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Earlier this week I started a conversation I’ve been dying to have for a while: specifically, why do photographers get so intimidated by the edit and the “Now what?” that comes once we put the camera down? And are we missing important opportunities?
For years, I’ve been signing my letters and articles to you with the words “for the love of the photograph,” and it occurred to me when I did so last week that we really do love our photographs. We must. Nothing else explains the time and money we spend on making them. But it has also occurred to me that we seem to love the photographs we are going to make—the next ones—more than the ones we’ve just made. We’re so often on to the next thing so quickly. The next project. You know the one: the one for which you need that new lens. Or tripod. Or flash. I’m the same way, and there’s nothing wrong with creative momentum or new gear. But I think if we loved the photographs we’ve just made as much as the ones we’re about to make, we’d make stronger images and have a richer photographic life.
So how? How can we do that? That might be one of your questions. The other question might be, “What on Earth is David going on about?” That’s fair too. Let me try to answer that with three ideas, or three ways we can carry the love of the photograph, and the making of photographs, a little further.
Spend More Time With Them
Last week, I suggested you consider doing smaller edits when you’re working on a project. For what I do I like daily edits, but whatever “smaller edits” means to you and your work, I think you’ll benefit from it. But I also think multiple edits are important, and though I suggest spending more time, this multiple-edit approach is actually more effective and takes, in the end, less time.
I never trust my first edits completely. We choose our best work looking through all kinds of different filters and there’s no telling what I might have been looking for when I did my first edits, so it’s always worth giving my images another look—and doing so at least three times rather than doing one gigantic, mind-numbing edit session to find the best of my work.
One of the best reasons for doing this, especially if you’re doing smaller edits as the work progresses, is that what a project looks like at the end and what it looked like at the very beginning are usually very different. Our work grows and changes, as does how we look at that work. I know we get excited by the next thing, but one of the best ways to make new photographs when you can’t be out there with the camera is to revisit older work. Do another pass. See what comes to the top now that you’re seeing it with fresh eyes.
I think not being in such a hurry with finding the best of our photographs, of revisiting them and giving them a second or third chance after we’ve shot them, is a stronger way of editing than the way it’s often done: one big marathon edit session after which we call it done and never give the un-selected images another glance. That’s the first way i think we can give our photographs a little more love, and I think the result is stronger final images.
Do More With Them
I used to tell anyone who would listen to “print yer damn work!” Maybe you don’t print yourself. That’s OK; I don’t anymore, either. But I have it printed by a professional print lab, and it makes me a better photographer. There’s also such joy in holding the work and sharing it in tangible ways. When’s the last time you made a book, a slideshow or a collection of prints to pore over? When’s the last time you submitted them to a magazine or swapped out the prints on your wall?
If you want to love your photographs more, consider making something with them. The benefits are huge, and they’re practical. When we output our work we spend more time with it. And when that output is larger than what we might put on Instagram, or we have to spend money to make it happen, I think we’re more critical of that work. It keeps us honest and growing in our craft. And I’ve found knowing what I will make with my photographs gives me an end game of sorts. It makes the edits easier when I know what I’m choosing my best images for.
I also think if we love something we protect it. Just last week I heard another story of a photographer who lost all their images because a hard drive crashed. I’ve heard stories of theft, and fire or water damage as well and I can’t for the life of me understand why photographers will spend so much money on gear and balk at buying whatever sized hard drives they need to create a simple back up of the work they’ve invested so much in.
If your computer crashed right now or your main hard drive failed, how easily would it be to get back up and running without missing a beat or losing an image? This is just a reminder, in case it’s been a while, to consider giving your back up plan a second look and if you aren’t current with your back ups, maybe to take a moment a do that, you know, for the love of your photographs.
I’d love to hear from you on this. What do you do with your photographs once the camera goes back in the bag? You can be part of the conversation by leaving a comment below.
For the Love of the Photograph,
Should have kept on photographing after my camera broke down. Never got me a replacement. But it is really nice to watch your photo. Wouldn’t have been able to create that kind of masterpieces anyway.
For the love of the photograph!!!! So true!!!!
Better buy a new camera anyway…
Thanks for this wonderful blog.. Thanks for sharing this blog..
