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Bill Brooks

How to edit your images

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I may be a bit harsh, but I think that I have only ever produced a very small body of work that is any good, and none of that needs to go to Alamy. 

 

If I am doing a self-critique with a view to subbing to Alamy, I need to put on a pair of large rose-tinted spectacles.  Or ask a friend.

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I agree with the idea that if you are not sure whether you should delete "a darling" then you almost certainly should! It is why I suspect we are seeing people questioning: should I submit this "only very slighly soft/noisy/blurred/..." - we want someone else to "kill our darling". It is why I took the decision last year that I would not try and rescue any slightly "off" image for potential submission. It has made editing a lot less stressful - if it is even slightly soft (or whatever) I move on to the next even if I have prepared it for submission and I am doing the final 100% check.

 

I now need to find a way an objective way of doing the same for content - composition, subject, lighting etc. Then I might be on my way to becoming a good photographer. Perhaps I will get a steer as I have gone back to submitting to an edited niche library that represented me in my film days; I am looking for other such channels for my other photography.

Edited by Martin P Wilson

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There is no 'one' way to edit images, even one particular body of work. The edits for my books / catalogues almost always vary from the exhibitions for instance. They are different means of 'publication', have different ways of being 'read' so need a different approach and possibly sequence too. The juxtaposition of two or more images may appear very different on the page as opposed to on a gallery wall.

 

Same applies for every body of work. We must take technical excellence as read and ruthlessly weed out anything not 100%.  'Good enough for Alamy QC' is a phrase I hate but seems to crop up here all the time. It might be 'good enough' here but not in another context. You have to bear in mind the final destination of the work, the context it's being seen in and whether it might be a series or a sequence in the narrative sense. All different. The same body of work might be edited several different ways for differing contexts and audiences. Only if it's good enough of course. 

 

I frequently have to edit a final body of work so that it can fit into various size galleries. 30, 4 feet by three prints do not always fit into smaller galleries so I need several variations of the same body of work that still makes sense as a series. 

 

Not easy. I have sometimes spent weeks and months editing a body of work prior to exhibition / publication. Of course I'm fortunate in working on long-term projects mostly so have the time. I have also been fortunate enough to work with some fine photographers, publishers and book editors over many years and have learned from them. It's hard sometimes to leave out 'favourites' but I have learned to be ruthless. 

 

If you show a body of work to 100 photographers you will probably get 100 different edits. It's not mathematics, no one 'right' answer. That's what's great about photography. One of the things anyway. 

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I broadly agree with Pete, but think the emphasis on 'technical excellence' might make us believe that our work is better than it is.

 

Photography is communication (a lot of people now say art is communication too, that the point of art is to make a statement - otherwise it's just wall decoration).  The thing about communication is that it takes at least two: someone to make a statement, and someone to receive it.  Without an audience, we are talking to ourselves.  Without a response we don’t know whether our work is worth anything.  Hence other people are vital to our interpretation of our own work, and will often have insights that we lack: I have certainly found this to be the case.

 

Alamy is at the bottom rung here.  Stockimo  is one rung up, because at least someone is looking at contributor subs and making a judgement, but otherwise, unless we have previous experience of selling work to the kind of buyers who use Alamy, we probably won’t have a clue.  Currently Alamy doesn't offer any useful editing tools. A quick way of sorting images into useless at the bottom (viewed but never zoomed) with images zoomed and bought at the top seems to me to be a no brainer, but for some reason we haven't got one.  So subbing to Alamy is like wandering around in a dense fog, and I would say that a basic requirement for anyone who  doesn’t want to waste their time producing hundreds or thousands of images that make half a dollar a year each, is to find a good editor.  That means finding an agency with a good editing track record, where over time, and through a steep learning curve, the rate per image may begin rise to a previously unimaginable high - even if it starts low.

 

If Alamy doesn’t want this, then it should use the information it collects to help those who are serious about wanting to evaluate and edit their work to improve their sales.  

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I broadly agree with Pete, but think the emphasis on 'technical excellence' might make us believe that our work is better than it is.

