3 Steps for Realizing a Good Photo Editing

Image editing is the phase of selecting a series of photographs that will be used as part of a photo project. This essential step makes it possible to isolate photographs which will tell a story.

For a photographer, it is a very difficult task; he must decide which images to put aside for the moment, and which images to save for the specific project.

Photographs that were interesting at the time of the shooting might have no relationship with the current project. It is often heart-wrenching, but image editing is necessary to develop the photographer’s artistic sense.

To make this picture, we photographed the waterfall for 3 days. 150 pictures in total.
To make this picture, I photographed the waterfall for 3 days. 150 pictures in total.

The Different Steps of the Creation of a Photographic Project

During the time of film, photography was limited to shooting. Since the arrival of digital cameras, it has become easier to create technically correct photographs. In fact, the creation of a photographic project can be done by most photographers.

The creation of a photographic project involves many steps:

  • Definition. A good series of photographs usually passes by the clear definition of a good story told by images. The definition of the project is its story-telling quality
  • Technique. The recognition of the areas where the photographer finds the right frames and the good lights for the comprehension of the images.

  • Shooting.
  • Image editing. This is the step of selecting the pictures that will constitute the series.
  • Processing. The processing of the photos with software on a computer.
  • Exhibiting. If the photo project is intended for an exhibition, the photographs will be printed. If the project is for a book, they will prepared for the layout. If the project is a video slideshow, the photos will be prepared in the correct format according to the pages.

In this list, editing is an essential step. Although it can be very time consuming and long, it is absolutely necessary.

A Definition of Image Editing

Editing photographs enables the reproduction, publication, and distribution of all printed images. To be very precise we say that editing occurs by "sorting pictures".

To correctly define editing, we say that this is the stage where pictures are chosen as part of a specific photo project.

Editing Photographs is a Real Job

Even if most photographers realize this step themselves, editing is a real job. People who specialize in this search for illustrations and images of a publication are iconographers. Today, it is a job in full expansion because the number of photos available in stocks or agencies or social networks is astronomical. Magazines or advertising agencies no longer have time to research. This work is outsourced to iconographers.

The iconographers work from a specification provided by the client. Then they look for the photos corresponding to the project. Then they submit them for approval.

“Well Done” Image Editing: High Quality Photos

During our nature photography courses, we often say: it is necessary to make quality photos when shooting. Ultimately, the photographer must be an excellent technician. Framing and composition must be “well done”. In the same way, the choice of the depth of field or the work on lighting must be perfectly mastered.

The better the photos are from the moment of shooting, the less time a photographer has to take when selecting his pictures later. Because the “tedious work” has already been completed, the photographer will be able to concentrate on the choice of images corresponding to the project defined at the outset.

For example, in a wildlife photo project, it is not uncommon to make thousands of photos. Indeed, we often photograph in burst mode to freeze a unique attitude or a captivating animal expression. Often, a single scene equates to more than 40 pictures. If our photos were blurry or badly exposed, we would spend a very long time removing the bad photos according to their technique. It is for this reason that we are very demanding with the quality of the photos taken at the time of the shots.

Editing is a Personal Work of the Photographer

Editing photographs consists of selecting photos which correspond to a specific project. If the photographer chooses to do this step himself, he will have to focus on the parameters of his project. The pictures chosen might not necessarily be the ones he would have chosen normally.

Often, having to ignore some photos for a specific project is a real heartbreak. Many photographers are unable to correctly select photos because they are attached to the emotions they have felt on the field. Making the picture took a lot of time and effort. And yet another photo that took less time will supplant it. It is for this reason that a photographer with good photo editing skills must take into account the specific photo project when selecting photos.

Editing Photos Can Take Months of Work

Editing is not a task that the photographer will do in one sitting. The first analysis makes possible the elimination of the technically bad pictures even if the photographs pertain to the specific project.

A second analysis will be made a few days after the shooting. The photographer must forget the shooting conditions on the field. He must disregard the way he made the photos. After these few days of decantation, the photographer will be less involved and will be able to stand back and refine his selection. Just a few days might provide the photographer with a new perspective.

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A third analysis will definitively help the photographer to choose the photos in relation to the definition of the photo project. As part of our photo projects, this analysis takes several months or even years after the shooting. It is for us the certainty of choosing the essential substance of images without getting lost. We do not hesitate to leave projects for long periods of time.

Bad Photos for a Project Can Become Good Photos for Another One

The main difficulty of editing good photos is that it is necessary not only to select photos destined for a precise photo project, but also to avoid deleting pictures too quickly. These pictures may be interesting in the context of another project.

When we started shooting with digital cameras, we thought that our collection had too many photos. Often, we would delete pictures that could have been interesting. In our defense, the price of the hard drives was very high and their capacities were greatly reduced by storing less photos. We began to store our digital photos on 100 gigabyte discs. Experience has shown us that it is necessary to keep the maximum number of photos because some can be reused for other projects. Of course it is not possible to keep thousands of photos. However, an important part of editing is to find photos interesting for possible future projects. While the photographer may be selecting photos for a present project, he is also preparing photos for future projects.

We agree that it is very difficult. Only experience allows us to perform this prospective task.

Avoid Showing Photos Too Quickly

When we finish shooting sessions, we avoid showing our pictures immediately to other people. On one hand the judgment of some images could distort the choice in our selection. On the other hand, not all audiences are able to make judgments on an immediate work that has not yet been corrected with a computer. Moreover, the public certainly does not know the specification of the project; to give a just aesthetic opinion would not be interesting or helpful for us.

We think that it is necessary to wait until the end of the second stage or better the end of the third stage to begin to show a rigorous selection of photographs which have meaning.


Photo editing is an important step in the work of an artistic photographer. It is a personal job that requires a lot of time, work, and skill. To correctly edit photos, the photographer is required to have a lot of experience and insight. Photo editing also depends enormously on the purpose of the undertaken project: book, exhibition or video. It is a demanding step, difficult, sometimes ungrateful, but it is the guarantee of a successful photo project.


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