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How do you curate your work?

olafphoto

Administrator
Staff member
After having in-depth conversations and working with the best photographers in the world, I came to the conclusion that one trace, one common feature among them all is this: they are all great curators! In other words, they have gained the visual proficiency and emotional maturity to curate their own work honestly and thoughtfully. What's your approach? What are you criteria for curation?
 

olafphoto

Administrator
Staff member
Here are my thoughts. I have to admit this is a very difficult subject and it is not easy to conceptualise it, yet alone write about it.

I developed a process during which I would review my work right after shooting it. In this process, any doubt about an image equated with the delete action; no second guessing or finding excuses to keep it. The more I practiced this procedure, the more I liked it. After each session I was left with less and less imagery – this by itself was a huge step forward in my curation process.

In time, reviewing my work has become as important as shooting. Interestingly, each function complemented the other and fed on the other in unexpected ways. I noticed that my curation process directly affected the way I shot. I started curating scenes and frames BEFORE I took them. At one point I would spend three or four hours daily going through my imagery and deleting most of it.

Here are some of the criteria I applied:

Is this a cliché? Have I seen this idea many times before? If so, is this image technically or artistically one of the best I have seen or it is just like most of them? When in doubt – delete!

Is it possible to shoot this particular visual idea better? What would I change? Would better light help? Should I think more about composition?

One question which I always ask when looking at an image is: Was there a way to minimize the number of elements in the frame? And in 99% of cases my honest answer was YES. THERE IS ALWAYS A WAY TO MAKE AN IMAGE SIMPLER!

How does this image represent my visual brand? Am I excelling or staying at the same level?

Is the image elegant? Why did I include the subject in its entirety? What if I could show just part of it?

Does this image stand on its own? What if I share it in a sequence? If so, what would the order be in order to maintain visual balance and scrolling continuity?

Then I play the devil’s advocate. I started finding weaknesses in my image. Why didn’t you place your subject more to the left? How about this pocket of light in the corner? Is it distracting? Does it add anything to the image? Why colour? Why black and white? I questioned even my best images. Only images which I could defend from my own attacks had the chance of remaining in my catalogue.

The entire process, once done honestly and regularly, develops a certain sense of design and taste. The best comparison with the idea of visual taste is with wine. I rarely drink wine but on occasion I do have a sip. Of course, I could tell you which wine I liked or I disliked BUT that doesn’t mean it is a good or bad wine. I have no reference, experience or expertise. Only someone who had studied the wine industry and tasted a huge variety of wines around the world could develop proficiency and expertise. That person would be able to distinguish good from bad wine and, most importantly, articulate why. The same with photography.

I would love to hear from others.

©osztaba_street_Toronto_20180609__DSF1077.jpg
 
M

mjr

Guest
This is a really interesting insight Olaf, and one I feel a great many people will not be able to relate to directly, which of course is no bad thing, photography is many things to many people, from the reason to escape for an hour a week from kids, work and life in general, to unload and upload almost direct from the camera, through to those who spend years diligently working on a singe subject, location or thought and a million steps between. The idea of curation for a lot of folks on the raft of social media, forums etc. is an alien concept!

My personal curation process is evolving fairly dramatically, which I'm enjoying. Working on commercial projects the criteria is largely set and agreed, curation quality is limited by time and the ultimate understanding that the client is the one who has to be happy. I got bored of that and went back to other projects and photography as a personal expression with my own set of criteria.

I am in no way as diligent or as "ruthless" as you describe, I'm currently in a new place, new sights and sounds and new light, it's a brilliant time to take stock and look at things in a different way. I am not culling anything, taking a couple hundred pictures a day purely to get used to shooting and experimenting wildly with processing. My image selection at the time of shooting is currently limited to a mild interest in what I'm looking at, narrowing images down in post consists mainly of, hmm, well that's not entirely crap, lets see where it goes. Quite a contrast to your description!

Ultimately the aim is to get close to what you describe and it will happen, the enjoyment of experimenting in a new place very different to what I am used to is all I need from my photography at the moment, reflected in the spectacular lack of interest in images I post in general places, not that that is an issue, they are unresolved in my mind so unlikely to appear resolved to anyone else.

