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Less is more - shot selection and editing

It's hard to stay enthusiastic during lockdown. I can't go out and about shooting my favourite subjects and the muse is hard to find locally in the flat Cheshire farmlands. I've been out plenty, of course, trying to find subjects and shooting. That's not so tough, it's nice to get out of the house. Editing and processing is harder. It takes a fair bit of creative energy to process a hundred raw files into something like good shape. Not so difficult when you know you've taken some "wow" shots of a spectacular landscape but I really haven't felt that positive about my local lockdown work, especially now winter is here.

The way out, and a lesson for all kinds of spiritual malaise, is first to buckle down to it but second to reduce and reduce until your hundred shots from the day become twenty and then ten and maybe even just half a dozen. Confronted with a hundred shots of which perhaps ninety are bad to mediocre (average for me and I don't think unusual for others) you can feel quite negative about your talent. So get rid of the bad ones first of all. Be ruthless. Cull and cull. I'm very suspicious if I'm left with even twenty percent after this process, I think I'm not being selective enough. Only after exceptional trips will I end up with that many shots selected for further work.

The reward for throwing away so much of your hard work is that the five to fifteen percent you're left with will be really strong. Ignore the rest and just display these selected shots and you'll change from glass half empty to half full. Instead of a day that produced ninety bad shots you've had a day that produced ten really good ones. Looking at ten really good shots on the screen together, scrolling through, can feel really energising and suddenly you're happy to do further critical processing to get the absolute best out of them.

The five shots shown here were selected out of sixty six frames, a 7.5% success rate. Not my best day's shooting but in the ball park and not bad for a grey winter's day in a location I'd normally drive through to get to the mountains. I'd started this editing session with little enthusiasm and ended it thinking I had some really nice pictures.

Of course the real trick is to do this ruthless editing out in the field by not taking the bad shots in the first place. If I could have shot only the five frames shown and not taken the rest then I'd feel like a champion. This in fact was one of the first lessons I learned way back when, and a lesson I teach to my workshop clients - learn from the shots you take which ones work and which don't and learn to spot the difference. Then you can stop taking the bad ones. There's a limit to this though, I think you need to allow yourself some failures otherwise you'd get so tight and restricted you'd never try anything new. So if I hit a twenty percent success rate for the day I'm very happy.

By the way, these shots were taken about a week before Christmas in the countryside around Beeston Castle.


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