I am type “hunter-gatherer” 🙂 My photos are on my computer, my tablet computer, a hard disc in a safe place and very special ones even stay on the memory cards which are stored in a different safe place. According to my husband I am maniac – LOL
And yes, I print them. The ones I like most, I collect in a small sketchbook, I do photobooks and photoshows – I for sure love my photographs. However, my photos are not as sophisticated as yours – they are just memories of special places or moments – not very artistic. I also post some on facebook or instagram every now and then.
I would like to thank you for your newsletters – with all your hints and information I hope to ameliorate my photos! There is still a lot of things I would like to explore. However, at the moment I am always short of time – but my time will come! 😉
Looking forward to hearing much more about your love of the photograph!
Yes, backed up, especially because I lost several months worth of photos back in 2014 because of user error. Yes, I messed up.
Re loving my photos, I have fallen in love with several of my photos, by which I mean the final )probably edit of them. Those photos I am in love with include the few prints I’ve had done. I was so blown away by my first high quality pro print that when I saw it I could not believe it was mine. I almost cried and I also cussed up a storm, but they have a sense of humor at my printer, which was one of my criteria for selecting them even though they are all the way in SF.
Thank you for this. As always, great, thought provoking stuff.
it definitely is worthwhile dealing/working with photos you have made: My experience is that I NEED a second or third view to get to the essence of the photo and make the (hopefully) best out of it.
One major tool for me is “LightRoom Classic”. Not so much doing fancy things but much more to play with frame, contrast and other basics. That helps me to “sharpen” the final outcome – and for me this takes time!
Thank you for your contact sheets – I am new in your community and enjoy it very much
Hi David I have only just joined your blog and find a lot of good advice and suggestion in what you put forward, both in your blogs and your articles . Thank you for that.
I retired a many years ago and decided to renew my love of photography. I joined a photographic club and was enjoying being with other like minded people and also the help I received from the more senior members of the club. However I never showed my images at club nights and never put them into external competitions. After a while I started to think negatively about the images I was taking and that my work did not seem to improve. Eventually I was ” pressured” into entering an image for club night. Long story short – I was amazed at the support and advice I received from the judge that night. Also the encouragement and support from other club members . All this helped removed the fear I had of showing my work. My work started to improve and I started to think about the images I was taking. The composition and what post processing I would apply, rather than just ” clicking away” and hoping for the best . My enjoyment for photography and the results I have received has renewed my enthusiasm. I know that some say ” don’t worry about what people say, it only you who have to be pleased”. To a degree I would I accept that but if you want to remove the fear of sharing your work, and the improvement that can come from doing that, then you have to let others in .
Listening to what professionals/competition judges have to say, and taking that on board, the joining of a camera club has certainly helped me improve and try new approaches, new genres , to my photography and my overall enjoyment with the camera.
Once I retired in 2019, I collected the best images from my travels around the world and forty years of photographing Nature in South Florida and created a series of themed coffee table books in Blurb (including one from a week long trip to….Vancouver, BC). That way, my family and I can see the best photos while sitting down in a comfortable chair. And my grandchildren will have some mementos “down the road” to remember me by.
I also updated my website by re-organizing galleries by locations and themes.
We moved from South Florida to Richmond, VA a year ago, so I started a project: The Spirit of Virginia (Celebrating the Elements and Celebrating Culture) as a way to “learn” this new bioregion and culture. The best of my images go into these online galleries. This has given me countless self-assignments and has helped to lessen the feeling of being overwhelmed by the photographic possibilities of this beautiful Commonwealth.
I finally printed my damn work! Mainly because I dropped a casual question at an art show opening a couple of weeks ago and, as a consequence, got invited to show some of my images in their upcoming exhibit. So of course I had to print them, right? And holy smoke, what a feeling to see them printed large(ish) on beautiful, velvety art paper instead of just blinking at me on my screen! I expect it will feel even more amazing when I get them framed next week – and even more so when I see them on the walls of the gallery. Especially since this is my first exhibit ever, which is so thrilling I can barely contain myself!
I’m also taking a course that requires us to come up with a project that we show at the end of the course. I’m going to be doing a series of portraits of elder women in my community who inspire me, and am looking forward both to creating the portraits and thinking about how best to present them. So your exhortation to “Do More With Them” is speaking to me loud and clear this week, David!