I'm interested in the image you have posted above, how it fits within your described process. Is it the resolution of an idea worked on and experimented with and brought to a conclusion? What about it do you feel reflects your process?

Thanks for starting this off, I find it really interesting.

Mat
 

olafphoto

Administrator
Staff member
This is a really interesting insight Olaf, and one I feel a great many people will not be able to relate to directly, which of course is no bad thing, photography is many things to many people, from the reason to escape for an hour a week from kids, work and life in general, to unload and upload almost direct from the camera, through to those who spend years diligently working on a singe subject, location or thought and a million steps between. The idea of curation for a lot of folks on the raft of social media, forums etc. is an alien concept!

My personal curation process is evolving fairly dramatically, which I'm enjoying. Working on commercial projects the criteria is largely set and agreed, curation quality is limited by time and the ultimate understanding that the client is the one who has to be happy. I got bored of that and went back to other projects and photography as a personal expression with my own set of criteria.

I am in no way as diligent or as "ruthless" as you describe, I'm currently in a new place, new sights and sounds and new light, it's a brilliant time to take stock and look at things in a different way. I am not culling anything, taking a couple hundred pictures a day purely to get used to shooting and experimenting wildly with processing. My image selection at the time of shooting is currently limited to a mild interest in what I'm looking at, narrowing images down in post consists mainly of, hmm, well that's not entirely crap, lets see where it goes. Quite a contrast to your description!

Ultimately the aim is to get close to what you describe and it will happen, the enjoyment of experimenting in a new place very different to what I am used to is all I need from my photography at the moment, reflected in the spectacular lack of interest in images I post in general places, not that that is an issue, they are unresolved in my mind so unlikely to appear resolved to anyone else.

I'm interested in the image you have posted above, how it fits within your described process. Is it the resolution of an idea worked on and experimented with and brought to a conclusion? What about it do you feel reflects your process?

Thanks for starting this off, I find it really interesting.

Mat
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with me and the group. Very interesting insights! I understand your position.

One reason I posted this particular image because I crafted it after a prolong process of curation, on location and then in my office. This image is also important to me personally in its uniqueness and I guess my visual hunger for new and unknown. I am always looking for imagery which could bring some new perspective on the subject, imagery which is impossible to replicate. In fact, the image was crafted through the window facing a typical, boring office space in Toronto. When I find such unique combination of light (which hits this window at the certain time of the year, at a specific time) and elements I have tendency to ponder and push the idea as far as I can given my skill set. Yes, I spend more time at the location, curate carefully and most importantly, arrive at the final image, which I enjoy and feel strongly about. In short, this image pushed my photography forward after a prolong period of unseeing. I hope it makes sense.
 
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keithinmelbourne

New member
My curation process is really quite simple. When I download my photos onto the computer. I quickly run through them in Camera Raw and delete all, except those that, at first glance, get my attention. I then go through the remainder a bit more slowly and only keep those I can make into something. I then edit those left, deleting any I may have over-estimated.

When I look back at all the photos I have kept, especially my earlier ones, I get dismayed that I have kept too many, and that I will eventually need to do a thorough spring clean.

I know that I do not miss, or even remember, all the photos I have erased.
 

olafphoto

Administrator
Staff member
My curation process is really quite simple. When I download my photos onto the computer. I quickly run through them in Camera Raw and delete all, except those that, at first glance, get my attention. I then go through the remainder a bit more slowly and only keep those I can make into something. I then edit those left, deleting any I may have over-estimated.

When I look back at all the photos I have kept, especially my earlier ones, I get dismayed that I have kept too many, and that I will eventually need to do a thorough spring clean.

