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Little known secret of Professional Photographers, The Trash

Way back in the days of film pro photographers had this little known secret for getting better in their craft. It was called editing. Be it with roll film or slides we would go through every session and toss out all the images that were to put it nicely S&#. But we did not stop there. Sure it was easy looking at a contact sheet or a light table of slides to see which frames were blank, over / under exposed or shots of our shoes and cross them out with Sharpe or toss them in the trash but we would go even farther.

My choice of editing was the Good/Bad/Maybe work flow. The first pass was quick and painless. Look at all the images and toss out the really bad ones leaving only the Good and Maybes. Here is the hard part. After the first pass there were two more passes with the same thought in mind, Good/Bad/Maybe. Sometimes after a stroll in the park with 3 rolls of 36 exposure slide film I might end up with twenty really good shots and about 40 maybes. This would frustrate my accountant wife because she would come in and see a trash can with slides in it and pull out one. Holding it up to the light she would say “This looks really nice. Why did you throw it away?” to which I would pull a slide off the light table and proclaim “But look at this one done at the same time, it is sooooooooo much better.”

This editing process trained the eye to see more photographically. By just getting rid of images that do not stack up you are reducing the tendency to think that poor photography is somehow still good. You are are also training yourself to not take the photos that you know are not good and to step out and try for that better shot.

I have seen it too many times where someone will walk up to a great scene like the Grand Canyon at noon, pull out their camera, snap a quick shot and jump back into the car to drive to the next scenic shot. They get back home and wonder why their shots are not a good as what they are seeing in the magazines. Or now in the days of digital with 16 and 32 meg camera cards whole hard drives of thousands of images of the same scene or flower taken from the same spot. When I ask which one is the best shot they look at me in surprise and say they are all good. So then I say Why not just pick one and they will look at me like I just told them to toss out one of their children.

In most of the digital programs are organizers where you see all the images in a folder like slides on a light table. Take a moment to really look at your images and see which ones you can get rid of. Do not fear the delete key it can be your best friend. In some programs you can even just delete the image from the catalog and not the hard drive. This way all the images are still there but just not cluttering up your photographic vision.

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