It’s hard to top a great day of shooting. Even a mostly fruitless excursion can be considered a success add long as you know there’s one good shot on that memory card..When shooting digital, the urge to immediately review and begin editing can be terribly irresistible. Knowing you have just one great shot on that card can trigger an almost child-like state of impatience.
And if you’re like me, you more than likely snuck a peek at your shots on the LCD. Yes, I’m most definitely guilty of this and I guarantee it does nothing to settle the urge to edit.
But rushing to edit what you just know is a killer shot, or shots, isn’t necessarily the smart move. After a year of taking street photography seriously, I can humbly offer some advice that has worked for me… wait.
That’s right, wait. Let those images “soak”. Let them marinate. Age, cure, whatever food-related analogy applies. Let them sit.
When first starting out, I truly could not wait to get home and start tinkering with the jpegs I snapped. Yes, jpegs. Due to software constraints and lack of knowledge, I shot only jpegs until recently, but that’s a whole other story. The rush to edit, and eventually share these images was a natural part of the process. For a truly novice photographer, it’s inevitable. It’s just the way it happens. You shot. You reviewed. You edited. You shared. It was that easy, so to speak.
Early in the game, an aspiring photographer has no lessons learned to fall back on. No experience. It’s full-on, full speed ahead. Dress that shot up and share it with your friends. Pop it up on Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, G+ or wherever and wait for the likes, pluses and accolades to flow right in. That’s the world these days. Social media has become our showcase. Our little gallery exhibitions. Places to get the feedback we want and the praise we desire. Again, that’s another story. If used properly, social media and the communities within, can be a great asset to our development as photographers. But it can also be a pitfall. The often subconscious pressure novice photographers put on themselves in relation to social media sharing can result in a “rush job”. A subpar shot or a subpar edit.
But again, I stress, these actions, the rush jobs, early in the game, are exactly that… part of the game. However, with experience, comes patience. Well, experience and listening to sound advice. I forget where and the exact context in which I heard that waiting to edit your images is a good thing, but it stuck with me. I applied the practice immediately and pretty much stuck with it since. The only instances when I haven’t waited were when I was on some kind of deadline.
So why wait? You know a shot is good, so why not pretty that thing up and save it?
The answer, I’ve realized, is easy. Objectivity.
In the rush experienced by making a good shot, I’ve found it’s easy to get swept away by my emotions. This can lead to a mistake. And the biggest mistake, the biggest crime I commit when rushing to edit, is over-editing.
The over-edited shot can make a good shot bad. For myself, it’s the ugly face of pride that drives the over-edit. Finding myself bloated and swollen with it so much that it is channeled into my edit. The contrast gets cranked up too much. The sharpness. The clarity. The crop. Any touch-up could become heavy-handed and, for all intents and purposes, ruin the edit. I can even look back at images I shared as recent as a few months ago and see evidence of this.
But patience, I believe, reduces the risk of the over-edit. Waiting to edit distances myself enough, emotionally, from the attachment to the image. Enough that I’m more critical of the edit, and more judicial with it. I look at the image more objectively and editing, in fact, becomes easier. It becomes more of a joy. And, perhaps most importantly, it alleviates the pressure I’ve placed on myself.
What’s an appropriate time to wait?
So, all that being said, it begs the next question. What’s an appropriate time to wait?
I believe that depends on the individual and how often they shoot. Myself, due to my nocturnal work-life, I only get to Street Hunt once a week at best. This operating style is disadvantageous to the waiting game. Since I unfortunately shoot so infrequently, it takes a bit longer to distance myself from the image. If I wait just a week, it’s still fresh to me. I haven’t seen/shot enough to make the gap. So, as a self-imposed guideline, I try to wait until I get at least two Street Hunts in before I return to the work to be edited. This way my eyes and the lens have seen enough to establish the proper gap. This is a dangerous game for Street Hunters though. Deadlines and responsibilities don’t care about no stinking emotions! So, as the commercials often tell us, your mileage may vary. If you shoot much more frequently than I, perhaps you could wait just a week or two before returning to edit. Your eyes may have seen enough and that gap widened enough in a shorter period of time.
Then there’s also the question,, how long should you wait before you just review your shots? I know some folks prefer to let their shots sit for a period before they even take a peek at them. I understand the reasoning behind this. It’s the same principle as I mentioned above, to establish a distance from yourself and the fresh image. This makes sense, but I don’t apply this practice at all. Here, I give into my impatience. I want to see the fruits of my labor now. I yield to temptation and peep away. The longest I’ve waited to review a hunt it’s maybe three to four days, and that’s because there were other circumstances preventing me from doing so. But, I make no edits. This is the blessing, and possibly the curse, of digital technology. I only abuse it sparingly. It’s not a sin to take advantage of our technological advances, right?
In the end, a little patience pays off, I believe. It gives the eyes a chance to recharge before editing an image. A chance to look at it with a fresh perspective. It gives our creative engine a cleaner fuel to run more discretionary. It gives us time to be more objective and also more critical. And I think it’s safe to say, the killer shot will still be killer when you come back to it!
Stay sharp and keep shooting!