I know that I do not miss, or even remember, all the photos I have erased.
Thanks for sharing. My approach might slightly slower but equally ruthless HA HA HA By the fact that you are able to delete images quickly means that you know what you want. It is really important to develop this, what I call "visual proficiency."
 

keithinmelbourne

New member
Thanks for sharing. My approach might slightly slower but equally ruthless HA HA HA By the fact that you are able to delete images quickly means that you know what you want. It is really important to develop this, what I call "visual proficiency."
I guess, more and more, I find that the process of taking a photo is far more important than the product. It is the act of seeing that separates my busy ‘monkey’ mind from my pure mind. It is no different to the golfer hitting the ball perfectly. It’s that moment that matters to him or her, not necessarily the score. I’m not talking about professionals here, where the result may affect their income.

I run a small photography class. When I ask my students, “Why photography?” We can usually trace our feelings back to the act of seeing. Most of my students (80 percent maybe) when I ask them to pay attention to their thoughts when taking a picture say that it clears the mind. This is, to me at least, the most important aspect of photography. The curation at the end is a nuisance really.
 

olafphoto

Administrator
Staff member
I guess, more and more, I find that the process of taking a photo is far more important than the product. It is the act of seeing that separates my busy ‘monkey’ mind from my pure mind. It is no different to the golfer hitting the ball perfectly. It’s that moment that matters to him or her, not necessarily the score. I’m not talking about professionals here, where the result may affect their income.

I run a small photography class. When I ask my students, “Why photography?” We can usually trace our feelings back to the act of seeing. Most of my students (80 percent maybe) when I ask them to pay attention to their thoughts when taking a picture say that it clears the mind. This is, to me at least, the most important aspect of photography. The curation at the end is a nuisance really.
Thank you for sharing your perspective.
 

rdeloe

Active member
Olaf, I want to thank you for creating this section of the GetDPI site, and for kick-starting the conversations. Conversations about photography that are not about camera gear are important, but get lost on gear-focused sites. They need a home where they can be nurtured. Thanks for creating that home.

OK, now to your question. I think the term "curate" has many different relevant meanings. In responding to your question, I'll use a broad interpretation.

I curate at four stages:

1. In deciding whether or not to make a photograph​
2. In deciding whether or not to process a file from a photograph I did make​
3. In deciding whether or not to keep a photograph I processed in my catalogue​
4. In deciding whether or not to do something with the photograph​

#1: Deciding whether or not to make a photograph
I curate heavily when I'm working. For example, I was out yesterday working on a project that has consumed me for the past couple months. In 6 hours of work, I set up my camera only 6 times. In between each of those 6 distinct scenes, I chose many, many times not to make a photo. The specific reasons for not making pictures yesterday were varied (e.g., it wasn't a strong enough example of something I was looking for; the light wasn't right, and I knew the picture would be flat; I have something similar in my catalogue already). More generally, processing files in Lightroom is work, and I don't want to waste time working on pictures that I know are going to be run-of-the-mill. So I don't make those pictures. Lately I'm just as happy to enjoy seeing whatever it was I briefly considered photographing, and then moving on.

#2: Deciding whether or not to process a file from a photograph I did make
This is straightforward and based on technical and artistic considerations. Each time I set up to make a photograph, I usually shoot 10, 20 or more frames. I'll work the scene, adjust the composition, try again with different light, etc. From the six times I set up yesterday, I added 127 files to my catalogue. I spent part of yesterday and today sorting through them. One of the six scenes didn't make the cut at this level of curation. The photo I wanted for the project I'm working on simply wasn't there in any of the 24 attempts (even though several were technically solid). All those files are marked for deletion. At this stage, I also mark for deletion all files that have obvious technical problems of some type or other.

The other five scenes had some promising candidates. In one, there was a stand-out shot that was leagues ahead of the others. Everything came together for that one, so it was an easy choice. In the four other scenes, there were several good candidates for each. If I can't decide which of two or three candidate files is the best, I'll pick one of them and develop a "draft". If I'm happy, I carry on with that one. But sometimes I need to develop a couple files in draft form, and re-vist them over a few days or longer. I often see problems days later that I didn't see initially. Occasionally I'll use printing as the deciding factor. If it doesn't print well despite my best efforts, I drop the picture (or the whole set) and mark for deletion. Processing pictures is a lot of work (for me), so I'm ruthless at this stage.

