Join Steve Simon for an in-depth discussion in this video Selecting and evaluating the best parade image, part of Photo Editing: Choosing Your Best Shots.
- Every time I go out shooting I have great expectations but I know that mostly I'm going to be disappointed. I keep high standards but I know that a five-star image is a rare event. You know, when you come back from a shoot the best images edit themselves but this example that I'm going to show you is a more likely situation, there's no one obvious pick. So kind of like the figure skating judge, I'm not necessarily looking for what's great about something, I'm looking for little faults to help eliminate some photos.
But ultimately I don't underestimate my gut instinct, my gut decision, especially when images are really close to each other, which happens a lot because I tend to shoot a lot and I encourage you to shoot a lot too. You want to have a difficult time deciding, it means that generally you've probably got a lot of good stuff there so it's hard to choose that one hero image. So here's how I would edit this particular series. So you can see from this series, and I'm just going to make these pictures bigger here.
This was a parade in Chinatown and when I was shooting I had a 35 millimeter lens and I had access so I can get close to these dancers, and as you can see, as I often do, you know you can be overwhelmed by subject matter like this so I'm looking for something that I can stick with and you know this woman right in the center there, she's got such a great smile that rather than focus on anybody else, no disrespect to anyone else, I just thought she was the most visually expressive so I'm better off staying with her and that's what I did.
I'm shooting, shooting, shooting and ultimately I want to kind of have a difficult decision in deciding which one is going to be the best picture. And you can see that I stayed with her, I'm shooting a variety of different images, she's moving really fast, she's a dancer, there's a lot of stuff happening in the background but I was shooting relatively wide open to blur out the area in the background. You can still get a sense of what's going on but she is definitely the star and that smile is really kind of the star here.
So in looking at all these images, how do I decide which one it's going to be? Frankly, it's more about the ones that don't make it at first so you know when I'm up here I can see that I'm a little bit loose and I think I'm not quite there, I think the images got stronger as I got closer and you'll hear that a lot, you know if you're not close enough maybe you're not getting the maximum. It's always good to experiment, get out of your comfort zone and get in really tight.
So I find that when I look at the images where I'm closer into her starting here, that's when the pictures start to sing a little bit and I know that before I release whichever picture I pick I'm going to crop it so that it's you know the best possible, I'm going to try and squeeze the maximum out of, out of this picture. So there you go, these-- and we just looked one more time, I'm going to show you the selections that I narrowed it down to and I basically narrowed it down to these 11 images, and they're all a little bit closer up.
This one is probably the furthest away. What I liked about this image was just her cheeky kind of expression and sometimes you know that might make the image. Otherwise, it's a little bit loose and there's a lot going on but she's sharp and she's making eye contact with me. This image here, you know she's right front and center but she's not looking at me and in some ways I like that because it feels more natural. You can see the crop here is right at her legs and you know that can be a little bit dangerous, I generally try and avoid cropping particularly at the joints where it can be very awkward but in this case I think it's working okay and I might want to crop in a little bit more in the final selection.
Here too this is another image which I think that is very strong, again she's not looking at me and here she's looking right at me. So it's the subtleties that I'm looking at here and I've kind of decided that I'm probably going to choose one where she's not looking right at me. When she's looking right at me she's looking right at you, the viewer, which can be very, very powerful but I think in this particular instance I prefer the idea of being a little bit more the fly on the wall, so bring the viewer to the parade so they could see kind of exactly what's going on.
So for my final six these were the ones that I narrowed it down to. I told you why I liked that one. This one, this could be the one and here she's looking a little bit away and the ones where she's looking at me I still think are very strong but ultimately it really came down to a series between this one and this one, and ultimately I decided that... so once there I've got these two images, let me just bring them up to you, show them to you close up so you guys can have a clear decision as to kind of what's working here, so I'll bring them both up so we can see them together.
And you can see that they're kind of similar, I'm probably going to crop them but now that I'm deciding between the main subject, which is her, they're both very strong but now I'm going to look into the background here and I'm going to see the synchronicity of the background and see how everything works, and I'd have to say that in looking at the background here this feels a little bit more in sync than this one. Here this particular woman's a little bit awkward and here this woman's looking a little bit off so you know this is, there's no real wrong decision but ultimately you have to sort of make a decision and take control.
So because of the synchronicity of the background I chose this one but I also feel that in this particular image the balance is a little off because you've got stuff on the left side of the frame here that is maybe taking away the focus from the main event, which is this beautiful dancer. So I'm going to hit the Crop tool, I'd keep the original aspect ratio and I'd keep the frame the same as if I shot it and then I'm just going to sort of move it around and decide what is going to, what is going to be the best possible crop to squeeze the maximum impact out of this shot.
I think whenever you have words in the picture like the signs on the left, that can be a little distracting, I of course want to keep the feet in here and the feet there, I'm going to play around with, you know do I keep the top of the roof up here in there or not so I think I'm just going to bring it down like this and crop it like that. So I started off with a lot of images, this is the one that I'm going to choose. You know life isn't perfect, the image isn't perfect, you know you've got this hand here, it's a little distracting, not a lot, but she's the main event, I think this is the best picture from the take and I'm going to stand by it and that's what you do when you're editing.
So there you go, we started off with 26 pictures and with a little bit of pain and sweat I was able to cull it down to one image. Now I could have made a different selection but you heard my reasoning for it. Ultimately this was the one that I ended up with. If I have the luxury of time I would love to maybe step away for a couple of hours and come back and just confirm that I made the right decision. You know often when you're editing in this kind of situation, we have many similar images, when you do that and come back it just confirms that you did make the right choice and in my experience, my gut instinct, my original idea is the one that sticks but occasionally, you know for whatever reason you want to change your mind.
So there you go. This was a good example of a typical shoot where you end up having a lot of images that are very similar but the process of getting it down to just one, a little bit painful but in the end I'm very happy with it.