Better Photography Through Editing

Better Photography Through Editing

You can become a better photographer without improving your shooting technique, composition, or consistency to deliver. In fact, you don't even have to pick up a camera.

Best yet, it's something you're already doing: Editing.

This isn't editing in the sense of processing or manipulating images, but simply the selection of photos for presentation; the images that you choose to show and share.

For some photographers, this process might only mean deleting technically deficient shots, such as those that are blurred or poorly exposed. For others, editing extends to excluding images from the final set based on more fine aesthetic considerations like composition, subject, or failure to capture “the decisive moment.”

Less is More

By its nature, photography is a subtractive process. We choose the elements and the moments we want others to see. This reduction starts from the moment the image is pre-visualized and the subject isolated, and continues on well into the editing process.

Ultimately, this philosophy of photo editing on a large scale is no different than the more specific task of creating a portfolio, and the same goal applies of creating a positive opinion of your work and abilities.

Only the Best

For opinions based on photographic output, the art of editing comes in only allowing people to view the images that will lead them to arrive at the conclusion that you intend. Which, of course, is that you're a phenomenal photographer.

What most experience photographers know is that this process means only showing your best work. Or, at the very least, work of the standard for which you want to be known.

One of the biggest mistakes made by beginner photographers is to display a very large selection of the images they've shot without an shrewd editorial eye.

The Signal-to-Noise Ratio

Given that it's possible for a photographer of any experience level to create compelling images by virtue of talent and/or luck, reducing the number of images one shows can drastically increase the signal to noise ratio.

Though severe and diligent selection of only the best examples of one's work, it's possible for even new photographers to achieve an outward presentation of high quality output. To this end, it might mean only showing one or two images from any given shoot, rather than a more full range of images.

The Great Equalizer

From an outward perspective, editing can even help close the gap between highly experience photographers and those with less time behind the camera. If one photographer has a “keeper” or “hit rate” of 25% and another only 5%, the process of editing is one means of leveling the judgment of their work, such that the quality of the two may be seen as equivalent.

This advantage of keen editing is particularly relevant for a photography portfolio, which should only showcase the best of one's work. For this purpose, though the differences of range may still be considerable, the higher consistency of a more experienced photographer is a moot point.

Of course, editing should not be construed as a means to truly compensate for skill and the ability to consistently deliver for assignments. Naturally, the more experienced photographer should be able to ensure quantity and quality.

The Moral of the Story

Still, with the assumption that serendipity and a little luck can allow even a novice photographer to create compelling images for a given situation, the editing process should never be underestimated.

Whatever the depth of the selection process, the essential point of editing is this: You're only as good of a photographer as you show people you are.