#3: Deciding whether or not to keep a photograph I processed in my catalogue
Despite my best efforts, some pictures I processed fully simply aren't worth keeping. Occasionally it takes me days, weeks or longer to come to this conclusion. Printing is, again, a key tool I'll use in this stage of curation. However, most of the time I don't need to make a print to decide. I know what I want from a photograph, and it's often obvious that a file (or group from a scene) simply won't cut it no matter how much I might want it to. Two of the six scenes I shot yesterday were not keepers even after multiple different processing strategies on the best candidates. They were "OK", but that's not enough. All the files associated with those two scenes are marked for deletion in my catalogue.

Importantly, at this third stage of curation, I'm just looking for one picture from every scene; I don't fill my catalogue with multiple versions. There's a keeper and the rest are tossed once I've decided on the keeper.

#4: Deciding whether or not to do something with the photograph
My last level of curation is deciding whether or not the photograph will have a life beyond my catalogue. I rate my finished pictures on a 5-point scale. Photos that I rate 3, 4 or 5 might spend some time on my web site, get printed and displayed, or be used in a project portfolio. I keep the ones that only got 1 or 2 stars as learning tools, as a record of my development as a photographer, or as a placeholder so that I know what I want to re-do some day. But they never see the light of day.

Rob
 

MGrayson

Subscriber and Workshop Member
I feel way out of my depth here, but I'll chime in.

I am a terrible curator. I keep everything. Sometimes, I do a deep trawl of some older shoots and discover interesting photos I neglected the first half dozen times through. Of course, the really good ones (in my opinion or someone's I trust) get flagged as such and are easy to keep track of. But I am not nearly as organized as the other posters in this thread. I blame this, in part, on lacking a goal when shooting. I often shoot to surprise myself. So I don't immediately recognize successes and failures.

Matt
 

darr

Well-known member
Everything I shoot goes into my LR catalog. Even film that has either been scanned years ago, or digitized using my current copy stand + digital camera setup.

My catalog is setup by yearly folders and dates back to 1985, although I have some older files from my grandfather’s Roleiflex shooting days, and a shoebox full of medium format film my uncle shot as a teenager and young adult while serving in WWII that I work on when I find the time.

I do not toss anything out that is in focus and has potential.
I am like Matt above, I can always find a little nugget to work on that missed the first or second pass. So I learned a long time ago, to save it for a rainy day.

I enjoy teaching myself new ways to approach post processing, and with the ability to reach back through the years and work on a file with updated tools can be rewarding.
I challenge myself to slow down and shoot less every time I shoot film.
 
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Shashin

Well-known member
I keep everything I shoot. I really think in narratives and mostly work on projects or themes. I love making books.

I organize my archive by project. One long projects, I subset usually by date. This is consider is raw material, which is why I keep everything: some are for reference; some are ones that are picks; some are experiments. When I am shooting, I try to be open and look for opportunities without worrying if I am getting the "one." I think if you put yourself out there, something will happen. Usually, my preconceived ideas are not as interesting as the accidents--luck is really important, if you can see it. When shooting, I don't think about the images, but simply try to dump is much in a big bucket for the editing process. I also do a lot of research for project, but not to figure out what to shoot, but to understand my topic.

The selection of work I find is pretty straightforward--I simply take the most interesting work. I used to set aside picture I thought had narrative value, but those tend to be dull and never really add anything. Then it is a matter of getting rid on unnecessary repetition--some visual repetition can be a useful, but just to keep something similar to something else that are basically versions of each other are not.

Then comes ordering and combining images. There needs to be a theme to the work or an idea that is central to the collection (my Tokyo book, for example, combined my interest in tradition landscape photography I did in Maine with the traditional Japanese ideas of the universal elements (Earth, Water, Fire, Wind, Emptiness) and how those relate to the observer and observed). This is also where design comes in. What is the framework for presentation? A simply chronology? A thematic consistency or juxtaposition? How does the design reinforce this? I find a good title is helpful to guide this. The front essay is also important, but probably the hardest--introductions should not tell the reader what to think, but set up a more subtle framework to give the viewer a few ideas to investigate and frame the work. I personally like to have the reader think about the images, but that is putting a lot of work on them, but I also think it lends itself to rereading. A bit of mystery is good--it is fun to find new readings with each view. My wife is a bit different, she like the explanation and tells me to put more of my thoughts in the work.

