A Picture-Editing Checklist
Over this holiday weekend, I resumed my often-postponed effort to go through the pictures that have been piling up in my photo-album software. How far behind am I? Let's just say that it was a major victory when I recently finished sorting, editing and labeling all the shots from my big annual vacation--of 2006.
I might be faster about this if I focused a little less on the details, but I don't want the electronic equivalent of a shoebox full of unsorted 4-by-6 prints. I also want to improve as a photographer, and to me that requires getting rid of photos that don't work and fine-tuning the ones that do.
Putting together photo albums is also naturally slow work. Between the inherent distraction factor of flipping through old pictures and the dozens of editing commands available in most digital-photo programs, it's easy to lose your way.
The best way I've found to stay focused is to stick to a pattern. Instead of trying out every available edit and tweak on each picture, I'll limit myself to the handful that yield good results most of the time. The idea isn't to chisel each shot into a state of perfection, but to come up with a collection free of the more obvious flaws, and which I can then refine further in my nonexistent spare time.
Here are the steps I take in my current photo-album program, Apple's iPhoto:
* Rotate the picture to the proper horizontal or vertical orientation (usually unnecessary, now that cameras do this automatically)
* Enhance (most of the time, this doesn't yield a notable improvement, but some shots get distinctly better with this automatic fix)
* Fix red-eye artifacts (again, some cameras now do this by themselves)
* Straighten (I am apparently incapable of holding a camera parallel with the horizon)
* At this point, I'll click iPhoto's "Adjust" button and play with the slider controls to fine-tune exposure, lighten shadows and reduce noise.
I'll write a caption for the photo next. That should be easy, but with shots taken more than a few months ago I often find I need to turn to two extra sources--Google Maps and Wikipedia--to help me remember where I stood and what I looked at. (Having GPS built into cameras would largely eliminate that worry, but we're not quite there yet.)
I'm sure there's room for improvement--other photographers have set out a more rigorous workflow--so here's your chance to offer your own suggestions. What's in your usual photo-editing routine?
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