Editing Libraries and Images
When we talk about editing in photography it can mean two different processes. First, we edit our downloaded images to weed out the bad or duplicate shots. Second we can edit the pictures themselves by making changes – from adjusting color to actually moving image elements around. To continue with the flow of our discussion from capture to back-up we will start with editing our shoot.
Digital image capture has made it easy for us to overshoot everything we point our lenses at. Where we used to take 12 images of a birthday party when we shot film we now take 100 with a digital camera. And why not, it’s all free, isn’t it? This assumption is the second part of the digital myth. The first was that digital was supposed to be easy and automatic; the second part is that every image captured is free of cost.
Actually there is no real monetary expense to clicking the shutter of a digital camera. Once the camera and memory card are paid for about the only continuing cost of operation is the penny or two in electricity required to recharge the camera’s battery. The expense comes when we want to get our image out of our cameras, and here we run into cost measured in both money and time.
The more images we capture the more storage space will be required on our computer’s hard drive. Adding on a USB hard drive increases the amount of storage space but it also costs more than a few bucks for each drive. While we can see our drives filling up and we can budget for the expense of buying add-on hard drives what we can’t accurately assess is the cost of our time investment.
When we made the shift from film to digital our expenses shifted from rolls of film to investment of personal time. The good news is that the time investment can be controlled and kept to a minimum. We save time by learning how to edit our images properly.
As mentioned above, where we may have taken twelve pictures at the birthday party on film we now take 100 with a digital camera. Twelve images may be too few but I can guarantee you that 100 pictures are too many. We need to pick the best and most important shots and delete the rest. Be a little ruthless. Try to look at the event pictures with an eye that asks which images will still mean something two years from now.
Taking just a moment or two to eliminate duplicate, poor quality or meaningless images now will save time and storage space in the future. If you have a group shot from the child’s birthday party you will not likely miss individual shots of each kid two years from now. Likewise shots of the birthday boy opening each present can be cut to just one or two in the editing process.
How is editing going to save us time and money? We save money by limiting the amount of storage space required to house our image library. We save time when we don’t have to slog through hundreds of meaningless images in order to find the one we need. Remember, we don’t take pictures to remind us of what happened yesterday. We take pictures to remind us about yesterday’s event three years from now. Taking family or event pictures is about long term memory, not about immediate gratification.
Are you uncomfortable permanently deleting your images? I know of one photographer who just can’t delete images so she burns all of her “rejects” onto a CD. Then if she doesn’t access the CD in 18 months she throws it away.
Editing the “take” from a photo event helps keep our libraries compact and relevant. Sometimes in the process we find an image that we think we can rescue from deletion by fixing it. This is the other kind of editing where we make changes to the image either globally such as with a brightness adjustment or at the pixel level by altering elements within the image.
This kind of editing is one of the great features of digital photography. Just about anyone can edit their pictures. From simple adjustments like a crop or correcting a color cast to complicated and detailed changes like removing unwanted elements within the image, the only limit is the photographer’s skill and the available software.
While we aren’t going to discuss how to edit images in this series we do have some tips to make editing work within your image management workflow. We will begin with the #1 cardinal rule of image editing – Never edit the original image file. The first thing to do after opening the desired image file in the editor is to do a “Save-As” and create a duplicate file under a different name, even if that name is as simple as adding the words “Copyof” to the front of the original file name.
Why rename the file? The most common mistake in image editing is to edit the original file, save the results (which overwrites the original), only to realize that there is a mistake in the editing. Once this happens there is no original file to turn to for recovery. It’s just good practice to never edit the original image file.
Where this image file copy is saved is up to the photographer. Some photographers will want to save the file to a collection folder on their computer desktop perhaps named “Edits in Progress” while others will save the new file to the same folder as the original. The important thing is to use the same naming convention all the time.
Often photographers will have several images from an event that they are in the process of editing. Having them named and filed consistently streamlines the editing process. Once the file editing is complete I suggest that the new file should be stored back in the same folder as the original.
Each photographer should develop a process that makes sense to them. In my case I name all edits in process by adding “Copyof” to the front of the original’s file name. Once the edits are complete the file is saved by removing the “Copyof” prefix and adding the word “Edit” to the end of the original file name and the file is stored in the original folder. This way when I look into the image folder I see all of the original files paired with their edited versions right beside them.
In conclusion: Editing describes two different processes in digital photography. The first process is where the photographer deletes duplicate, poor quality or meaningless images from an event or session. Editing the image library contents keeps the library compact and easily navigated. The second editing process is where we make alterations to the actual image. This kind of edit can be a simple adjustment to color or a detailed manipulation of elements within the image. The photographer should always rename an image file before beginning to edit and by using a consistent naming system the files easier to find.
The next week’s installment will be the last in this series. Image sharing and back-up will be the final topics.