I used to think that I was being clever by having a large back catalogue of un-edited images in my possession. Something for a rainy day I'd tell myself. Well I'm starting to realise that this approach may actually have an unseen negative side which is potentially diluting the potential of my work.
Processing with Intent
I was listening to a podcast by one of my favourite landscape photographers, Bruce Percy, the other day and he was talking about processing with intent. I think this is a very important point and one that sadly I have largely ignored in a number of my images to this point. How often have I, before starting an edit, really considered the final intent, the mood and feeling that I'm trying to achieve. All too seldom I fear, instead randomly pushing and pulling sliders, applying, then removing pre-sets before passing the image through at least 1 external editing program.
Be Careful of External Influences
I love to learn new techniques in the digital darkroom, but I'm also realising that I need to be careful not to look to apply every technique in the book to every single image. I think the one that springs to mind most is split toning, especially in forest scenes, a technique made popular (amongst my social circle at least) by some young buck by the name of Mark or something ;)
As with all techniques there is a time and a place and I fear in a number of my edits I'm overusing certain ones or worse still applying them to an image where clearly there was no need in the first place.
What Does Your Edit Session Look Like?
With such a large collection of unedited and to a large degree, un-structured, images in my library, I quite often find myself looking through those tagged 'for processing' and choosing, at random, one to work on. In that same edit session I may actually jump between a couple of unrelated images both in terms of location and mood and I fear this is not helping me achieve the best possible result in either. How could it when one image is perhaps of a raging storm, dark and moody, with the other a tranquil scene, bringing a sense of calm? Two separate images that should be approached in their own dedicated session.
And while I feel that in some cases an edit may span across several sessions I feel some of my for processing work has lingered for too long, dipping in for 10 minutes, tweaking a slider or two before jumping back out again. Even if I had an original intent for that image that has long since gone and now perhaps I’m just putting lipstick on a hog.
A New Approach
Firstly I'm going to ensure that I'm asking myself that important question about intent, a question I think we should all be asking ourselves of our work. I think that intent starts of course out in the field and so I’m going to start to carry a notebook to jot down my thoughts at the point of capture.
Secondly I'm going to try and simplify my workflow somewhat and ensure only the required edits, to achieve my original intent, are applied. And finally, if I'm choosing to edit multiple images in one session that these are related, preferably from the same shoot.
First up, to go back through my for processing smart collection and ask myself that important question of intent - I fear a number of these will then be tossed by the way-side as they fall far short of what I set out to achieve in the first place.