Friday, October 10, 2014

Delete Bad Photographs - Actually, Delete All Photographs That Are Not Good

On A Brighter Day - Tehachapi, California
Something I've struggled with in the digital age of photography is letting go of bad photographs. Often I'm not critical enough of my own work.

This wasn't the case when I made my own black-and-white prints. Because there was a significant time that had to be invested into each print (sometimes hours--the longest was 12 hours for one print), that it was easy to skip all of the frames except for the very best. There was also a real cost--photographic paper wasn't exactly cheap. You didn't want to spend time and money on something that wasn't good.

It's not that my photography was better then, because it most certainly was not. I was simply better at self-editing. I was better at letting go of the lesser images.
Peerless - Newberry Springs, California
What changed? With digital photography, the main cost is paid when you purchase your gear. Once you have a camera, there is no cost per frame exposed. Once you have post-processing software, there is no cost per photograph edited. It's all paid up front. And while it isn't uncommon to spend 30 minutes or so editing a photograph, most images don't require any more than five minutes of post-processing to be complete.

Since the time and financial investment is tiny (once the initial investment is made), those motivations to skip lesser images are gone. So I find myself editing mediocre photographs.

Why? I put time and thought into capturing photographs. I think there is a connection to the frames, and it is tough to see that wasted. It is tough to think that the frame was a failure, and part of that is the idea that I failed as a photographer.
Copy Machine - Mojave, California
I don't want to think that my efforts were wasted. I don't want to think that I failed. It is easier to think that the image is good enough, even if deep down I know it is not.

There are consequences to this, however. First, there are people who only see my mediocre photographs. Either here on the Roesch Photography Blog or on social media (such as Flickr), some people will never see my best work. And when they think of me as a photographer, they think of those so-so images that I just couldn't let go of. Second, even though the time invested in post-processing a lesser photograph is small, over time five minutes here and five minutes there adds up to hours and hours. Eventually I've wasted a whole bunch of time editing a bunch of images that were just not that good. Time is important to me, and I hate to throw it away on throwaway photographs.

So how do I break out of this? How do I let go of mediocre photographs?
The Sound of Silence - Mojave, California
It all comes down to editing--deleting, really. I have to look more critically at my work and if it doesn't immediately stand out as good, it needs to go into the trash folder.

I have found that the longer I wait to post-process photographs after they've been captured, the easier it is for me to let go of them. I delete far more exposures when it has been a few weeks since they were captured compared to when I post-process right away. Time seems to give clarity and also seems to weaken the connection. So I'm making an effort to wait at least a couple of weeks before I edit.

Another thing that I just started to do is, as I consider if a frame is worth keeping, I ask myself if the image is one that I want people to remember me by. Perhaps it will be the only photograph of mine that someone will ever see. This helps me to delete some lesser images that I might otherwise have kept.

The less time that I waste post-processing photographs that are not good, the more time I have to do other (more important) things. This may be spending time with family, doing other projects, or out capturing photographs. The fewer mediocre images that I show, the better the chances are that my better photographs will be seen.

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