Let's pretend for a moment that you just had the perfect shoot. Model, wardrobe, makeup, hair, lighting, etc. all simultaneously came together in perfect harmony and you now have a memory card full of amazing images. Your job is cake at this point right? Go home download the images, sit back and pat yourself on the back you're awesome right?
Not necessarily. As you find yourself shooting more consistently good frames throughout a shoot, you will likely also find that it gets harder and harder to make decisions about what to toss, what to keep, and what to post/publish. For some of us who may have a hard time making decisions, or those of us who build an emotional attachment to our images and don't want to delete anything, this may be the most difficult stage of the game.
There is hope though. Editing is in the end simply a series of decisions. You've already started off with a series of decisions. What/who you chose to place in front of your lens. How to light and frame that subject. When to push the button. Editing is simply a continuation of that process. Many choose to disconnect the two stages and I think that is probably the fatal flaw that leads to procrastination, indecision, and ultimately apathy about our output.
Theres a couple of concepts I'd like to introduce at this stage before we get more in depth about image selection, correction and enhancement that will make all of those things easier.
Pre-visualization – begin with the end in mind.
Output at least SOMETHING right away. This is critical. The shoots not over until it's delivered – even if the client is you. That's right, you are the client when you are shooting for yourself.
These two things for me are extremely closely connected. It's likely that at some time during the shoot or even prior you had a thought or two about what you would like the finished product to look like. You may have said, “man this would look great in black and white,” or “these last couple of looks have been connected by a common color theme, they'd make a good story concept.” Paying attention to that little inner voice has been really beneficial for me. I used to download a shoot and then wait till I finished everything else in front of it before looking it over. By the time I got to that shoot, some of the “feel” of the shoot in my mind was lost. The images were left, but the experience was no longer directly connected to the images because time had passed and other images were more recent in my short term memory. I've been following a different workflow lately that has me doing at least an 85% retouch on an image or two from each look either immediately, or within 24 hours of the shoot. This both commits the final look and feel of the images to memory, and gives me an actual reference image for future corrections and enhancements.
In the near future I'll be discussing the finer points of “culling the flock” … the act of making value based judgements on what makes one image stronger than another. I'll also be discussing the biggest time wasters in the editing/output process, some tools and tricks to speed things up, and why you shouldn't give models direct input/control over your final output.