Not Ruthless Enough to Be Great, But That’s Okay

I'm less afraid of garish colors and blown-out highlights than I used to be. I'm starting to prioritize impact when I review images.

Over time, I’ve gotten a pretty good handle on the technical side of dance performance photography.

Unfortunately, that makes editing more difficult, as there are fewer out-of-focus or totally mis-exposed images to trash immediately. Last weekend, I shot 3,209 frames at a series of dance concerts. After the first cull, I still had over 800 images worthy of closer inspection.

After the second pass, about 500 images remained. I set about doing some cursory post-processing on them, and that helped me weed out another couple hundred photos.

I'm a sucker for this kind of action shot. The unusual crop means people won't order prints, but to crop this as an eight by ten would really diminish the subject.

At this point, I began post-processing in earnest, cropping, color-correcting, and retouching about 300 pictures, each with its own redeeming qualities. I told myself that this was far too many images, and that I would have to do some very ruthless editing.

I tried. I failed.

Here’s the thing: If I only shared the five best images from those 3,209 options, people would “ooh” and “aah” and proclaim me a very good photographer.  But I’m not posting five. I’m posting 242. While my primary goal is to make good photographs, the objective of the shoot is to provide illustrations for the teacher and keepsakes for the dancers and their families. And there are a lot of dancers, so I err on the side of quantity over quality, hoping to increase the odds that each dancer will find something he or she likes.

I prefer shots of one or two dancers, but the stage is usually full of people. I find it really difficult to get a good shot when there are fifty or sixty kids on stage.

Here’s another really funny thing about editing. It’s easier to pick the single best shot out of 3,209 than it is to pick the best five, and it’s easier to pick the best five than to pick the best twenty.  The best ones pick themselves, really.  During this week, I’ll show some of my favorites and go over some of the lessons learned and re-learned over the weekend. We’ll talk about noise reduction, raw versus jpeg, monopods, and physical fitness; all of which were on my mind while I shot.

We'll talk about noise reduction later in the week. Even with all the noise/grain, several of us think this would make a nice album cover. If people still made records or cds..

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Filed under Dance and Theater, Low Light, Post Processing

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