Editing your own work - ?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by eskyone, Oct 31, 2011.

  1. eskyone

    eskyone Member

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    I've heard and listened to a couple of photographers talk about being great editors. Editing one's work seems to be a skill that comes with experience and knowledge of what makes a great photograph. I would like to improve my editing skills. For the most part, I would say that I rely on my gut, and experience that I have - works some of the time. Not wishing to go down the road of defining art, or debating what is in the eye of the beholder, and what not, how do you edit your work? Is there a process that you consciously follow? Is there a body of learning that all combined one day that really made a difference in how you look at a photograph?
     
  2. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    My approach has been unusual, I think, so perhaps I should keep my mouth shut.

    I make contact sheets. Based on the pictures there I pick the ones that I think have potential. This is a process that takes perhaps a couple of months.
    Then I scan the negatives I think have potential and play around with cropping them and so on to see where I might take it in the darkroom. This also takes some time, weeks or months.
    Finally I go into the dark and print them the way I think they should be, one or two at a time.

    Often times I take a couple of years to finish a portfolio, to let it grow and mature as a project. Sometimes I show the ideas to others, to see what ideas I might get from it. That helps too.

    - Thomas
     
  3. Maris

    Maris Member

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    No editing! No proofs! No contact sheets! Nothing hits the cutting-room floor! Every exposure (ok, blunders excluded) goes all the way to the very best full size gelatin-silver archival photograph I can make. The work is the work is the work.

    But, and it is a big BUT, by making such a resolute pact with myself I force a relentless culling of potential subject matter. I don't want to spend hundreds of dollars and hundreds of hours of darkroom work ploughing through rows of poorly seen, poorly thought through negatives that I was self indulgent enough to expose in a fit of lazy optimism.

    The underlying fantasy I tell myself is that if I can't be bothered putting a photograph through my mind before exposure why should anyone bother putting it through their mind after exposure.
     
  4. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    Editing is a fundamentally important skill that assists in sharpening your eye for what makes a great photograph as opposed to one which is mediocre. The format of what you are looking at — contacts, proofs, slides or negs, is mostly irrelevant; you are looking at composition, aesthetics, technical grip and overall first-look quality of the image.

    You learn to edit your work in art school. Edit ruthlessly and don't ponder "maybe" ahead of "definitely". Better still, put the images away and come back later — maybe a year or two; chances are on the second pass you will have a clearer presence of mind as to which image gets carried through to printing, matting and framing, and those that get relegated to the file box.
     
  5. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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    Thomas: we have very similar approaches. My current portfolio is maybe half-way complete and it's been 4 years....

    That said, I love to print by gut and then let it hang in my room for a few weeks. If I still like it and find it interesting after a few dangling weeks then it moves to the next round. By this method, I can learn if an image is genuinely interesting or if it is just something I like in the moment. Sticking power matters for me.
     
  6. semi-ambivalent

    semi-ambivalent Subscriber

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    +1

    A Photography teacher once told me that. She said 'Be brutal on yourself. That way when you look at your work five years later you won't feel so ashamed.' Dear oh dear, was she right.

    s-a
     
  7. eskyone

    eskyone Member

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    Ok

    Thomas, I think for the most part, I take your approach, I don't print yet, however. There are times when I think I've missed the boat with regard to editing. Some images, I've almost thrown away, to review years later, find they may be some of my best images. I think our tastes change with time as does our clarity of what we are attempting to communicate. For me as I get a little older, it seems I'm more interested in ensuring I clearly communicate a thought or a feeling with my photographs. This is an interesting topic for sure. I appreciate everyone responding to this topic. - Sean
     
  8. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    From my perspective, the problem with that is that I have very little time to practice. I work full time, and I'm also a full time adult student, so I rack up about 70 hours between work and school every week. When I'm out taking pictures it's usually weeks until I can find time to process the film. Then after I file them away I often forget what's on the film, hence the contact sheets to remind me (I'm useless at judging negatives on a light table).
    The scans are for a closer examination of the negatives, so that I can see whether I wish to spend paper on it in the darkroom or not. I just don't want to stick more waste in the trash can than necessary, because paper is bloody expensive. At two US dollars per sheet, and 2-3 sheets to arrive at a finished print it adds up very quickly. For someone like me that simply isn't sustainable. I would have to stop eating.

    All of the above is so that I can:
    a) Remind myself of the ideas I had when I exposed the film.
    b) Make sure that there is really something there before I take it to the darkroom.

    Finally, much of the subject matter I take pictures of are fleeting moments. I react to them instinctively without thinking much. Sometimes I have time to set things up nicely on a tripod, but often times I have to react within a split second. Needless to say I don't even have time to think too much; just keeping it in focus before the moment disappears is difficult enough. Printing every single one of those frames would be a disappointment to say the least. Some frames work, but most of them simply didn't capture what I wanted.

    Is that fair to say, that using your approach is down to the fact that you have time to do it, the resources to do so, and your subject matter allows you enough time to actually think about each frame? This is just for discussion purposes. I'm not saying you're wrong, just that circumstances for different photographers call for different measures, and I'd like to discuss that.

    - Thomas
     
  9. jp80874

    jp80874 Subscriber

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    All of the above is very helpful. I would add:
    Feedback from other photographers, teachers and judges.

