OK so in the last post we talked about kicking out a couple of edits right away to both commit your final aesthetic for that shoot to memory, and also treating the shoot and editing process as a continuum not as two separate operations.
Now, let me be clear – I consider “editing” to be reducing the overall number of images down to the select few that are truly the best of those captured. Some call “photoshopping” editing, and I think that's a misnomer. I call that correction, enhancement, and retouching. As far as getting down to the best of the best is concerned, your threshold of what goes in the keep pile vs the burn pile will vary depending on your intended output - what you plan to deliver to a client or collaborator, etc.
Yeah, I said burn pile. I delete images that I don't select. Not all. But most. I am absolutely ruthless on my first pass through a library, and if something doesn't jump out as worth saving on that first glance, it's nuked. Derpy faces (yep I shoot a ton of em) blinks, crooked necks, wonky poses, all gone. Blink of an eye, push of a button. Only slightly less quickly discarded are the images that just don't speak to me. I'm shooting for a few levels above boring, so if an image doesn't rise above that at first glance, it's put out to pasture. I don't have any desire to manage multiple terabytes of images that I don't want to look at again. Yeah hard drive space is cheap and you could just archive the whole shoot and flag your selects and rank the best of them, but why not keep the best 30, 20, or even 10 percent of that shooti instead and save yourself some space? Anything less than your best shouldn't see the light of day, so what are you keeping it for? To reflect back on your own mediocrity? Kill it.
What I'm aiming for is to use a series of no-go's to get me to a selection of possible yes's. It pays big time to get to no-way fast. By getting those out of the way you can get down to the real work. Now you get to go through the painstaking process of splitting hairs, and asking yourself why one image has more value than another. The differences between two images might be so subtle – same basic lighting, background, body position, head position and expression. The difference for me is often just a subtle change in how the model is emoting. There might be a tiny shift in her gaze, a slight lift of the chin, a subtle smirk that didn't exist in the frame immediately before or after. If you don't flat out eliminate all but the best images, you won't see these. They'll be lost in the crowd so to speak. It's your job to chisel away the rough exterior and reveal the hidden gems within that shoot.
What if you really can't decide between two images? Move on. Flag them with a unique rating/color tag/keyword/something, and move on. Keep working through images until you find something that really catches your eye and makes you say, “yeah…” Once you've gotten to that next diamond, go back to the images in question that you flagged for review. One of two things will probably happen. One image will clearly stand out at that point because you've given yourself context for that decision, or you'll realize that neither is as strong as you initially thought and you'll dump them both.
Once I've made that initial pass through the gallery and eliminated the obvious culls, I’ll go back through a second time and assign a number rating. Anything worth keeping at all gets a 1. Anything that at first glance is a top pick gets a 4 or a 5. The next pass through I filter out the 4's and 5's, because I'm keeping those anyway. I'll look at things rated with a 1 through 3, and using those same value judgments I talked about earlier, decide whether to increase or decrease the rating. In the end, I keep everything I gave a 3 and above, and everything a 2,1, or zero goes in the digital incinerator.
Remember I said the shoot and the edit are a continuum of the same process? Now bring it back around and realize that everything you just looked at post-shoot and made value based judgments on, ultimately giving it thumbs up or the finger, is directly connected in your mind to the shoot experience as a whole. You aren't trickling out an image here and there and saying “well I kinda like this one too what do you think?” You've now forced yourself to have an opinion about what you just did, and you'll (hopefully) apply some of those value judgments next time BEFORE you press the shutter button, which will again save you an exponentially greater amount of time the next go-round.
By getting to No-Way in a hurry, we end up at yes.