Now my blog is a different thing. I just have fun with that. I decided when I started it, it would be more relaxed. Kind of like a notebook--posting just stuff I find, whether that is more polished work or just a picture of the dog. It has actually been liberating--I used to hate showing any work in progress and never anything like a dog picture. Mostly, it keeps me thinking and experimenting with image making. It is hard when there is little inspiration or motivation, and you can see that in the work, but it keeps me out in the world. I find photography very meditative--it keeps me sane.
 

rdeloe

Active member
Even with just a handful of responses, this thread already reveals a very important point: art doesn't care how you get there!

Or put another way, if the photograph you produce is excellent (however we define that term), then it doesn't particularly matter how you work, how you organize your catalogue, how you decide what to keep and what to throw, etc. etc. Someone producing really strong work could be incredibly inefficient, haphazard, unreliable and sloppy. But if the work is terrific, it's all fine. (Obviously that doesn't apply to a commercial photographer who is working with budgets and deadlines for clients. I'm talking art here.)

Alas, the converse applies too: simply being extremely well organized and efficient in your shooting and curation does not in any way guarantee that your work will excel as art. It probably helps enormously in commercial client-focused work though.

Olaf's starting question was "how do you curate?" rather than "how should people curate?" I enjoyed answering the former, and I really enjoyed reading other peoples' answers, because I like to get a window into how other people work. However, I would never presume to answer the second question in anything other than very high level generalities, most of which are versions of "figure out how you like to work and do that". It's quite clear from the responses so far that there are no one-size-fits-all ways of working.
 
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olafphoto

Administrator
Staff member
Olaf, I want to thank you for creating this section of the GetDPI site, and for kick-starting the conversations. Conversations about photography that are not about camera gear are important, but get lost on gear-focused sites. They need a home where they can be nurtured. Thanks for creating that home.

OK, now to your question. I think the term "curate" has many different relevant meanings. In responding to your question, I'll use a broad interpretation.

I curate at four stages:

1. In deciding whether or not to make a photograph​
2. In deciding whether or not to process a file from a photograph I did make​
3. In deciding whether or not to keep a photograph I processed in my catalogue​
4. In deciding whether or not to do something with the photograph​

#1: Deciding whether or not to make a photograph
I curate heavily when I'm working. For example, I was out yesterday working on a project that has consumed me for the past couple months. In 6 hours of work, I set up my camera only 6 times. In between each of those 6 distinct scenes, I chose many, many times not to make a photo. The specific reasons for not making pictures yesterday were varied (e.g., it wasn't a strong enough example of something I was looking for; the light wasn't right, and I knew the picture would be flat; I have something similar in my catalogue already). More generally, processing files in Lightroom is work, and I don't want to waste time working on pictures that I know are going to be run-of-the-mill. So I don't make those pictures. Lately I'm just as happy to enjoy seeing whatever it was I briefly considered photographing, and then moving on.

#2: Deciding whether or not to process a file from a photograph I did make
This is straightforward and based on technical and artistic considerations. Each time I set up to make a photograph, I usually shoot 10, 20 or more frames. I'll work the scene, adjust the composition, try again with different light, etc. From the six times I set up yesterday, I added 127 files to my catalogue. I spent part of yesterday and today sorting through them. One of the six scenes didn't make the cut at this level of curation. The photo I wanted for the project I'm working on simply wasn't there in any of the 24 attempts (even though several were technically solid). All those files are marked for deletion. At this stage, I also mark for deletion all files that have obvious technical problems of some type or other.

The other five scenes had some promising candidates. In one, there was a stand-out shot that was leagues ahead of the others. Everything came together for that one, so it was an easy choice. In the four other scenes, there were several good candidates for each. If I can't decide which of two or three candidate files is the best, I'll pick one of them and develop a "draft". If I'm happy, I carry on with that one. But sometimes I need to develop a couple files in draft form, and re-vist them over a few days or longer. I often see problems days later that I didn't see initially. Occasionally I'll use printing as the deciding factor. If it doesn't print well despite my best efforts, I drop the picture (or the whole set) and mark for deletion. Processing pictures is a lot of work (for me), so I'm ruthless at this stage.

