if not now, then when?

I just published some new images this week from a trip to Romania this February.

If you’ve been reading my blog for many years, you probably know that I don’t like to edit work straight after shooting it.


There are many reasons why I choose not to:

  1. I’m far too close to it to be objective about what I shot.

  2. I may be too attached to certain images and may be forcing them to be something that they’re not. I may, for instance think an image is much better than it actually is ;-)

  3. f I’m disappointed that they didn’t come out the way I saw them, then I’m less likely to get past that, and see the image in another light.

  4. And conversely, a photograph may actually be much better than I had thought at the time of capturing it. If I’d worked on my images straight away, I would have discarded it too soon.

I also believe that having some time away from the shots allows for my subconscious to continue to work on them. I’m sure that there are processes at work, that I am unaware of, which are going to influence the outcome of the work when I do get round to editing.

Diminishing returns, the longer you leave it?

But I also believe there may be a time-limit before the work becomes too distant, too remote, perhaps irrelevant to where you are now, if you leave it for far too long.

I used to believe that if I didn’t get round to editing the work within a month or so, that the work would become too disconnected from myself and I would find the window to edit it had passed. This is no longer the case for me. I sometimes shelve work for many months and in some cases years.

I fail to see the need to edit ‘right now’.

For example, I have a very nice unedited collection of images from Senja in Norway that are now 3 years old. I didn’t work on them at the time I made them because I felt too close to the work, and then as the months ensued, I just found more pressing subjects to work on - usually I like to prepare new images to coincide with the announcement of a new tour or workshop. So some images do take precedence.


My last set of Harris images from Scotland sat in my filing cabinet for more than a year before I got round to editing them. This was the first time I’d left work for that long.

I just didn’t feel inspired / in the mood, to work on them and I think this is a very valuable lesson: never work on the images, even if you feel you have to, unless you are inspired to do so.

I had originally thought there was nothing on the films of merit so I just parked the work. A year later I took a look at the work and found that there was a lot of really nice images…..

So sometimes you are simply too close to it, or perhaps there is something internally going on with you that means you’re not feeling the work ‘at the moment’.

Just because you’re not in the mood:
doesn’t mean the work is bad

Similarly with this new set of Romanian images. I did try to work on them, and had a couple of false starts with it where I gave up because I just wasn’t feeling it. There was no inspiration to work on them. Again, I’ve learnt that rather than this being a symptom of poor work, it’s more a symptom of where I’m at. Either through over-work, or just where I am creatively speaking, I just don’t feel in the mood. And not being in the mood is OK. It’s not a bad thing. It’s just that there is an ebb as well as flow to our creativity.

In other words - just because you’re not in the mood, doesn’t mean the work is bad. It just means you’re not in the mood. Best park the work somewhere to come back to it another time.

And now, eight months later, I got round to working on the Romania images. I’m not sure what shifted for me. After many months of feeling that I had nothing to say about the work, I found myself enthused and excited to work on it this week. What changed? I do not know, and perhaps there is no need to know.

What I have learned is : work on the work when you feel it. If you’re not feeling it, put it to one side until you do feel excited to work on it. Never work on images simply because it’s the new work you have, and never force yourself to do something you’re not feeling. Often there is a right time, right place to be creative and one of the best skills you can possess, is knowing when to not work on images, as well as when to.