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January 07, 2010



> Thank God for good picture editors...

Interesting - a recurring theme in your posts is how you need someone else to review your photos and help pull out good ones that got missed. Should we all be recruiting others to help with the process. How many great photos never got seen because the photographer didn't think it was up to much.

Jim Richardson

JAL, thanks for your comment. Interesting that you picked up on that theme.

In general, yes, we should all be recruiting others to help with the process. If you think of photographs as messages and communications (as opposed to just beautiful pieces of artwork) then it's incredibly helpful to show them to others. Then you get to see if the viewer is getting the message the photographer thinks is there in the picture. We all need some trusted sources to tell us when a picture really works (for them) and when we're just blowing smoke and don't know it.

I've seen this happen up and down the whole spectrum of photographers, from rank amateurs to absolute masters. Sometimes photographers want to show me their pictures to some exotic location. They went to on this trip and got "a lot of really great pictures. Just incredible images." They didn't. I have to tell them that.

I once got to see the full take on W. Eugene Smith's Spanish Village. I saw all the various images he printed up from what have become iconic images in the photographic canon. That included that stunning picture of the woman spinning wool, with the graceful line of her pulling the thread. But he printed all kinds of other images of the same scene. He clearly didn't know, at the time, which one was the icon and which ones were the also-rans. He was working through it. He was feeling his way along, sorting it all out over time.

That's the way it should be.

The second point, in this case, is that we were picking pictures FOR THIS LAYOUT. There may have been other pictures from my St. Kilda take that were better pictures. That's not what we were looking for. For example, we already knew that we were going to use the picture of the birds flying out from Boreray that appears in a later spread. Therefore, we would not pick a picture of birds and cliffs from St. Kilda, not matter how good it was! We were looking for the right picture that carried the right message for the task at hand -- in that part of the total layout.

Believe me, a whole lot of very good pictures drop out of the selection process when you look at it that way. Each time you pick one picture a lot of other pictures automatically get eliminated. Just the way it goes.

Bottom line: getting people to look at pictures and tell you what they see is incredibly important. It's a proven antidote to hubris.

Sorry to go on for so long here but you have brought up a very important point. Thanks,


Luca Baldassarre

Thank you for sharing these editing experiences. For me, and I hope for many others, I think it will be enormously valuable if you could write a post about the editing procedure at NG and other magazines you've worked for.

Jordi Busqué

I'm also very interested to know all you have to say about editing process. I once got an story edited by a NG editor and was a really, really interesting experience. Good editors should write books about that. There are many of us who will be very happy to know all they have to say.


Many thanks Jim, very interesting.

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