Selecting images

I hate selecting images. Years ago, when I shot film, I had to be a lot more deliberate about the images I captured because I would run out of film very quickly. But digital photography allows me to shoot for hours without a pause.

Recently I shot three very talented dancers. When I work with dancers for the first time whom I don’t know well it is hard for me to anticipate their moves, or to know their routines. Subsequently I shoot a lot, and this time I ended up with 1,400 frames from one full day of shooting. Ouch.

Screen Shot 2013-01-06 at 9.52.02 PM

I usually wait a few days after shooting before I look at the images I’ve captured. Honestly? I find image selection a battlefield of self-doubt and loathing. All I see is what I did wrong, what I missed, what should have been obvious. The problem is when I shoot I switch into full creative mode, and the technical part of my brain goes out for a long drive to the countryside. I once shot for twenty minutes only to realize I had not focused the camera. Fortunately I could just reshoot because the set and models where still in place. Another time I shot for a while without noticing that my fill-flash wasn’t firing… which led to a much more dramatic lighting. Those were the lucky moments. More often than not I found myself sitting in front of my computer, seriously wondering whom I’m fooling. A real photographer would not make the kind of mistakes I made that day… My self-esteem is not a reliable travel partner on the best of days, but editing time is usually when I get to be completely on my own… no confidence or pride anywhere in sight.

A great musician spends a lot of time listening to all kinds of music, and a good writer reads a lot. So as a photographer, I look at other people’s images all day long. But of course, I am seeing another photographer’s twenty best images that were created in the course of a year or more… But when I look at my pile of raw data, initially I see nothing but shit.

It passes. I usually (though not always) end up with images that work. Over the years I’ve gotten better, and technically more proficient. I trust my gear and my basic skills, and half the time when I shoot I’m just directing the model, and making sure the feet are in the frame. But I still wonder why I didn’t notice the lamp right behind the model, why I didn’t just move a little higher, or why the damn foot is out of the frame after all!

4 thoughts on “Selecting images

  1. Ditto! It’s an amazing journey, isn’t it? From full pride to deep despair, sometimes in a matter of moments. And the beauty is, it’s all part of the process. deKooning used to go to the Cedar crushed because his day of painting was horrendous and he felt like a total failure. The next day he came in buying everyone a beer because he was a genius. Ah the roller coaster. The beautiful roller coaster. Thanks for posting.

  2. This is so recognizable! And then, when you DO manage to select the frames you are happiest with, they are hardly ever the same ones as you would choose 1 year down the road…..

  3. Actually, no, that is one thing I have found not to happen for me. I look at images that I shot three or four years ago, and am always pleasantly surprised that I would still make the same choices. I’ve really double-checked that again and again, the resulting selection is always the same…

Comments are closed.