Photography: Self-editing Overload

By Anthony Buccino


You’ve seen many judges’ critique competition entries. You’ve agreed and disagreed with their comments on your own entries and others’ entries. It’s all in the eye, the judge’s eye, your eye, your neighbor’s eye.

When it comes to editing your photos, the more you know, the tougher the job.

Before you take you first photo at a shoot, you’ve already begun editing. You’ve chosen the time, the lighting, indoor or outdoor, camera, lens, settings, whether you’ll stand, sit, crouch, lie on your belly, or use a tripod, timer, or shoot from the hip.

Shadows on the snow - Anthony BuccinoThen, as you shoot your subject you begin making dozens of decisions, quick changes, move left, right, up, down, wider, close-up, click, click, click. Take a breath. Repeat.

More adjustments. High angle, lower angle, more light, less light, snap, snap, snap. Breathe. And your decisions are being made so quickly you may not realize you’re making them at all. It has become your flow of photographing the world.

You’ve seen many judges’ critique competition entries. You’ve agreed and disagreed with their comments on your own entries and others’ entries. It’s all in the eye, the judge’s eye, your eye, your neighbor’s eye.

Subliminally, nearly every comment you’ve ever heard in your life about a photo is whizzing through your mind and you are criticizing your effort at hand, camera in hand, making changes, seeing telling details through your lens. Looking for that spark that drew you to this very scene, listening for the story your photo will tell.

All of a sudden, you realize how natural this feels. Perhaps you have some could-have, would-have, should-have shots. Wait until next time, you’ll know better.

At the end of the day you scroll suspiciously through your photos. You look for the perfect image, the one you saw in your mind when you were snapping away. You look for that shot, le mot juste, that image in your head that drew your eye to the subject. You want the picture that tells your story, the story of what you saw when you peeked through the lens.

 Get the shot your eye sees - edit later - Anthony Buccino

And now, post editing begins. What do you want to do with this photo? Family heirloom? Spruce it up as a contest contender? Tweak it? Experiment to draw out hidden inner depths? The work is just beginning, but it’s not work because it’s what you love about photography. It’s reliving that moment, or sharing it. That’s why you pick up the camera each today.


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New Jersey author Anthony Buccino's stories of the 1960s, transit coverage and other writings earned four Society of Professional Journalists Excellence in Journalism awards.

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