If anyone asks me my advice for better travel photos, my answer is it’s not the correct camera, the subject, that special lens. It’s the Edit, with a capital E.
Years ago, my late father in-law on seeing me pack 25 pounds(11.5 kilos) of cameras and 15 pounds(7 kilos) of film for a vacation once asked me if I wouldn’t enjoy myself more if I didn’t bring all this equipment on my vacation. The answer is no. That’s the whole point of a vacation for me. Me, my cameras, and images to be found. And thank goodness in this digital age, my large bag of film is now a small wallet holding my flash cards. My back is eternally grateful.
Taking photos just for myself on a trip! What bliss! Unlike my professional jobs in my studio. No art director, no client, nobody over my shoulder inquiring- “Would it look better if we just moved it a touch. Tried a different perspective? No better yet, can we try it both ways?” Arggg.
No, a trip or a vacation is my time, my vision, my photos. What memories the photos of these trips bring back. What a joy to look at the images. Afterwards, a lot find their way into my portfolio and son of a gun if I don’t get some very good jobs from showing these personal images. And no art director/client over my shoulder asking me to “Move it a touch, a different perspective, just a little more punch.”
Just what is a little more punch? Is that a longer lens, a shorter lens, more light, more shadow?
“And give us more “oomph” from the model “
OK. And what is more “oomph” from the model? What exactly is an “oomph”. Can you have less “oomph” if need be? I must have missed “oomph” class at school. Is it a raised eyebrow, a sly smile, more cleavage? Just what is it?
Ah, but the pay for shooting with these art directors. It’s enough to afford another vacation. And another round of taking my own, private photos.
My wife once asked on a trip to Paris, if I could leave the cameras in our room while we just took a stroll around the hotel in the Maris district. Being young and newly married, of course I said “yes”. So off we strolled, hand in hand, without a camera in hand, and took our stroll. Ah, look at that child. How cute. And see what that dog is doing. The face on that old lady holding her grandchild, goodness. And the kid with a loaf of bread going down the street at sunset- it’s a postcard moment. Well, it seemed like I saw great shot after great shot and it felt like everything was happening all around me. I was fully expecting a flying saucer to land in front of us and little green men to come out and take my picture, all because, of course, I didn’t have my camera. But I didn’t say a word. I bite my lip. Blood was starting to trickle down my face from biting it, but I wasn’t going to say a word.
Well, after all that she spotted, with me not saying a word, and her realizing that all that we saw, we will never be able to see again in our photos, she decided never to bring up the subject of my not bringing a camera. Even she couldn’t stand it. To this day, she never says a word about me carrying a camera. Oh, she might give me “that look”, you know, the one that all wives seem to posses, if I linger too long with a photo. But she’s also got a great eye for pointing things out to me, things I’m missing as I concentrate on something in front of me. She’ll be my eyes as to what else is going on.
We enjoy nothing better than a few weeks after a great trip looking over the photos. It takes us right there again.
After getting back and after I register everything at the Copyright Office (after the real throw aways), what I like to do is edit it down to a show of about 200 to 250 images. Rarely do I show more than 10% of what I shoot. Less than 5% or around that, makes a great show that friends or even relatives will sit through without falling asleep or making them rethink their wills. Although these days a Blurb type book seems to resonate better. There’s still something about a printed photo that people can hold, even in a book, that seems more special than seeing it on a screen.
When editing, initially I do a quick edit in Adobe Lightroom, where I just look for rejects, images I really don’t want to look at again. That gets rid of 15, 16 images. Yeah, right. As a photographer, it’s just so hard to throw out any of our own images. But hopefully that first pass will eliminate 25%. Then hopefully, a second pass will eliminate dupe images and ones that I can see will not hold up. Hopefully another 25% or more.
I then take edit one last time, ruthlessly. I will get rid of 75% to 80% of what’s left. You have to learn to be ruthless when you edit such images, or you will bore the world to tears. It’s hard for photographers to do this because we love our images so much. Get over it. Less is more. My motto, and it should be yours- “Edit more, don’t bore.”
Now looking forward to my Myanmar workshop in December of 2018. Photo opportunities await.