#3: Deciding whether or not to keep a photograph I processed in my catalogue
Despite my best efforts, some pictures I processed fully simply aren't worth keeping. Occasionally it takes me days, weeks or longer to come to this conclusion. Printing is, again, a key tool I'll use in this stage of curation. However, most of the time I don't need to make a print to decide. I know what I want from a photograph, and it's often obvious that a file (or group from a scene) simply won't cut it no matter how much I might want it to. Two of the six scenes I shot yesterday were not keepers even after multiple different processing strategies on the best candidates. They were "OK", but that's not enough. All the files associated with those two scenes are marked for deletion in my catalogue.

Importantly, at this third stage of curation, I'm just looking for one picture from every scene; I don't fill my catalogue with multiple versions. There's a keeper and the rest are tossed once I've decided on the keeper.

#4: Deciding whether or not to do something with the photograph
My last level of curation is deciding whether or not the photograph will have a life beyond my catalogue. I rate my finished pictures on a 5-point scale. Photos that I rate 3, 4 or 5 might spend some time on my web site, get printed and displayed, or be used in a project portfolio. I keep the ones that only got 1 or 2 stars as learning tools, as a record of my development as a photographer, or as a placeholder so that I know what I want to re-do some day. But they never see the light of day.

Rob
What a great write-up! Thank you so much for sharing your approach in such well-articulated and thoughtful manner. Fascinating!!!
 

olafphoto

Administrator
Staff member
Even with just a handful of responses, this thread already reveals a very important point: art doesn't care how you get there!

Or put another way, if the photograph you produce is excellent (however we define that term), then it doesn't particularly matter how you work, how you organize your catalogue, how you decide what to keep and what to throw, etc. etc. Someone producing really strong work could be incredibly inefficient, haphazard, unreliable and sloppy. But if the work is terrific, it's all fine. (Obviously that doesn't apply to a commercial photographer who is working with budgets and deadlines for clients. I'm talking art here.)

Alas, the converse applies too: simply being extremely well organized and efficient in your shooting and curation does not in any way guarantee that your work will excel as art. It probably helps enormously in commercial client-focused work though.

Olaf's starting question was "how do you curate?" rather than "how should people curate?" I enjoyed answering the former, and I really enjoyed reading other peoples' answers, because I like to get a window into how other people work. However, I would never presume to answer the second question in anything other than very high level generalities, most of which are versions of "figure out how you like to work and do that". It's quite clear from the responses so far that there are no one-size-fits-all ways of working.
Art doesn't care but those who work hard to improve their craft do. When you study great photographers, you will find some similarities in methods of their work. For example, great photographers tend to think more in terms of projects, which span years, not days. They are much better curators than the rest of us. They share less work (what means they curate carefully). In short, yes, I believe there are better and worse ways of working on your photography. It pays off to learn from the best.
 

olafphoto

Administrator
Staff member
I keep everything I shoot. I really think in narratives and mostly work on projects or themes. I love making books.

I organize my archive by project. One long projects, I subset usually by date. This is consider is raw material, which is why I keep everything: some are for reference; some are ones that are picks; some are experiments. When I am shooting, I try to be open and look for opportunities without worrying if I am getting the "one." I think if you put yourself out there, something will happen. Usually, my preconceived ideas are not as interesting as the accidents--luck is really important, if you can see it. When shooting, I don't think about the images, but simply try to dump is much in a big bucket for the editing process. I also do a lot of research for project, but not to figure out what to shoot, but to understand my topic.

The selection of work I find is pretty straightforward--I simply take the most interesting work. I used to set aside picture I thought had narrative value, but those tend to be dull and never really add anything. Then it is a matter of getting rid on unnecessary repetition--some visual repetition can be a useful, but just to keep something similar to something else that are basically versions of each other are not.

