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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,