the photo process

a photo's journey from real life to my website

This is my process; this is how I make a photo.

Step 1: Take Some Photos

This seems obvious, but it's useful to remind myself that without this first step, there are no photos. So I go out and shoot! As often as I can. Even if "there's nothing to take photos of", that's just code word for not looking hard enough. I go somewhere, anywhere at all, and walk around and take photos. Sometimes that means I'm on some crazy vacation doing once-in-a-lifetime things, but sometimes that means I'm a neighborhood two blocks from home. It doesn't matter, I never stop making photos.

When it comes on how to compose the photo, well that's for a different article.

Step 2: Sit On It

This is optional, but recommended. The point of waiting is to distance myself from the agony of "getting" that shot. The more I forgethow I made each photo, the more objective I can be when processing that photo. Some photos I take are the result of many iterations, repeated attempts, careful posing, constructed lighting, and intense concentration. And some photos happen because I sneezed and my nose accidentally hit the shutter button. But the judge of a good photo isn't how it was made, it's what's in the photo. And this is difficult to remember when the sting of the capture is still fresh.

Step 3: Edit

Literally, copy the photos into a folder on my computer, import that folder in Lightroom, and go through, photo by photo, ranking them on a scale of one to five stars, and editing them at the same time. For photos where I shot multiple versions, the best two or three are kept, and any others, along with all junk shots, are deleted. My editing process is "anything goes", and I will do whatever I need to do to get that photo how I want it to look, bounded only by my laziness. My most common editing techniques are minimal: color control, cropping, and contrast.

Example of before and after edits.

There's more to say about editing, but that's for a different article.

Step 4: Curate

I cannot give enough emphasis to the importance of this step. There is nothing worse than browsing someone's un-curated photos. Strong curation skills are more important than compositional skills or editing skills. If you cannot evaluate your own work, your best photos suffer in oblivion. Curating is the most difficult photographic skill to grasp. Absolutely nobody wants to see the 2,000 photos you took of your child's birthday. One great photo speaks so much more than a montage of great photos. The photographer must learn a sense of taste they must be able to distinguish what is good from what is bad and they must know how to present the good in the best light.

This is something I'm still learning, and something I've been working on for a long time. My current process is that I'll allow myself only ten photos per set. Sometimes a few more, but never more than 15. But ten is much more desirable, and eight, even better. I force myself to cut down, over and over again, until I know that the only photos left are the top.

When I flip through old photos, the images I pull out in curation now are drastically different than the ones I selected at the time. This is the only way that I know my taste is improving.

Step 5: Present

I show my photo sets here, on this website. Sets are my favorite way of presenting photos, as it gives the chance for a narrative between images. But I also present individual images on social media, because that's what people are looking at, and I like people to look at my photos. Additionally, I create a "Yearbook" at the end of each year. This is a printed book (using a cheap online photo book service) with about 150 photos from throughout the year. These tend to focus more on family images, but I sneak my favorite landscapes in as decoration. And lastly, I print out my favorite images, because hanging an awesome photo on the wall is awesome.

First published on 24 Nov 2014; last updated on 27 Jan 2017.

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Everything here copyright Branden Frederick unless otherwise stated. For information on re-publishing any of this content, please email me.

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