Image Selection in the digital darkroom

As I'm nearing the end of writing my 'Digital Darkroom' ebook, one or two subjects have come to light which I feel I should include. So I'm back to adding these ideas into the text at the moment. Forthcoming ebookOne such topic I feel is needed in the book, is a discussion on the implications of choosing certain images over others to work on. What this can mean to our work in general, and the kinds of pitfalls that can come forth from a lack of consideration for the work you decide to ignore over the work you do choose to use.

So here are my tip key points I feel that should be observed during the 'selection process' if you have such a thing. Maybe you just react to particular images, and give little thought to the ones you've discarded? Let's see.....

You are a different person each day

I guess this is my no.1 mantra, when it comes to choosing images to work on. I never consider that my 'selection' is final. What I chose one day, may leave me cold the next. I am considerate to the fact that I may have got it wrong the previous day, so I'm always open to reviewing the work again, and considering different shots. Also, I think that once I've been through all the images I've shot a few times, a particular 'story' begins to form in my mind as to how the completed set of images are going to work out. I get a feel for the overall character. This is a great way to work, but it can also be limiting because once you've set things in stone, its hard to see another story in your unedited work. So I like to go back and review, and I do this over a few days, or even a week or so down the line, I will look at the negatives again and realise there are others in the work that I overlooked for one reason or another. It's iterative, and I keep cycling back over the body of work over time to see if there's something I've missed. I know that Eliot Eriwtt for instance still scours contact sheets of work he made 40 years ago and still finds new images in there.... you are a different person each day. Use this to your advantage to see something new in older work.

Consider that this is not the only time you will visit this work

By accepting this as truth, it liberates you to do what you will with what you have chosen. It's so tempting to feel that what you have chosen is all there is, and this can force you to want to 'will' your selection of images to live up to your ideals of what you wished them to be, and not what they are. By accepting you will go over your negatives many times looking for work you missed, you open up your imagination to see what is there and work with what you've been given.

Decisions create paths. Going down one route may result in undesirable work

The birth of your work is a precarious endeavour. Each time we make a decision, we affect the final outcome of our work. Creativity requires you to be fluid because creativity flows. It does not sit and wait and it does not put the brakes on work that has a need to flourish. Sometimes I'm too hasty in going down a certain route though, and the further I go, the more uncomfortable I begin to feel. I've found myself on many occasions bin a complete editing session because I was not happy with how things were going. I now listen to myself. If the work is undesirable, I ask myself - is it the works fault, or is it my handling of the work? If it's the works fault - then I discard it. It's clearly not good enough to spend any time on. It might be a case of 'close but no cigar'. If on the other hand, I realise I'm tired, my creative vibes aren't where they should be, then I discard the editing session and leave my digital-darkroom work for another day. I go do something else more enjoyable. I've often found that returning to the original negative (with previous edits discarded) is a good way forward and approach the work with enthusiasm and a revitalised creative spark later on.

Emotional Investment shouldn't overrule

Sometimes after working on an image I'm really pleased with, I may find a better negative of the same location. Maybe the composition is better, or maybe the light is more dramatic. I give myself complete permission to work on this 2nd image. I don't let the first image (despite how good it is) dictate that there can't be another one that is perhaps better. I don't let myself become too emotionally attached to the first image. This is key to all work. A good artist needs to be able to be objective about what he does. This requires a strange mix of being very dedicated about what you do, but not letting your ego take you for a ride either.

 Be open, be fluid, be inquisitive

When I work on my own images, I like to leave them for a long time between shooting and editing. This I feel, gives me a sense of distance. This is really important to me, because this distance allows me to view my own work as if someone else had created it. If it's not my own, I can be more honest about it right? Yes. And also, because I really can't remember what it was I was trying to achieve with the work in the first place, I'm allowed to interpret it in any way I feel. An artist should be inquisitive. We should find surprise in what we do and investigate it. We should be flexible in how we approach our work, allow us to see new things in what we did. We need to be open to ourselves, because it's only when we are open, that creativity can flow.