A Second Edit

In Creativity and Inspiration, Images, Lightroom & Workflow, Pep Talks, Photographs & Photoshopping, Workflow & Technical Issues by David29 Comments

Iceland, 2010

I spent part of today doing a second edit – nearly two years after the first one – on my Iceland 2010 images. These second edits are important to me, for two reasons. First, we miss images on our first edit, and the closer that edit happens to the moments of making the photographs, the more we get seduced by those moments, our expectations, and our disappointments. A little distance, like a few months or years, can help bring some objectivity. Or a broader perspective to our subjectivity. Either way, at least for me, it reveals images I had once passed over.

The second advantage is that while the images may not have changed in two years, our vision has, and so has our technique. Revisiting the images for a second edit can allow us to work on those images more slowly, and with an improvement in our craft that we didn’t have two years ago.

Take some time in the coming days to revisit your libraries and give your images another glance, you might be surprised what you come up with. I discovered a dozen images from Iceland and a whole B&W series that was just waiting to be discovered. These are some of them.


  1. Interesting perspective on the second edit. And here I thought I was going to be able to free up some gigabytes but now I think I may need to pull an all nighter rescue. I have to agree with others about the nice us of black and white. I found the monotone rainbow a delightful surprise. But my favorite is the first photo. I love the interaction and movement of the small streams coming together.

  2. I just wrote an article on this as well a couple months ago, attaching it to the process of using film again and it’s forcing you to take time between viewing and shooting, which I love and appreciate. I totally agree with you, and enjoy the photos 🙂

  3. I was interested in the effects that Process Version 2012 would have on my previously adjusted photos. Most require re-processing and to my surprise, I am really enjoying applying my improved skills to my old photos.

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  5. Good points. I’ll keep that in mind as I start on the first edits from the India trip I came home from today.

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  7. Hi David,
    All excellent photographs. Love the monochrome tones. Those Icelandic ponies are so beautiful!
    I too always find the second edit very fullfilling. The first time around so close the the actual sighting of the scene, sometimes the photos are not as great as they are, as you say; with some distance of time. My expectations are always too high right after.

  8. I love second edits for just this reason! Usually I end up doing them whenever a new version of Lightroom comes out and I end up starting a new library. Thanks for the post and the reminder to do just this again with some old stuff in Lightroom 4!

  9. Nice! Another reason to take a second look is the significant advance in post processing power. Lightroom 4 is a good example. I’m pulling detail in highlights & shadows from previously discarded files that were passed over due to DR extremes being previously un-recoverable w/o resorting to multiple file creation, blending, etc. which more often than not produced unpleasant/unnatural renditions.

  10. This is the reason I only delete images that are very badly exposed, missed focus, or too similar compositions; everything else gets saved. I’ve often come back to images to find something that I think is great, that completely escaped my attention before. More often than not, I think it’s because I have a specific vision for a shoot, and tend to dismiss anything that doesn’t reflect that vision, even if it is something that reflects how I see the world through the lens.

  11. David, thank you for a great reminder. Not only are we “seduced” by our memories when the photos are first taken, but as I improve my processing skills and techniques I enjoy discovering the ‘new’ images from the older captures.

  12. The rainbow in mono is too cool. Thanks for the encouragement. Planning on revisiting some old shoots.

  13. Awesome B+W set and hats-off for doing a rainbow in mono! Someday I must go to Iceland!!!

  14. Pingback: A Second Edit « photo journeys

  15. Thanks for the reminder. A couple of months ago, I almost deleted hundreds of images from my photo safari in Kenya last September only to discover some real gems that I had missed on the first pass through. Re-editing an image with fresh eyes and new skills can produce even better results than the first time.

  16. I agree that reediting photos can make some of them better. I redid some of my ‘finished’ stuff from several years back and because of the change in both my vision and post-processing skills they are now much better. Also, I did find some stuff that I passed over before that I have been able to process into some nice photos.

    To add my voice, and to echo so many others, thank you for your sharing your vision with us and helping me to start to achieve and develop mine.

  17. Fantastic work! Thanks for the reminder. I once saw an interview with Garry Winogrand where he said he processed his film, filed it away, and didn’t even look at a contact sheet until something like a year later, so as to be as objective as possible in the edit.

  18. Fantastic series, David. And to think you avoided the seduction of color, and made an image containing a rainbow into black/white! Amazing restraint, and a beautiful set of images. Thanks for sharing.

  19. I recently revisited a folder of pictures I took back in 2008. I found out that I am able now to do some great improvements just by changing slightly some of the settings and this is something I really didn’t see back then. I love second edits! David you are a great inspiration. Cheers!

  20. I agree on leaving images for a while to distance one from initial expectations. I find that much more often it is my improved post production that can bring that image to where I wanted it all along.

  21. 2nd edits also make me wonder why I kept some in the 1st place. Dodgy photos are not like wine – they do not mature with age. 🙁 My better vision and eye now ask me what on earth I saw in those images to keep them at all.

    Love the 2nd last image. Really beautiful.

  22. I have the screen saver on my iMac set to display every image in my Pictures folder in random order. I am constantly seeing older images that excite me again.

  23. Beautiful makes me almost ashamed to have my Iceland photos posted. I love your photos and books. Thanks for the inspiration.

  24. Yup, I am discovering exactly this going through my catalogue from Africa, and other images now that I am gathering galleries for the website 🙂

    Great process! Lovin it 🙂

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