Informing Contexts – Editing!
I have just completed the process of compiling my latest work in progress portfolio submission. As anyone who has ever had to select photographs to print will know, it can be quite a drawn out and emotional experience.
In order to make the process more streamlined, my process has several steps.
STEP 1: ORGANISATION!
My first step is one that I keep on top of all the time. I have a master folder on my hard drive. I call my folder “Portfolio Possibles”. Inside this folder is a series of folder from each shoot. I reference these by date and then by the name of the subject.
I back up these files to my Amazon drive (cloud based) AND my Dropbox. I keep RAW and edited files there in case of a drive disaster (I’ve had a few over the past few years). After every shoot, I make sure that the files are correctly referenced and filed in the appropriate place. This makes the editing process much easier.
STEP 2: THE INITIAL EDIT
This step requires copious amounts of coffee!!! I tend to lock myself away with my iMac and the impressionist music of Debussy, Faure and Ravel. This music is quite free-flowing and I have found it helps me to be more more creative and objective when editing images.
I go back to the unedited RAW files and copy the images I am considering for the portfolio into a folder named “Initial Edits”. At this stage, I go through ALL the RAW images from each shoot (hence the need for coffee). I carry out this process once a week so that it does not become an onerous task carried out before each submission due date. If I leave this step for a few weeks, I find I become image blind and cannot make objective choices between images.
STEP 3: THE CULL
Even more coffee is needed here. This is one of the most painful stages. It is like going to the animal shelter and deciding which of the gorgeous cats you are going to take home and which you are going to discard and leave there. It is also the stage that find my self doubt and anxiety over the quality of my images is the most prominent. I become attached to images and find it hard to discard them.
One by one, I pull the images up on the screen in Lightroom and give them a rating (1-5 stars) based on the intent of the body of work. Typically, this will reduce the images to 2 or 3 shots from each shoot of 250 shots. This does mean that I cannot let my emotions about an image get in the way. I need to look at it objectively. This is where Ravel and Faure particularly help. They allow me to think with clarity and make sound choices. I then copy these images into a folder called “Edits After Cull”.
STEP 4: DECK OF CARDS
Now it is time to get them off the iMac and printed as small images (typically 9 to a page of A4). I don’t print these on photographic paper, I just use a standard Brother ink jet printer. I then cut up the images and get ready to shuffle the deck to see what works the best.
I like to stick them on the wardrobe doors and try to sequence them. Figure 1 shows the start of this process.
Figure 1: Sutherst 2017
I then start to sequence images. This takes patience and a lot of head scratching! In this work in progress portfolio, I had narrowed down the images to 23 and needed to reduce this down to 20 for the final submission.
In some cases, I have had to choose between 2 images. Like Noah, I view these two by two! Figure 2 shows one of the pairings I have had to make a choice between.
Figure 2: Sutherst 2017
When these decisions are made, I place the images in a sequence (figure 3) and take a break. More coffee usually works well at this point.
Figure 3: Sutherst 2017
Standing back from the images I can see what works and what doesn’t. I always take a photograph of the sequence as it is. At this point, I ask for the opinions of others. My husband usually looks at the sequences and tells me what he thinks. He also shuffles them round like a deck of cards to produce a sequence that works for him.
I leave these images in place for a few days (or as long as the cats will allow them to stay in place – figure 4). This allows me to look at the sequence with fresh eyes several times and make changes as I see them.
Figure 4: Sutherst 2017
STEP 5: VERSION WAR
Once I have 20 images in a sequence, I copy them into a folder called “WIP Edits V1”. I then place them into a PowerPoint document so that I can see them on the iMac screen. Version wars begin! For this submission, I created 5 on-screen versions. This is the best way for me to look at the images in the same way they will be assessed. I view them as slide views, with versions sided by side (figure 5).
Figure 5: Sutherst 2017
I am also able to digitally send these images to others for their opinion, as well as have copies on my iPhone to show people. All opinions matter. In version 3, I had 2 images that 5 separate people did not think worked in the body of work. One image split opinions. In these cases, it forced me to go back to step 3 and revisit a few images I had previously culled. The result was that of the 7 resurrected images, 3 worked really well in the body of work.
The final stage of this step is to copy the final choices of images into a folder called “WIP edits final”.
STEP 6: JUST DO IT
The final stage is to go with it and submit the portfolio. I could torment myself further and keep rearranging the images, but once I have a sequence that I think works, I need to put on my brave pants, finalise the layout and submit it.
Then the process of shooting and collating images starts again.