Photo Editing For Mere Mortals
One of the many benefits of using a digital camera is you don’t need to worry about the amount of film you are carrying. Keep shooting as many frames as you want – memory cards are cheap and you can always delete the photos later if they don’t turn out. Sounds great in theory but the “spray and pray” approach can also be one of digital photography’s greatest weaknesses. Editing a large batch of similar photos down to the keepers is tough and many of us don’t bother, turning our computer’s hard drive into the shoebox full of prints of yore.
Personally I used to find it daunting to sit down to edit a largish photo shoot. Confidence in your critical judgement and editing process is something that doesn’t come easy to everyone and as with most things it takes practice to develop. When you shoot irregularly it can be difficult to build up that experience and a repeatable process you can be confident in. That is why I found this post on Chase Jarvis’s blog so intriguing.
I’m a mere mortal. I don’t have to deal with 15000 photo shoots, and it is rare I have any larger than 500. And the post isn’t the first article or book I’ve seen discussing volume photo rating and culling. But it did resonate with me for a number of reasons:
- it requires multiple passes over a shoot. Initially this felt inefficient but I’m seeing the wisdom of it now. It really helps develop a sense of the whole shoot while cutting down on the temptation to double back and second guess myself I experience when trying to use a single pass approach. Multiple passes help you gain confidence you are making the right choices and can be quicker in the long run.
- each pass through the shoot indicates a speed it should be performed at, not just the type of photo you are trying to eliminate during the pass. It helps remind me to spend less time agonising over the photos that never had a chance of making it anyway.
- the way Scott presented the process made it feel real and achievable. Sometimes a clinically described process makes sense but you trip over the details when trying to implement it. No such issues encountered here.
Scott uses Aperture when describing his photo editing process but I found it quite easy to implement using Lightroom. Some suggestions for those interested in trying it out:
- you might already (like me) be using stars as a permanent rating system for your photos. This isn’t a problem – you can use both rating schemes together! Pick a label colour and keep it just for your bulk photo editing process and use this new star rating system with that colour label only. When you have finished editing the shoot change the label applied to the photos and reset the star ratings to align with your permanent rating system. I recommend using the purple label colour, as it is the only label without a keyboard shortcut so is a perfect choice for setting as your initial, unprocessed colour label via an import preset.
- you might be tempted to use pick flags (pick, unflagged, rejected) and the Refine Photos command instead of stars. While this could work I’d suggest only trying it after you are thoroughly versed with the process and confident you can edit a complete shoot in a single session. If nothing else it would be difficult to remember which pass you were working on when you next open this shoot, and thus what the pick flag signifies in this pass.
- create a set of Library module filter presets to help you step through the process by hiding photos eliminated by previous passes. You can download mine to use as a starting point and update the criteria to match your environment. Install them by opening your Lightroom presets (preferences) folder and extracting the zip file’s contents into the Filter Presets sub-folder. These new filter presets will be visible after the next Lightroom restart.
- while you are still familiarising yourself with the process why not repurpose the panel end marker as a reminder? I first saw this technique applied by John Beardsworth (here and here) and figured this bulk editing process would be a perfect candidate for its own panel end mark. You can download mine here. Install it by right clicking on the current panel end mark, select Panel End Marks –> Go to Panel End Marks Folder, and extracting the zip file’s contents into the folder. You can then activate the panel end mark by right clicking on the current one, and selecting Panel End Marks –> FlourishCJBulkRate.png.
Photo editing your own work is not only a practical necessity, it is also a great learning tool. It helps you better understand what works for you, and just as importantly what doesn’t, so you can hone your photographic awareness and take better photos. Critically thinking about your own work isn’t easy but I found this post on Chase Jarvis’s blog helped make the whole process much more approachable. Hopefully you will find my suggestions for adapting the process to Lightroom helpful and like me you’ll be able to tackle that backlog of photos building up on your computer!
In: Howto, Software · Tagged with: lightroom, photography, workflow