I’m not a great hoarder and not sure how I’d store the extra prints as I’ve still got a few boxes of old negatives & photographs to scan before I shred the prints. More recently, I’ve created 2 photobooks [26 pages each] printed on line [1 colour & 1 monotone] a couple of years apart, and this was great for image selection. Of course, not every image posted to Facebook made it into a book LOL! But, even if I produced only one book each year, what will happen to all of those books in [say] 25 years time when their creator is no longer on this earth? Will someone with an interest in my last will & testament give them a cursory look before putting them in the trash? Ultimately, our work is transient, so we do it for the love of photography and the joy of a better image.
Just started “doing a bit of video” and I’ve found that producing a video-based slide show, and thinking about background music to add, transitions and the like, has made me realise how poorly I’ve really thought about story-telling in the past. Getting something coherent together that lasts a couple of minutes, that engages, has a mood, has a beginning, a middle, an end, and IS ABOUT SOMETHING is another (scary) world. I appreciate your sentiment about thinking about the outcome; what you’re going to make with your images is a key step to understanding what the creative process is all about.
Thanks David. As always, great advice.
I have fought with my printer for way too long but feel like I am getting the upper hand and agree that printing will make better photographers. There is nothing like holding a print in your hand and carefully examining it for things you did well and for things you could have done better and then stepping back and just taking in the image as a whole. It is very satisfying to me to hand someone a portrait and hear them say, “You captured them exactly.”
One more voice, David, although it sounds like you’re preaching to the choir here. I recently had a 4TB drive crash – the disk that contained almost all of my digital image library as well as my Lightroom and Capture One catalogues. I sent it off to Toronto but although they played with it for a while they weren’t able to recover it.
I was reminded of one of my computer profs back in the 80s who told us that when he was a student they gave everyone several pages of text to input, waited until most were mostly done, then turned off the power to the main frame. Then the instructor said to the class, “Let’s talk about backups.”
In my case Almost everything on that disk was backed up to another disk and I’m still working to correct what wasn’t. My own fault as I wasn’t quite as diligent as I should have been, but otherwise I would have lost 12 YEARS OF IMAGES. Granted there are those who would say that would be no great loss to the world, but still…
I use Syncback SE, under Windows 10.
P.S. Am considering your suggestion in a previous post to consider making some portfolios. Last year for Christmas I gifted my wife with a 120-page hardcover book of panorama images and poetry (1×4), but at $200 I don’t imagine many others would buy one. 🙂
PS II, the sequel:
David, you wrote: “If your computer crashed right now or your main hard drive failed, how easily would it be to get back up and running without missing a beat or losing an image?” One more thought to add to this relates to DAM – Digital Asset Management. When I used to teach Lightroom courses (before switching to Capture One) I invested several hours going over the ins and outs of the Library module. My question was, “It doesn’t matter if you have 500, 5000 or 500,000 images. How easy is it for you to find the ONE image you’re looking for?” There are two ways to implement a DAM strategy. One is at the beginning, and the other is to wait until you have 70K images with no organization. It’s nobody’s idea of fun, but as with culling and basic processing, it’s something best done with each day’s shoot, even if you add to it later.
Hi David, I shoot people more than things or places, and I get to work with them in the studio, so I can create many different looks because I am not constrained by the light. My editing of my RAW images is undertaken with Darktable, an outstanding Open Source product, so it is free, but it is not cheap. It is professional grade software and one serious expert in the field of editing holds the opinion that it does many things so much better than LightRoom. Over the past six years I have edited every shot (except for misfires and the occasional out of focus), because “repetition is the mother of skill” and I have watched hundreds of YouTube videos on Darktable, so when I go back to look again at those earlier images I find that there is so much more that I can do, now. And it is fun to contact a model from the past and say ” here are some of your images re-worked”.
I do like to print, but now I need to learn more, so that a professional lab can do a top job on my work. I recently compiled two photobooks of my studio work, and seven books of our month in Europe in that hot, hot summer of 2019. The European journey was shot on one camera with a fixed lens, a Fuji X100F, and most of that was under glary conditions.
Re back up, I use Linux as my operating system, have done since 2000. At one stage I had an SSD drive fail, and I asked for help from the Linux community in Melbourne, where I reside, and one Sys Admin level tech took on the task of helping me recover the data from the dead drive, and then proceeded to give me the benefit of his existing backup scripts. Scripts which ran the backup process automatically. So, as soon as I start uploading my RAW files the script detects the activity in the destination folder and immediately starts copying my RAW files to an external hard drive. As I work on the files the .xmp sidecar files are also committed to the external hard drive (mirrored). When I have finished in my working directory I export the jpgs to a Google Drive account, and then I send my RAW files to a RAID 1 drive. And a different external drive. Then the mirrored data in my working directory is deleted. So, at every stage of the process there is backup.
