Picture Editing Essentials

So much choice! So little time to choose!
This blog distills my top suggestions for improving your picture editing – the art of selecting the best image for the job. It’s very rare that you have an image that is simply great, through-and-through superb. Much of the time, our images are more or less good at doing a particular job. Whatever your tastes, training or needs, you can to be successful at picture editing if you follow at least some of the ideas I share here.


Calibrate and profile your monitor!

Your monitor is the hub of your photography; it’s where it comes in, and goes out. Be sure you see true, balanced colours at the correct brightness. Use hardware calibration regularly to calibrate the monitor, then profile it for accurate, reliable reproduction. Suggested starting point: Gamma: 2.2; White Point 5800 K, Brightness 220 cd/m squared.



Fall in love!

When an image grabs your heart. When you feel a thrill, an intense excitement. When you find yourself smiling broadly, That’s when you know it’s The One! It’s the best, most reliable test. Granted it may not happen often, but when it does you know it. Trust your instinct: it’s the highest intellect you have.



If you have any doubt, it’s out!

Professionally, this is the first rule of picture editing. If you’re not sure, if you feel some doubt about its quality at any level, if the image does demand that you choose it, then it may best to forget it. Essentially, if it’s not ‘Hell, yeah!” it’s ’No; thanks.’



Lots of similars? Select bottom up.

If your images bunch up into sets that are very similar e.g. for a wedding you have a bunch of bride portraits, then a big bunch of bride and groom portraits, I recommend selecting bottom up. Clean out the clearly unsuitable and score the ‘keepers’. Give high scores to the obviously strong images. Next, filter out the low-scoring images, rescore as needed. Repeat until high scorers remain. For more details see the ‘Picture Editing’ ebook.



If you can’t decide, try A/B-ing.

With a lot of sister images – headshots or versions of the same interior – it can be hard to be definite about your choice. Try comparing only two images at a time. Which one is better? Keep that one, drop the other. Now compare the keeper with a new option. Again: which is better? Repeat until you have only one left.



Big variety of images? Select top down.

If you have lots of very different images – a mixed bag of landscapes, close-ups, buildings, people – select top down. Look for the best, eliminate the rest. Give the obvious keepers, say, five stars for the real stunners, three for pretty good. For the next run-through, filter out those without scores and look for the best of those remaining. For more details see the ‘Picture Editing’ ebook.



Rest every 30 minutes. (Oh, alright; every hour).

The commonest mistake is to exhaust your eyes and mind because you want to keep on looking at pictures. The quality of your assessments drops very rapidly after 30 minutes or less. Give yourself a brief break and rest your eyes. If you really must keep going, at least make a good break every hour. For more details and exercises see the ‘Picture Editing’ ebook.



Don’t hang yourself over technical quality

If you obsess over noise, or verticals or horizons, or sharpness, my advice is Don’t. An image that beautifully captures the moment, that is full of life and energy or is perfectly composed is preferable to a technically perfect image that is dull. It takes a technical defect to be very obvious for it to ruin a perfectly caught moment.

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