It’s my first time writing a newsletter for y’all and I’m a little nervous about it! Go easy on me please. 😅 I’ve been pondering what I could share with you that would be worth your time to read. I’ve a few personal projects (and lessons learned from them) I’d like to write about eventually, but today I thought I’d start by drawing on my experience as the editor of Street Photography Magazine these past few years and share some pointers on self-editing your work.
Let me just start by saying that I’m not talking about your post-processing techniques here. I’m talking about how you choose what photos you display on your website or social media, the photos you include in a specific project, or the photos you submit to a magazine, gallery, or competition.
Why should you work on your self-editing skills?
Because (1) it’s necessary if you want to put together a body of work that gets noticed and (2) it’s hard as all get out. But don’t worry, you can do it. Consider me your self-editing cheerleader.
If you are worried about it, your reservations are valid. It’s so, so difficult to edit and curate work that you made because we all have emotional connections to our favorite photos and those emotional connections can make it nearly impossible to spot a weak photo or even a very strong photo. I have this problem with my own work.
So what’s a photographer to do? Here are six of my best tips for editing and curating your own work. I guarantee you that if you spend some time improving your editing/curating skills, your body of work will become much more polished and your skills as a street photographer in general will improve.
1. Get inspired.
Look at lots of street photography projects on photographers’ websites, in digital publications, and in physical books and magazines. As you do, take some time to think about the projects that inspired you, the specific reasons you liked them, and why they worked. (For this reason, I wouldn’t encourage you to spend loads of time on social media looking at photos, since social media platforms aren’t really conducive to thinking.) Ask yourself why each particular image was included and use the answers to help you identify strong points in your own work.
2. Give it time.
Let your own photos “cook” for a bit before you start editing. And don’t delete “bad” shots right away on impulse. You’ll have a more distanced perspective a week, month, or year after shooting. This will help you stay objective when you decide to edit. (As objective as you can be about your own work anyway.)
3. Less is more.
Don’t flood your website galleries with hundreds or even dozens of photos, your best images will get lost in the crowd. And when it comes to photo projects, especially short-term projects, try to keep your image selection to 10 photos or less. If you can’t squash the impulse to publish your work in great quantities, use Facebook or Instagram for that. Your portfolio and your projects will only make an impression when you force yourself to display ONLY your best work.
4. Group photos with intention.
Sure, street photography can result in a collection of random images that might seem unrelated but, over time, you’ll likely notice patterns emerge in your work. Keep an eye out for these and look at your images both individually and as a collection, especially when grouping them together for a project or web gallery. Ask yourself if the subject material, emotion, and overall aesthetic of your images work well together. Sure, you may love that ultra saturated color shot you took of graffiti at the skate park, but if the other images in your gallery are monochrome street portraits, it will only be a distraction.
5. Get help.
I promise we’re still talking about self-editing here because this step comes after you curate a gallery or photo project. Get a second opinion from your street photography shooting buddy or someone else who knows a little something about photography. (Don’t ask someone who always says, “Wow! Nice photos.” The goal is to get an honest, insightful opinion.) This step can help you see things your emotional connections are blinding you to.
6. Keep an open mind.
Try to take emotion out of the equation when you get feedback about a collection of images. All criticism can be constructive if you can see past the person who gave it to you and keep your pride in check. Even if you don’t like or don’t agree with the feedback you get, don’t shut the critic down and do your best not to go all Will Smith on them or you probably won’t get any more feedback from them in the future. Instead, give them a thank you, take a deep breath and ask yourself, why did they think/feel/say that about my work? Understanding what your viewer sees is ultra valuable when it comes to self-editing. Then, ask yourself how you can use their feedback to improve your work.
Hopefully, these tips will be of use to you for your next street photography project. It’s worth mentioning that we often help photographers select the images to accompany their photo project article once it is chosen to be published in Street Photography Magazine. It’s one of the perks of submitting work to the magazine. If you’d like to submit a project, or even just get feedback on one, you can always send it our way. Here’s the link to our project submission form.
Feel free to hit reply if you have any questions/comments/feedback about this newsletter. We’re always happy to continue the conversation.