Great topic, David. I make most of my photos when I’m on vacation, so have created books after many of our trips. I’ve made duplicates to share with friends and family we traveled with. It takes quite a lot of time but in editing and making decisions on which photos to include I’m reliving the trip, and the books are extremely well received. The other thing I do with my photos is to display them on our Samsung Frame tv. We have set the image to change daily so we have a new memory to look forward to every day. Also must say how much I’m enjoying your Traveling Lens course!
I read your article and was very interested.
Once I have taken some photographs and put my camera in its bag, I load all these images on lightroom and without waiting (yes…) I go through them one by one and I make some basic adjustments to then edit them with a small high quality printer in small format so as to have a maximum of them on paper to make a small booklet that I look at the following days. (the photo does not exist if it is not edited)
I make my selection of the most interesting ones and enlarge in 18×24 those likely to be presented for an exhibition or an international competition.
I have my collection of small formats that I keep preciously and that I check from time to time to see if I am still in agreement with my first choices.
See you soon.
As always great advice… you have had me convinced for several years to ‘share’ the results of my photography via self published books for myself or family, for maintaining a rotating library of wall images… and of course maintaining a solid back up strategy.. and… you did have me checking the subtle difference between pore and pour, now I am more literate today than I was yesterday…
I totally agree with You in what You write in your latest mail. Spend time with your image.
This weekend I have spent time with my images from my trip to Shetland Islands in August 2018. I found some “new” images and I made some new editing of some of them.
I really like to spend some time to my old images.
I just no have any real photo projects. I have just finished a book and exhibition project. I have spend more than 4 years with this project.
Maybe I missed the point of the last question: “What do you do with your photographs once the camera goes back in the bag?” The people above seem to have mostly focused on backing up. I thought your question is what do I do with my photos to give them a life other than living on the hard drive.
Like many people some images get shared on Instagram and Facebook. Sometimes they get aggregated into a story for the journal on our website (my wife and I share the website – a whole other story). And occasionally we like a photo so much it goes into one of the galleries on our website. We also use a museum hanging system in our home so we can easily change out prints every few months so friends and family can see what we have been working on.
And yes we have a backup system.
This is so true and fortunately I’m doing a lot of the things you’re talking about already. I revisit my photos many many times and as I’m evolving in my photographic skills, my editing skills and my artistic vision I do look at them with very different eyes every time I look at them. I also make books and prints to hang on my wall, but not often enough. Not that I don’t want to, but due to lack of time. And yes, making backups is very important. When I import my images into Lightroom from my memory card I always make sure that they go on two different external hard drives. My images that have been edited go onto two other external hard drives in PSD and in Tiff format.
Many good points. I can’t count the number of times I’ve gone through old files and discovered images that I passed over – some many times! – and wondered how I could have possibly missed them. As you said, we evolve over time and our sensibilities change.
You’re right about being able to have a physical version of your work; it makes the vision you had in your mind so much more real than having it only on the screen. I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a book after being encouraged to do so by a client a while back. Now to overcome the inertia and get started…
Backups? Yeah, religiously. I lost a couple months of work several years ago due to a drive failure and vowed it would never, ever happen again. Internet here is marginal and expensive, so I keep everything on multiple hard drives and, occasionally, a blu-ray disc.
Hi, David ~ so what do you do with your printed photographs? How do you store them? I can imagine that you probably have quite a few prints by now, so how do you know which ones are where? Do you have a cataloging system? Thanks!
I have lived and know the maxim: “There are two kinds of hard drive users, those who’ve had a hard drive crash, and those who’ve not had a hard drive crash YET.
So, I have all of my photographs and my important documents on a 4TB external drive. In addition, I have a 2nd 4B external drive with which I back up everything that’s on the first drive (I use Chronosynch). Finally, I also have a 3rd 4TB external drive for Apple’s TimeMachine.
As one who’s been using external hard drives since the late 80s, I know that drives fail. But, while having backup hard drives is great, they do squat for major disasters such as fire. So, I have everything backed up to the clouds via Backblaze.
Yes, I do sleep well at night.