    I show my work to other artists and ask them for evaluation. It is important to know who your evaluators are, their standards, perhaps their bones to pick and consider how you feel about their evaluations.

    Sources I have found or founded:
    • 22 photo related courses U Akron in my retirement. Every two weeks we put ten 11x14 prints on the wall and accept critique from fellow students and the professor.
    • Bill Schwab’s annual Photostock in late June with print review by some of the best artists and professionals in the Midwest
    • Midwestern LF Asylum (Chicago based) has an annual print review in Chesterton, IN late January. Work must be LF.
    • Regional (multi state), and local juried shows. Unfortunately there is usually no other feedback beyond “in” or “out.”
    • NE OH Gatherings, three day weekend, print reviews, every other month in warm weather, 10-25 people, I am the host.

    John Powers
     
  10. VaryaV

    VaryaV Member

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    This is also my approach as well. Art school critiques were brutal but I like it that way and learned a lot from them. I am a ruthless editor also, perhaps too ruthless I have been told, but your name and reputation is attached to your images and you should always show your best work, you will also be remembered for shoddy work as well. But, you are the one whose opinion about your work is most important. What do your images say to you? Do you get excited or passionate about your work?. If yes, then others will see your passion too and that excitement will be translated to your audience. If you look at your work and it doesn't spark you with any emotion it won't for others.

    My process is to examine every image off the contact sheet, mark and print those. Once those are test printed I edit again for strengths and weaknesses, composition, color, etc. Then I determine which ones will get proofed. I put them in a series, a story and edit again. Some fit the narrative, some don't. When I make my final decision, I bring in another eye and we discuss the prints and more editing. Having another voice, another opinion involved helps strengthen the editing process and they often see things you missed and visa versa.

    But again, your opinion is the most important. You have to please yourself first and foremost, the rest will follow. CHEERS!
     
  11. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    You need to know why you're editing. Usually it's for a project, and first you need to set out your parameters, it's harder if it's random images.

    I agree with John, in the past I've learnt a lot through workshops etc, and also lecturing and talking about my own work. I am quite ruthless in my editing but I'll often leave in images I've no intention of using to see how others react.

    Ian
     
  12. VaryaV

    VaryaV Member

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    ps. I never throw my work away. The real crappy ones, yes, but the in-between ones I put in boxes and mark 'good, not chosen.' As others stated you can go back to them later and oftentimes re-discover an image you may not have liked initially but you change and your tastes change over time.

    You guys have a lot of great tips going here. :smile:
     
  13. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    I edit "in the field" before making the pictures. Most of my exposures are made only after stalking the location, sometimes for months, going back over and over again to try different vantage points, angles, framing etc etc. By the time I make the exposure the entire thing has been refined to my satisfaction, or else I don't bother. And I'm probably the most brutal crtitic possible, not only at the exposure stage but then in printing. So by the time I have a finished print of an image, I'm uninterested in most peoples' opinions and comments. What do they know anyway? It is exactly the way I wanted it or it would not have existed. There are exceptions here and there where after some time has passed I might think about a slightly different printing approach, but not the composition.

    Having said all that, it is not the way most people would (or should) work. For one thing, output is very slow. But that is simply something I have to live with. It's in my personality. I'm obsessive and exacting, probably too exacting, and the process can become quite slow. However maybe in the end it kind of balances out - I make less pictures, but don't have to disgard so many either. It's also worth noting my approach only works with subject matter that is relatively static and close by - although even seemingly static subjects sometimes change unexpectedly and I've lost some images this way, by waiting too long.
     
  14. Kinetic

    Kinetic Member

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    I am really new to this.To take pictures on film, to make a pinhole, to use and old Smena 8, to buy an old Zenit E that died a couple of days ago.I have no other camera, just my phone.What I love about film is that you cannot delete that picture.Until you get it out, you really have no clues if it went out ok or not.Sometimes the most shity pictures give you an idea to use in the future.By mistake you get a totally new angle regarding photography and it's own philosophy.I really love what I am doing, I wish to get better and better.the fact is I want one advice from time to time, but nothing more.I want to discover myself what photography is to me.Like learning to walk again.You see others walking, their own way of doing it, but you will have to learn yours by yourself.That is why I love photography, that is why I am going or trying to go back to the roots.Simple photography, complex methods, whatever I can, step by step.The only thing that I hate about photography is the money.Without them, it's hard to do it and discover it.These are just some thoughts of mine and I hope that my grammar did not scare you, I know it's rusty.Best wishes, best photographs.

    Alex Cruceru.
     
  15. pbromaghin

    pbromaghin Subscriber

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    Alex, your grammer is just fine. You have said it very well.
     
  16. wfe

    wfe Member

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    I look at contact sheets searching for images that speak loudly to me. If they don't speak loudly and I don't feel they have strength then I don't print them. There are times when I'll have nothing I like on a few rolls of film (MF 12 exposures) and other times when I'll have threee that I like. I will also revisit the contact sheets at different times. I believe it's important to look them over at different times as our frame of mind changes. This is also speaking from the perspective of making personal work as opposed to a specific assignment or project that would have very specific defined goals and objectives. If working on a project or assignment then my shooting and editing would be focused on the goals and objectives of the project.