At the end of each year and the beginning of the new, I tackle the backlog of images I captured during the year. My goal is to extract the best shots to process and share and then eventually combine in to a curated collection of images in a printed book.
I shoot anywhere between 3000-8000 frames in one year on average, so its no easy task to find all of the memorable images and then an even greater task to edit them all. I normally get in to this end of year mindset towards the end of November and start to devote extra time to the culling and processing steps. What’s funny, as people are posting their winter shots, I’m still posting shots from the Spring that I didn’t have time to process while in the season.
Like many, I use Lightroom as my image catalog and it’s the main tool I use for reviewing and selecting the images I want to keep and process. Lightroom gives you the ability to rate images, from 1 to 5 stars. For me, I don’t mess around with 1-4 stars, it’s either a 5 star shot and I’m keeping it, or I’m not. Once I’ve selected an image to process, I always “flag” it in Lightroom to signify that I have processed it. It’s extremely difficult to remember all of the images that I have processed throughout the year, so the flag is a quick and easy reminder.
Throughout the year I process and post to social media the images that stood out for me from each shoot. I do not have the time to process all of worthy images from each shoot, generally just one or two if it’s a day trip, maybe up to 10 for a longer trip. When I return from an outing, I still have the experience fresh in my mind which can affect how I “see” the images I’ve captured….I have more of the context and experience remaining that add to my critical review of images. So what i like to do is let the images sit for a bit, ferment if you will, so that all of the other contextual information will fade away and I’m left to review my images from a purely artistic point of view. I feel that by doing this I have a more critical eye towards my photography and overall my output is that much better for it.
Even though I shoot a lot of frames, only a small percentage of them every see the light of day. Over the years I have become a lot more self critical of my work…mainly as a way to push myself to improve my photography. How it has been working out the last couple of years, less than 10% of the frames I shoot ever get processed, and of those, if I’m lucky, I’ll have 1-3 images that are worthy enough for my website. That’s how critical I have become! There is so much visual imagery out there these days that I heavily curate what i put out, believing more in quality than quantity.
One step in my processing workflow that I have adopted and enacted for the past three years is once I process an image and save it as a .psd file, I then convert it and resize it to a standard size (8×12) at 300dpi resolution and then save it off to a separate folder on my computer. This way, I have all of the images I’ve processed in one folder, no more scrolling back through my social media to figure out what I processed. It’s all right there and in a size/resolution that works well with my book printer.
Once I’m ready to begin my book, the first thing I do is sharpen the images for print. Since they are all located in one folder, it’s very easy to run a batch job on them and sharpen appropriately. I don’t sharpen my saved .psd files and I sharpen differently for the web, so these have their own touch to them that makes them stand out on the printed page.
Once I’ve completed sharpening, then it’s time to upload the images and begin laying out my book. I have typically used Blurb as my book printer. I’ve found their quality top notch and their software is easy to use. By getting the technical machinations done early and often throughout the year, I’m free to focus on the creative aspects of laying out my book.
I have found that creating a book each and every year has been extremely beneficial for me as an artist. As I work on the book, I have to curate each and every image going in to it (otherwise it would be large and quite expensive). By curating so strongly, I also am forced to evaluate my work and thereby learn from what I did that year so that hopefully the next year I can be even better. I’ve also gone back several years to look at where I was and reflect on how far I’ve come as an artist and a photographer. Always good insight.
I encourage you to reflect on the year past and learn from everything you’ve done and strive to get better in the coming year.