I can’t hold my tongue on this subject anymore: there are too many competent, talented and creative photographers shooting themselves in the foot by neglecting to edit their work. There are also many developing photographers who are not progressing because they can’t tell their good work from their bad.
The Current State of Things:
Music photography and how it is being used on many websites and blogs runs against good judgement and taste. Music websites and blogs have an unlimited appetite for content, and it doesn’t really seem to matter what the quality of that content is. I’m not sure why this happens, but probably in the race for clicks and S.E.O. rankings, images are being exploited to serve as Googlebot fodder and snarky comment bait. A photograph’s power to beautifully and bluntly get to the heart of the matter is being lost and abused.
A prominent music blog that I’ve shot for is a regular offender, though I see these problems all over the place. A recent post covering a 45-minute afternoon outdoor show featured a whopping 73 photos. 25 of those were dedicated solely to the children in the audience doing cute children things. And what’s more, the photos were processed digitally in at least 4 different ways: some were ‘as shot’, some were converted to black & white, some had a cross-process filter, and some had heavy handed saturation and contrast boost. These numbers are the actual count, I’m not hyperbolizing. What did all these photos say about the music? Absolutely nothing.
If the photographer had run the 5 best shots, in a consistent style, that communicated all aspects of the event, I would have learned something about the artist, the performance and also the photographer. All I learned from this jumbled mess was that the weather was sunny, kids are annoying and that the photographer might need treatment for A.D.H.D.
Why Editing is More Important than Shooting:
Everybody makes awful photos. Editing is just as important, if not more important than the process of shooting. When you shoot, you should take risks, remain open to new experiences, and try new techniques. And when you edit, you must look at what worked and what failed, eliminate redundant photos and adjust your approach for next time. Only by consciously recognizing both your successes and your failures can you grow as a photographer. It’s always hard to toss out 95% of your work, but you have to cut out the junk so that the rest can shine.
Photography, in both shooting and editing is about intent and the relationship between you and the subject. When you show 4 different styles within a set of images, you are telling your audience that you had no idea what your intent was. Converting a lesser photo to black and white is not editing, it’s a cop-out.
Stop Being Your Own Worst Enemy:
Quit showing the world your bad photos. Period. It makes you look bad. If it’s the policy of the website to expect 50+ images of one event, stand up for your right to only show work you are proud of, especially if you aren’t getting paid. If you deliver 15 stunning images, only an idiot would ask, ‘Hey, where’s the rest?’. If the work isn’t good you’re hurting your professional image more than you are helping it.
Why, as a photographer, would you want crummy photographs representing your name and identity? For every beautiful photo you have in a series, one clunker detracts enormously from it. It tells the educated viewer (such as the record label, band or magazine who might hire you one day) that you that have poor judgement. You need to be a ruthless editor for your own sake.
Truth and beauty is only found in the best 1% of what we do. Get out your scalpels and start cutting.
Guest Blogger Jacob Blickenstaff is a music photographer who blogs and tweets. His last post was Everything You Know about Concert Photography is Wrong.