 

Photography is communication (a lot of people now say art is communication too, that the point of art is to make a statement - otherwise it's just wall decoration).  The thing about communication is that it takes at least two: someone to make a statement, and someone to receive it.  Without an audience, we are talking to ourselves.  Without a response we don’t know whether our work is worth anything.  Hence other people are vital to our interpretation of our own work, and will often have insights that we lack: I have certainly found this to be the case.

 

Alamy is at the bottom rung here.  Stockimo  is one rung up, because at least someone is looking at contributor subs and making a judgement, but otherwise, unless we have previous experience of selling work to the kind of buyers who use Alamy, we probably won’t have a clue.  Currently Alamy doesn't offer any useful editing tools. A quick way of sorting images into useless at the bottom (viewed but never zoomed) with images zoomed and bought at the top seems to me to be a no brainer, but for some reason we haven't got one.  So subbing to Alamy is like wandering around in a dense fog, and I would say that a basic requirement for anyone who  doesn’t want to waste their time producing hundreds or thousands of images that make half a dollar a year each, is to find a good editor.  That means finding an agency with a good editing track record, where over time, and through a steep learning curve, the rate per image may begin rise to a previously unimaginable high - even if it starts low.

 

If Alamy doesn’t want this, then it should use the information it collects to help those who are serious about wanting to evaluate and edit their work to improve their sales.  

 

What sense, but will it happen. I am with you on this and have just made a small step along the track you suggest and for the reasons you outline. I have gone back to a small specialist edited library, been there before ()with film) so no need to resell myself back to them. Technical excellence I can seem to do, one QC fail in 4 years (3.5 years ago), but as I asked elsewhere how do I adopt a similar objective zero tolerance approach to the content, to the actual image/message?

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I edit, select, for me.  I never release an image that I would not be proud to have my name attached to.

In my opinion, if you look first at the technical merits of a photo, you should find another line of work....

I did not upload to Alamy one image of mine for years, it was shot on a Kodak/Nikon DCS620 at 1,600

ISO.  The DCS620 was an early 2.1MP $36,000 DSLR.  That image, which took me a week to prep, 

has now been licensed over a dozen times.  I have gotten to the point where I am only investing my time

working on images that are important to me and my collection of work over three decades.

 

To me Alamy is like a 10,000 car freight train and I am but one car traveling along with it.  Also if you

really spend some time searching through the images that Alamy has to offer you will find a library with

tremendous depth and some really fine and important images, along with some real dross.

 

Lastly I have only had one image fail QC, back in the days of mailing in CD's.  I had cropped the image

before I saved the JPEG and it had been 4MB's too small for the size standards at the time.

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It's an interesting article but I'm not sure it's aimed at Alamy contributors. 'Editing' can be done for an exhibition, a book, a National Geographic article, an agency with its own editors - or Alamy.

Each one is different.

When I select work for my £80 Thames and Hudson retrospective volume, I certainly won't be choosing pictures of seashells, chocolate bars, traffic signs, lumps of rock, logs on a train, fake pound coins, computer screen shots, a half-eaten meal, a bowl of lemons, or indeed anything else I've sold on Alamy recently.

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This may be under the heading of how to edit images.  I am a first time contributor in submission guidelines it says alpha numeric titles anding in .jpg - are there any further guidelines ?   I can name it anything .... very confused

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This may be under the heading of how to edit images.  I am a first time contributor in submission guidelines it says alpha numeric titles anding in .jpg - are there any further guidelines ?   I can name it anything .... very confused

 

I dont' worry about image naming for Alamy too much - they rename the file anyway. I just just use my own date/time systems for all images whichever camera they are from: so I get something like ne020001.jpg or if I have a variation that is processed differently it might be ne020001a.jpg. I rename my raw files when I import from the memory card and then let raw converter generate the appropriately named jpg (tif or whatever).

Edited by Martin P Wilson

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This may be under the heading of how to edit images.  I am a first time contributor in submission guidelines it says alpha numeric titles anding in .jpg - are there any further guidelines ?   I can name it anything .... very confused

"The DAM Book" by Peter Krough has a lot about this as well as a great deal about digital asset management.

 

Paulette

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