No photographer can expect to make a worthwhile improvement in their photography unless they learn how to successfully edit and choose their best images from every shoot. It is not only essential for the images you’re dealing with at that moment in time, but also for future work and that is why I devoted an entire chapter in my book to the importance of editing.
I often hear photographers on web forums talking about “keepers”, so I imagine they are doing some kind of editing but the key point is that you have to be really tough in your editing decisions if you want to make progress and ensure that you understand exactly why an image wasn’t good enough. I am not say you can’t draw some positives from an image that might have some small defect, but unless you are really ruthless and become your own harshest critic you will struggle to make real progress with your photography.
When editing your images you need to look at every detail from the lighting and other technical considerations right through to the model’s expression, styling and all the other elements that make up an image. Study what you like and dislike about your images and those of other photographers to build up an understanding of what works in photography and makes a successful image. When there are faults you need to analyse and understand exactly what went wrong, whether it was owed to a poor choice in model casting, lack of lighting knowledge or perhaps you should have used a tripod. The important part is that you understand the problem and learn from your mistakes.
The good thing about editing is that the more you practice the better you become and it won’t hurt so much when you reject images because you will see it all as an essential part of your continual learning curve and in the long run it will save you a great deal of time and money since you will go into each new shoot just a little bit better prepared with the mental knowledge of what that experience has taught you.
Here is a final small tip that will help you immensely. Avoid looking at substandard photography and visual garbage as much as humanly possible. Try instead to surround yourself with the highest possible quality images in your chosen area and you will be amazed how quickly this helps to refine your visual tastes and understanding, plus it will improve your editing abilities dramatically.
A photographer specialising in fine art nudes or glamour for example should search out the work of acknowledged masters in that area and look at how their images are done. You will learn far more that way than hanging out on some web forum of amateurs where everybody says “wow” and “awesome” to every image you upload.