I never like to work on images piece meal. I'm much more interested in a collection of images that work together as a whole. For me, that means that when I edit images, I'm focus my attention on images shot during one shoot. For example, last week I edited work from the isle of Harris only, even though I have plenty of images from other places I could have worked on or switched between.
I prefer to stick to this approach because I find that I can immerse myself in the colours and tonal responses of one place and get to know and understand them, which I feel is vital if I'm going to get the best out of the work I've shot.
You see, I think the editing stage is really important, as I think it's possible to screw up good work simply by not understanding it. It's possible to murder a collection of good images by tackling it the wrong way.
Many people own an image editing program. It's easy to learn a computer application, but what is not easy to learn is what to do to your images and why.
Knowing what to do to an image, rather than how to do it, is a skill that takes years in learning.
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Adobe Acrobat PDF document, 37 Pages
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So I prefer to work on images from the same shoot. It allows me to get into the atmospheres and embedded feelings that were there when I made the work and it also allows me to see and feel the emotional messages in the resulting film transparencies. After all, if you spend a week or two in the outer hebrides shooting beaches, you will get into a certain theme or frame of mind while there. So too, the editing stage should have the same approach.
But I also like to focus on the same collection of images for a few other reasons:
1. it often takes me a while to find the theme in the work. I can sometimes have some false starts by taking up the wrong approach to the work, and I've been known to stop and retreat back to square one because I feel where I'm going with the work isn't right. I may find the first few images I work on don't seem to gel. I find it takes a while to get the right 'groove' for the work i'm looking at, and that can only happen if I let myself relive the experiences - the sights, the smells, the atmospheres of the place. I also find that after a few days of working, I start to find a theme in the work that kind of dictates how the rest of the work should be edited, and more specifically, which images out of all the ones I've shot - I should select to be worked on.
2. Different places have different qualities of light. If I move from editing images shot in a place where the light is soft and the tones are bright, to working on images from a high contrast location where the tones are dark, I loose my rhythm. I can't context switch between the two and I lose focus. It's best to remain with one theme and one body of work until the edits are complete.
3. Tonal responses are important. I'm always thinking about how the tones between images relate, not just within the image, but within the collection. It's important to see parallels and work with those hints. Just slapping on some grad in the sky and cranking up the contrast for all your work will reduce the possibilities of what your work could be, or the new heights it could reach by a sloppy approach. By working on images from a location, you remember the qualities of the light, and how you thought it should be conveyed, but more importantly, you should be tapping into your understanding of the tones that are present in the final images and be leveraging it.
There should be a lot of care and consideration taken during the editing stage, just as much as the care and consideration that was made at the time of capture. Both the shoot and the edit are interrelated and rely on the same skill sets.
I tend to take many days, if not weeks working on a new collection of images. The editing times per image are quite short (a few minutes) because I like to go with how I feel and respond to the edits I put in, and I'm aware that working on them for longer than that means I'll lose objectivity in the work. But as I go on and edit other work, I find I often return to the earlier work to 'tune it' in so that all the work sits well together. Some days I find some edits look good only to find the next day that I hadn't gone far enough, or had gone too far, so there's a reiterative process there where I return and keep tuning images until the entire collection sit well as a whole.