This happened to me about a year and a half ago. I ask to see a photographer's work, he sends me a link to about 850 pictures. That's a lot to look through, but I find what I wanted. As far as the group as a whole is concerned, my honest impression is that there's a lot of very average work but a few real gems here and there. He asks me if I have any suggestions. I mention that it would be nice to have a tighter edit.
A few weeks later he sends me a link and an email. Email says he's been working very hard at the edit and describes some of the process. Link contains 30 or 40 pictures.
All the pictures I really liked from the 850 are gone.
Always a potential problem. Either you "self-edit" someone's work by sifting through large masses of pictures, or you look at a tighter set and risk maybe not seeing the ones that would be the payoff for you.
I've never had a solution for this dilemma.
This entered my thinking in photography school when my MOFW friend Kim Kirkpatrick said of another student, "he edits out all his best ones!" That thought has just never left my head.
I've had the opposite happen, too—where the raw material doesn't look promising to me but when the edit is done, I say, "oh, I see now." The edit lets you see what they were doing, what they were after, what their taste really is. Nice when that happens.
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Featured Comments from:
Scott Johnston [my brother —Ed.]: "Hi Mike, You remember your friend (Chris?) from the Corcoran who carried a miniature portfolio in his pocket and showed it to his discerning friends and culled according to what people liked? I still remember how wonderful those pictures were (and it has been a solid 25 years since I saw them). A really cool method."
Mike replies: Chris Bailey. I wrote about that fascinating story here. And I'm with you, the experience of seeing that portfolio still stays strongly in my mind many years later.
Doug Doyle: "My challenge is that when I edit, I find some pictures that I really like. The challenge comes into play when I come back to the photos six months to a year down the road and realize that there are some keepers that I plain missed. In fact, some of my favourite photos came from the second look. It may be the excitement and freshness of the original photo session fades, but the return to the images allows for a little more thought and care."
Markus: "How comes you know my dilemma? Sometimes I feel I would need an editing workshop instead of the picture-making workshop I lust for. Honestly, my progress in editing is much slower than in my photography, and I remember only a small number of posts here on TOP that tackled that very dilemma, and from those there's just one post of Carl Weese that sticks in my mind. Maybe that's a topic to expand."
Tina Manley: "A fantastic photo editor, Maggie Steber, once spent a week with me editing 5,000 of my photos of Honduras families down to 150. She did a wonderful job and I agree with most of her choices but, after an intense week, I still have no idea how to edit my own work. I can't do it. I know the stories behind each photo and my emotions get in the way of my objectivity. I think most photographers are their own worst editors and I don't know a solution to that. I wish I could employ an editor full-time!"
hlinton: "I was just thinking about my experience with a photo editor at Sports Illustrated. I was a runner during the '84 Olympics in L.A. and just getting serious about photography. Several times she let me peer over her shoulder while she made her selection. I would make a mental selection and when she was done I would ask her about the choices she made.
"It was a real insight to say the least. Many times she would agree that my choices were just as worthy but they didn't 'fit the editorial requirements' she was trying to fill. I think that led me to being cold-blooded when making an edit. I have an idea of what I'm looking for and when I see it—that's it. As for all the 'other keepers,' they go in the trash immediately. Hard drive space may be cheap but spending hours looking for something years later is a waste of time IMHO."