Then comes ordering and combining images. There needs to be a theme to the work or an idea that is central to the collection (my Tokyo book, for example, combined my interest in tradition landscape photography I did in Maine with the traditional Japanese ideas of the universal elements (Earth, Water, Fire, Wind, Emptiness) and how those relate to the observer and observed). This is also where design comes in. What is the framework for presentation? A simply chronology? A thematic consistency or juxtaposition? How does the design reinforce this? I find a good title is helpful to guide this. The front essay is also important, but probably the hardest--introductions should not tell the reader what to think, but set up a more subtle framework to give the viewer a few ideas to investigate and frame the work. I personally like to have the reader think about the images, but that is putting a lot of work on them, but I also think it lends itself to rereading. A bit of mystery is good--it is fun to find new readings with each view. My wife is a bit different, she like the explanation and tells me to put more of my thoughts in the work.

Now my blog is a different thing. I just have fun with that. I decided when I started it, it would be more relaxed. Kind of like a notebook--posting just stuff I find, whether that is more polished work or just a picture of the dog. It has actually been liberating--I used to hate showing any work in progress and never anything like a dog picture. Mostly, it keeps me thinking and experimenting with image making. It is hard when there is little inspiration or motivation, and you can see that in the work, but it keeps me out in the world. I find photography very meditative--it keeps me sane.
Thank you for sharing! Great thoughts!
 

olafphoto

Administrator
Staff member
I feel way out of my depth here, but I'll chime in.

I am a terrible curator. I keep everything. Sometimes, I do a deep trawl of some older shoots and discover interesting photos I neglected the first half dozen times through. Of course, the really good ones (in my opinion or someone's I trust) get flagged as such and are easy to keep track of. But I am not nearly as organized as the other posters in this thread. I blame this, in part, on lacking a goal when shooting. I often shoot to surprise myself. So I don't immediately recognize successes and failures.

Matt
Based on reading your honest note, I have a sense you are already ahead. The biggest problem I found while working with some photographers (yes, I had some teachers of photography at my workshops) that they were unable or unwilling to see their weaknesses. They usually subscribed to the "this is art so everything goes" motto, which provided them with an excuse not to improve. You raised a very important point of having a goal or purpose. Of course there is plenty of space for shooting just for fun but there is amazing body of work, which was created in a more purposeful way. Thank you for your openness - it is so refreshing.
 

rdeloe

Active member
Art doesn't care but those who work hard to improve their craft do. When you study great photographers, you will find some similarities in methods of their work. For example, great photographers tend to think more in terms of projects, which span years, not days. They are much better curators than the rest of us. They share less work (what means they curate carefully). In short, yes, I believe there are better and worse ways of working on your photography. It pays off to learn from the best.
I think we're talking about two different but related things here.

My point -- which wasn't articulated terribly well -- was that being very technically sophisticated, highly organized, meticulous, etc. is neither necessary nor sufficient to make work that stands out as exceptional art. A piece of work that is exceptional isn't less exceptional once we discover that the person who made it is disorganized, has a chaotic approach, or was just ignorant and lucky. Modern cameras let that happen sometimes. At the same time, there are lots of meticulous, technically sophisticated and highly organized photographers who just produce pedestrian work. I was trying to say that the work is good or it isn't, regardless of how it was made.

Your point (I believe) is that in a technical domain such as photography, the people who reliably and consistently produce work that stands out as exceptional art tend to be meticulous, highly skilled, focused, and organized (among other things). I agree entirely. I emphasized reliably and consistently in my re-interpretation of your point because I think that's a crucial distinction between serious and successful artists and people who occasionally "luck out" with their camera and produce an awe-inspiring photograph.

By the way, I think a related defining characteristic of the "masters" you're talking about is hard work. The writer, composer or painter who forces herself every day to do her work is vastly more likely to produce good art than the dilettante who only writes, paints or composes when he feels in the mood. It's the same for photographers. (I take no credit for originating this point. It's an important theme in classics like Art and Fear and The War of Art.)
 

