The next step is editing and rating. You should do both, ruthlessly! I do this in Adobe Bridge and will soon be switching over to Lightroom. Everyone should edit, the longer you shoot the more ruthless you become. But my rule is if I would not send it to my agent and I would never submit it to an editor myself for something I don’t want it and I trash it. In short if I don’t see me or anyone else using an image for something I don’t keep it. I don’t keep duplicates of digital files because there is no reason I have backups of everything and I can make as many exact copies as I need. If I make twenty images of a bird sitting on a branch I would keep the best one as well as a couple other head positions and loose the rest.
I edit and rate images on the same pass. I use a five star system of rating images. I pull up a day’s shoot in Bridge (soon to be Lightroom) with thumbnails running down one side of the screen and a large preview of the selected image filling most of the screen. Then I go through one image at a time and evaluate each for esthetic and technical merit and rate each image as follows. Five star images are something really special, a family jewel kind of image, I don’t have many of those probably one or two percent of my files. Four star images are again something special maybe a unique behavior or really special light, definitely an above average image these makeup maybe 5 to 8 percent of my files. Three star images are really the bread and butter of my files these are images that are technically well done and of a good subject in a good situation. Making up over 90% of my files I would not hesitate to send these off to an editor or my agent, for any purpose. Lastly I have some two star images these are images that I really probably should not keep and will never use or send out but for some reason I just can’t let go of. Maybe they are near misses of something I have put a lot of effort into or special moments that I want to have a memento of, these are less than two percent of my files. Any images that don’t get a star rating are deleted.
The beauty of having all my images rated like this is that if I am working on a slide program or calendar submission or other project and I just want to see the best of my files. I can just pull up all the four and five star images and see only the cream of my files.
Image: Violet-tailed Sylph, Ecuador One of my five star images.
Happy New Year! If you are like many photographers it is very likely that one of your new year’s resolutions is to get your image files organized. So, for this next series of posts that is what I am going to write about. The fancy buzz word for this process is digital asset management or DAM. If you have tons of digital files and want to really set up a very detailed system I highly recommend a book called The DAM Book. For most of you though you just want to be able to find the image that you want quickly and easily, with a minimum of effort. The good news is that with digital files this is very easy to accomplish. The bad news is it takes some discipline and some effort to setup your system on the front end.
The first step on this journey to total organization is importing the images from your card onto your computer or hard drive (and backup hard drive). For this I use a program called Downloader Pro. It is made by Breeze Systems and I love it. Once I insert a card into my reader Downloader Pro opens up and asks me if I want to do what I always do when I insert a card into the reader. To which I reply yes and it does the following; in my master image file on my external hard drive it makes a new sub-folder with the date that any images were created (if there was three days worth of shooting on the card it would make three files with three different dates) Then it puts all the images made on each date into the appropriate file. It also adds all of my copyright and contact information to the metadata of each image file. Lastly it does exactly the same thing on my backup hard drive. So now I have two exact copies of all the images on two separate hard drives. You do backup all your image files don’t you? If you don’t backup your files, you’re just rolling the dice. Sorry but it’s true, storage is cheap, your images are irreplaceable you should backup. If your files aren’t backed up, stop reading right now and go buy a second hard drive. I even have a third hard drive that I update with any new work once a month. I keep this third drive in a separate location.
Ok I’m off the soapbox. The next step is editing and rating your images I will talk about this process next week until then… backup your files! (sorry couldn’t help myself):
Good luck and good light
Including the sun in your compositions can add impact and punch to your images. (Warning, to avoid damaging your vision, only look at the sun through your camera when it is very low in the sky). If the sun is a major part of your composition you will need to be sure not to stop down the lens down beyond f5.6, or else the shutter blades will distort the roundness of the sun in the final image. Flare can be a definite problem when shooting directly into the sun. Flare is caused by light shining into the lens and causing highlights on the internal elements of your lens, these highlights appear as aperture shaped highlights in your image. When shooting directly into the sun try to shade the front element of your lens to help cut down flare. Or line up your subject to block the sun and greatly reduce flare. Often times you can see the flare in the viewfinder prior to making the image. You could also embrace the flare and use at as a compositional element in your photo.
Lining up these shots can be frustrating I am always surprised at just how fast the sun is actually tracking across the sky when I try to make images like this. I find it easier to figure out the direction the sun is tracking, setup the shot just ahead of where it will soon be, and let the sun move into my composition.