could not be justified for editorial reasons. Even some of my characteristic detail shots didn't warrant consideration because they didn't seem to be "Oregon" enough. And of course I could be wrong.

                                    FRACTAL POND : FINAL VERSION

What became most interesting was my decision not to include some images, even though they were perfectly fine, and beloved by customers, and were demonstrably "mine", just because I have grown so sick of them. It's my book after all, and in the immortal words of my wife, "I JUST DON'T WANTA!"

                                   LEWIS AND CLARK : FINAL VERSION

Both this image and the first Gorge Waterfall image have always been among my most popular images. For some reason I am just so sick of them that I can barely look at them while I hand your the coaster. I even know that they aren't that bad, but I just can't stand them, and was not going to include them at the cost of another image that I thought for some reason deserved a broader audience. And I have somehow gotten the book down to the target 100 pages, so the finish line is in sight. Although in the process of writing this essay, I have discovered another two images that should be included. The struggle continues.