Saturday, 1 May 2010

Digital Photographic Practise: Exercise 4: Editing

Perhaps a more appropriate name for this exercise might be 'formal editing' or 'structured editing' as anyone who has taken more than a couple of photographs is already editing when they choose their favourite.
I mention this because the project I chose for this exercise was the same project used in Exercise 1 - a portrait shoot with my daughter -and she had chosen her favourite and made it into her Facebook avatar within minutes of my uploading the shots to the computer.

The edit
The shoot from Exercise 1 produced 166 shots. This relatively high number of shots came from several sequences shot at quite high frame rates. These provided a challenge at some stages of editing when there were sequences with relatively similar images. The photos were sorted using Olympus Studio which allows tagging with blue, yellow and red tabs which can be seen in the opening edit screen below.

Starting lineup

Technical edit: This was done with the pictures viewed sequentially and as large as the screen would allow. Rejects were marked with the blue tag.

The criteria I adopted included both technical faults, e.g. over or underexposure of the subject, and clear issues with the pose or background, e.g. closed eyes, strange facial expressions and obviously intrusive background subjects. The challenge I found here was that there were a few shots which were technically flawed but showed potential for rescue in post-processing. I kept these in for good measure.

Conversely a couple of the sequences (such as the one shown here) were of actions such as jumping or throwing stones into the sea.

Some shots in these sequences were technically adequate but were so clearly inferior to other shots in the same sequence that it seemed pointless retaining them to throw out at the next stage. In the example above those with the blue tag were removed at this technical edit stage.
At the end of the technical edit there were 110 shots remaining.

The selects: For this edit the key criteria were more artistic – facial expression, pose, placement of shadows, overall composition (particularly in the action shots) and quality of background. Again a couple of technically challenged photos were retained, in case on reflection they would be amenable to a high-key treatment. It was at this stage that I cursed my decision to let my daughter wear her favourite hoodie - which was largely white and quite challenging to expose correctly in the bright sunlight. After this stage there were 53 shots remaining.


The first selects: Aware that the final triage in the exercise required the choice of just 2 shots, I set myself a personal target to have no more than a dozen first selects. Key issues at this stage were how well the photos worked together as a set – were there a range of poses, locations and expressions – and selection hinged on relatively small personal preferences. I found it helpful to set up the browser so that I could see two shots together when required.

Another factor to consider at this stage was possible post-processing options. For example I kept a photo with large and clearly blown highlights on the basis that the smile was worth retaining. I managed the issue in processing by cropping and the addition of a simple vignette and liked the result sufficiently that it became one of my 2 final choices.

My final dozen, with brief reasons for selection are here:

DPPEx12010041066 Sets the scene, and I like the rather conspiratorial pose and expression
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         More serious pose, background colour sets off hair colour nicely
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Grin, and I wanted an edge of the water shot. Offshore structure provides a balance to the composition
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         I wanted a stone-throwing shot, and this was the best of the two series. Shadows were too heavy in some of the others or the back leg was cut off. Also I like the way the pose and the stone lead your eye from the shot on the same trajectory.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         I wanted a full face shot as part of the final set. There were two acceptable shots at the end of this series – either would have made the first selects on the basis of the pose as they are essentially a repeat. I simply chose the last of the series for convenience
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         I wanted a close in profile and this was the shot in which my daughter relaxed most.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         I took 3 shots at this location – the other two were in landscape format – this was a more effective composition.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         The bounce of the hair means this shot was the stand-out from this particular series. It adds an extra sense of fun to the overall set.
DPPEx120100410195 Technically the best of the shots from this series and I wanted something to counterbalance the ‘fun’ elements of the series.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         This was my daughters choice of location so I wanted to include one of the series. This had the best expression and I also liked the highlights on the back of her hair.

Final choices
This is the one my daughter chose for Facebook, but even without that pressure it is still one of my two favourites. The 'pose' catches the fun we were having at the time – and perhaps even the simple joy of being at the beach on a sunny day. There is sufficient light on her face to see her smile, and the photo is full of animation.
And this is the one that required the post-processing to manage the overexposure in the hoodie. It captures my daughter at her most relaxed. There is colour and a nice catchlight in her eyes which are nicely in focus and there is quite a nice contrast between the colour of her scarf and her hair.
Her more reflective side is dealt with elsewhere in the final selects but these two capture her character well, and meet with her approval – which is also important.

This is the first time I have used the tagging function, and building a structured edit around it certainly made it easier to choose the first selects. It is also quite likely that without the thought processes of going from stage to stage that I would have rejected the 2nd of my final choices, and so lost a satisfying photo.

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