MGrayson

Subscriber and Workshop Member
Based on reading your honest note, I have a sense you are already ahead. The biggest problem I found while working with some photographers (yes, I had some teachers of photography at my workshops) that they were unable or unwilling to see their weaknesses. They usually subscribed to the "this is art so everything goes" motto, which provided them with an excuse not to improve. You raised a very important point of having a goal or purpose. Of course there is plenty of space for shooting just for fun but there is amazing body of work, which was created in a more purposeful way. Thank you for your openness - it is so refreshing.
Olaf,
That is excellent advice. In addition to the "take more pictures" path to improving one's photography, I can add "think of projects larger than individual images."
Matt
 

olafphoto

Administrator
Staff member
I would like to share with you an extract from an excellent piece by Ibarionex Perello of Candid Frame. Ibarionex and I led a creative photography workshop together and it was wonderful to work together. I am sure you will enjoy his perspective on the subject.

Becoming a good editor is an acquired skill so here are a few suggestions that may help you to become your own best editor.

Create Categories
Create collections of the category of photography that you practice, e.g., landscape, portrait, close-up, street photography, etc. If you favour only one type of photography, create sub-categories. If you enjoy landscapes, the sub-categories could be water, sky, close-ups, sunsets, etc.

When reviewing your images from a recent shoot, rate your better images with a pick flag, a star or a colour rating. It doesn’t matter which, as long as you remain consistent. Put your highest-rated images in the appropriate category or subcategory.

Limit the number of images in each collection to approximately 25. When you reach this number of images, you can begin making comparisons.

Contrast and Comparison
Look through the 25 images and choose one image that you believe is the stand-out, the best of the best. If you struggle with making this decision, simply choose the image that best represents what you are aspiring to create as a photographer. Assign this image a higher rating such as a single star. This is your benchmark image.

Next, compare this image to the other 24 and make a judgment call. If the next image as good as your benchmark, it stays. If it doesn’t, remove it from the collection. If you have multiple versions of a scene or subject, narrow down your choice to just one. Continue this until you have eliminated 10 images from that collection.

This can be hard to do, especially if you are emotionally attached to your photographs, but it’s a necessary part of the editing process. You have to learn to make those hard choices. Remember that the choices are not permanent. This doesn’t delete the images from your hard drive. It’s just a necessary part of the editing process.

As you continue to produce more work and again fill out your collection to 25, repeat this process to see which new images find a home in the collection and which need to be eliminated.

The Survey mode in Adobe Lightroom Classic CC provides the perfect tool for doing this easily and efficiently.

Getting Your Core 8
As you practice this process throughout the year, you will begin to discern which images you favour and why. You will teach yourself how to recognize the visual elements you gravitate to, your strengths in composition and even themes and ideas. That clarity will help you edit your images at the end of the year to your Core 8 photographs.

The Core 8 are the photographs in each category that best represent what you’ve accomplished as a photographer that year. It is the means by which you not only make a judgment call on the quality of the individual images but how they came together as a body of work.

It is the same practice that you applied previously but instead of narrowing down the images to 12, you are choosing a final eight. Again, choose a benchmark image, which will likely have changed from earlier in the year. You then contrast and compare until you have culled the images to a final eight.

This can be the most difficult part of the entire process as you are hopefully looking at some exceptional photographs. But this time, you are looking at the photographs as a body of work. One of your favourite images might be beautiful and striking, but does not fit or flow with the other images that you’ve selected. That doesn’t mean this image won’t find a home somewhere. It just means that in terms of your Core 8 it isn't appropriate.

When you are done with each collection, you will have a representative body of your very best images in each category or subcategory for the year. If you have created four categories or sub-categories, you will have compiled a selection of 32 images, an ideal size for a portfolio or web gallery.

Detach Emotionally
The most difficult thing when going through this process is to detach emotionally from your work. Sometimes, you become so invested with the story behind the images or what you went through to capture it, that you lose your objectivity. The story may be great and the challenge commendable, but the image and the collection can’t be about that. The work has to stand on its own.

After practicing this approach repeatedly over time, you will find that such detachment comes more easily. And as you see that your body of work is stronger and more consistent, you will trust not only in your ability as a photographer but also as an editor.
 
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