I’ve been using BackBlaze.com for cloud backup of my archive, since 2017.I use their “Personal Backup” product, which gives me unlimited back up of files attached to my main, desktop computer. I use a 16-TB WD drive to store my pix locally. That external hard drive is my archive, where I store the RAW file, along with any sidecar files generated by DxO and, of course, any TIFF or JPEG is stored there.
A few weeks ago, around 9 a.m. on a Thursday, I noticed that my external HD was not responding. I contacted BackBlaze support for testing instructions before I ordered a Restore. I quickly got through to a support person, who walked me through three or four steps to make sure that my HD was indeed dead.
We proclaimed my HD dead and I started the restore process, to recover my 7-TB of data. BTW, it had been automatically synchronized with BackBlaze earlier that morning. In less than 15-minutes, I ordered an 8-TB HD, for a $189 refundable charge. The Restore drive arrived early the next Tuesday and I was up and running, with no lost files, in ten-minutes.
The final step was to purchase another 16-TB HD, copy all the files from the Restore drive provided by BackBlaze, delete the data on the Restore drive and return the Restore drive to BackBlaze (at my cost) for a full refund.
I believe that BackBlaze is a wonderful solution for most photographers. There are business plans for situations where you have tens of terabytes of images. This is cold storage, so I can visualize staying with Personal Backup well beyond 30-TB.
I am in the process of putting together my best images onto a digital photo frame (for me a Dragon Touch Digital Frame Classic 15). It cost about the same as two metal prints. I will be able to put the frame in a location where I will see it daily as it shows all of my best images on a rotation schedule. The frame I bought is at least HD quality, forego the less resolution frames. The frame includes a web service where I can upload the images from my main computer, which will then automatically download to the frame. If desired I can hang the frame on a wall, although the power cable will be visible. I might just it sit on a counter in the kitchen of family room. As wall space in my home has become less and less this approach will allow me to see more of my images.
You are amazing I must say it was your inspiration for getting me back into my photography again so thank you ! I and truly. Mean that . I for many years have struggled with setting on my camera. I used. A d7500 and. A. D 3200. What do you. Suggest I do that we’ll help me with setting a
Yes yes and yes to your three suggestions David. I used to think I liked to beat myself up by going back and re-editing…why would I bother? In many cases, that revisit paid some dividends in a better edit, either because of new software updates or more experience and skills, or a maturation of my “vision”…whatever. The upside was always a better edit, the downside was “why couldn’t you have done that in the first place you dufus?? A little boost in humility never hurt us either.
I back up all my raw files to 2 different hard drives. After a trip or “after” isolation I made a book of my favourite photos from the last year and a half. I make slide shows with music of my favourite trip photos and try to print and update my frames images to always have some from the last 6 months on my walls.
I edit in Lightroom and store images there until I can move them to an external drive. Cloud backups are automatic. Images that are boring or redundant are immediately deleted and I have never once regretted deleting that photo at that specific angle of that bird.
I get excited about downloading from the camera to the computer and seeing images larger. Images I thought were great when viewed on the camera screen are never what they look like larger. I never delete in-camera.
I don’t print enough, or rather not as much as I used to. There are sheaves of images upstairs. Sure, it’s great to print but those photos need a home, so I’ve cut back on that. The exception would be images of the grandkids. Those are always printed, even if it’s only as 4x6s from the kiosk in the grocery store.
I moved back to shooting with film mostly, so my negatives are my backup, along with very diligent hard drive backups (sheesh…so much work there!)
I really liked this article on multiple small edits. I am guilty of the “mind-numbing” big edit, and then don’t have it in me to go back and start at ground zero again. But I will take your idea on and see what happens.
I suffer the reverse problem to a certain extent, David. I spend insufficient time looking through the viewfinder before pressing the tit, but enjoy the subsequent editing process where I have to do what is possible (and regret what isn’t) to correct what should never have been recorded in the first place. It probably comes from taking the camera everywhere and being conscious of not delaying my beloved if we’re walking together. She’s very long-suffering – she must be as we’ve been together over 50 years now – but doesn’t find waiting for my photographic efforts very easy. I think I’ve come to the conclusion that the walk companions should include either camera or wife, not both!
I have to agree, backups are really, truly important. I have seen folks lose everything, a very hard lesson. Have more than just one backup, to be safe, you won’t regret it and it will give you peace of mind.