Everyone has an opinion on editing

"Editing never ends!" Norman Maslov laments. It's an ongoing process, always a "constant" in the creative life of an artist.

All photographers edit their work, by some means. It can be from the very beginning of raising the camera up to their eye and deciding where to point it, to what to leave out of the frame, when to press the shutter, or even when to stop. It comes down to controlling what you want to say with your photograph. It could be a collaborative process, with an art director, representative, or trusted friend.

Every person edits with his or her own personal agenda. The photographer will edit their take with the personal eye of a photographer. The art director/picture editor will edit with their eye toward the concept or story. A rep will edit from the standpoint of marketing the artist. Everyone looking at the same session, everyone has a different opinion.

Mark Holhtusen mentioned, that with his very complex CGI photography work, it's the models expressions that he first starts to build his multi-layered composites from.

Maslov states, "An emerging photographer needs to edit their work much more tightly. At the beginning of their career, just to get people to look at your work and be remembered, they should have a narrower focus. Either it is style or thematic. This way they can establish themselves for one thing. Then later on when they become better known, they can stretch out in different directions."

Connie Wood, Senior Art Director at Charles Schwab, has worked on a number of library photo shoots, talks about how she goes through the process.

During a shoot we follow a scenario list throughout the day and as we work through the various scenarios we tag all the images shot with a naming convention that maps to the scenario list. Each scenario gets a folder which helps keep all editing contained to the objective of fulfilling on each scenario we set out to capture. Of course throughout the process of editing we always find hidden gems/unexpected moments, which capture a scene or an emotion better than anything we could have possibly staged. These are the shots I look for when I edit and I add them to the final batch of selects and try to sell them to the larger group in the final approval process. Generally many of those shots make it into the final batch.

I do like to see everything from the shoot. I do not expect the photographer to edit the shoot. I do however greatly appreciate it when the photographer recommends a set of selects from the shoot--his/her favorites. Generally I honor these selects and add them to the final set presented for publishing.

Generally my first impressions/instincts are the final published images. Often I can already see the final selects while on set. Seeing these shots as they happen often is the cue to move on to the next scenario.

Most people agree it's advantageous to have another person take a look at the edit. It's amazing what a set of "Fresh Eyes" can pick up sometimes. Plus most creative people agree it's their first impression that still holds up after reviewing the whole lot. I think we have all been in a portfolio presentation with an art director who flips through a book in rapid succession and knows instantly if it is a yes or no. That art director is editing your work right there in front of you. It's their first impression they are judging your work on.

Opinions vary as to what stays and what goes. Maslov remembers one time when one of his photographers, Sue Tallon, shot a personal series called "Ikea Food" a departure from clean classic appetizing food photography. At first Norman didn't think it would be a good fit on his website. Sue posted them on her site and received calls from art directors to shoot similar style work because of the high concept behind the photos. She was hired to photograph subject matter that replicated the look and feel of her images. Norman realized that there are AD's out who will be looking at some food photography from the conceptual point of view.

Personally I find it very intriguing to view photographers contact sheets and edit. In the past few years there have been great exhibitions of Diane Arbus and Robert Frank's work at the SFMOMA. At both of those shows, some of their contact sheets where displayed. I was able to see how Diane approached her subjects and get her shot. You can almost see her slow approach and capture of the person. While Robert Frank's contact sheets displayed a shooting style of quick one shot and scram approach. Then Frank would select that one shot from what seems as a random capture. You read their histories and you start to understand their personalities, you then see it in their edits. Imagine if Diane Arbus edited Robert Frank's work and visa versa?