Further to my post about editing last week, I have been thinking about it and have looked around and found some interesting posts about deciding which digital images to keep and which delete. From Derrick Story’s website, The Digital Story, Carl Weese wrote about how as time goes by, we evolve and grow as a people and photographers, so the editing choices made today might be different in the future. That is so true. I’ve heard it many times, when photographers go back to re-edit work–they see things differently when they’ve had some time to think or not think about the work. The whole idea of the innocence of vision is something I strive for when I shoot, and it involves unlearning the formulary patterns I repeat while shooting on a regular basis. It’s interesting to go back and look at some of your early work, which may not represent the technical competence you now have as a photographer–but to see what it was you were drawn to and your approach to photography when you were just getting started.
Another good point: when you edit your stuff, you are bound to make mistakes, you are human–all the more reason to be careful of throwing stuff out. I do believe that deleting in the field is a no-no. There’s just no good reason for it with the abundance of cheap, big CF or SD cards–I don’t even like to look at the screen while shooting, never mind deleting. I prefer to concentrate on the photographic scene in front of me.
My friend Andy Freeberg went back through his archive along with a person whose talent for editing he trusted and came up with an entirely new portfolio of work. It was there all along, but he didn’t see it at the time.
That being said, things are different now. Editing with a tool like Aperture, is far different from the old system of looking at negs, slides or contact sheets through a glass or plastic loupe. It was far easier to miss stuff then, particularly with contact sheets and negatives, where you’re looking at a very small area of real estate for each image. And if the contact sheet was not perfect with blown out highlights or too dark shadows–you can miss the subtleties that vault an ordinary image into the extraordinary category. I never believed that you could do a good job editing with just negs in the first place–particularly with people pictures, where a person’s eyes say so much.
Today however, with the incredible tools we now have at our disposal for editing like Aperture, it’s a lot harder to miss the good stuff. Not to say that it can’t happen, but in Aperture, you can see the entire image, blow it up big, see small details really big; it’s really quite incredible how accurate you can be with your edit. So in some ways, I don’t feel that by keeping everything, it’s going to mean saving the gems that you might have missed with the old, analog system. I still agree that as time goes by, images often gain new importance and we might see our work differently in the future. But if you’re smart enough to determine a system of what stays and what goes, I don’t think you will have too many regrets in your photographic future, and you can keep a bit of a handle on a soon to be gigantic, always growing archive.
I am lucky to have all my raw final selects from The Republican Convention shoot in 2004, but I lost hundreds of others. To this day, I’m not sure how I deleted them. I now do everything in my back-up power to prevent anything similar from happening again.
The one thing I do know for sure is the old adage: There are two types of digital photographers, those that have lost image files, and those that will someday lose image files. Fellow blogger Ben Long put me at ease as I struggled to find the best possible drives to store my precious and irreplaceable work. All mechanism’s can fail he reminded me, even the best and most expensive–so it’s less about brand names and more about redundant back up. I therefore feel it’s better to have three duplicate archives on cheaper drives, than two on more expensive ones. A managed Aperture library with vaults alleviates much of the stress. What do you think?