Finding Your Inner Photo Editor

I don't know about you, but when I think of an editor, I get a funny image of an impatient, cigar smoking, fast talking guy right out of a black & white film from the 40's. Those guys were no nonsense straight shooters who were not afraid to tell it like it is. “If it's a good picture, we run it on page one. If not, you can find it in tomorrow's trash”. Those guys were classic. Today, I am going to explain why you need to embrace those characteristics of an editor.

So why do you need to know the art of photo editing? There are a couple of reasons. One reason is for yourself and the other reason deals with those who see your images.

Once photography moved over into the digital realm, the amount of photos a photographer can take became unlimited. In the days of film, you also had the option to shoot a lot of photos, but every time you clicked the shutter, it costs you money for film, processing and prints. With the advent of digital photography, we now have the ability to shoot as many photos as we'd like without spending a penny. When we are not paying for every frame, we tend to get pretty cavalier about shooting hundreds of photos. While this has been a great technical advancement, it can also cause a logjam on your computer. Not a problem if you didn't have a full time job, kids, homework, dinners to prepare and a house to clean. Believe me, the photos pile up fast and if you are not channeling your inner editor, you will not only run out of computer space, but you will quickly lose interest in diving into this project later on. So what is the secret? Edit quickly and be a ruthless editor. 

I find that the best time to edit a game's worth of photos is within 24 hours of the game itself. Preferably the same day. I still have a curiosity to see what I took and once I move on to something else, editing tends to become just another thing on my To Do List. One of my rules of thumb is this: if I can't visualize this photo printed and framed and hung in my home, then I think about editing it. Does that mean it needs to be amazing for me to keep it? No, but I do want it to be in focus, show some faces and perhaps represent good action or emotion.

sports photography edittingLet’s use a track example. Your son is running in the 800 meter race. You are going to photograph him coming out of the blocks during the race and at the finish line. Each time he runs by, you are going to burn off 10 or more frames. So does that mean that you will have 30+ amazing photos? Not at all. In reality, you probably have 5-7 keepers and really only one or two where everything gels. In each of those bursts there will be shots where he is too small in the frame, his hands covered his face, a few that are out of focus, a few where he has an embarrassing grimace, a few where another runner blocked him, identical frames, etc. So instead of keeping all of them, edit out those that you wouldn’t be proud to hang in his room.“But these are photos of my son. I can’t just throw them away. In 20 years all of these images will be special memories.” I have a way to help you with this emotional dilemma. Create a folder on your computer desktop called Edits. Now while you are playing the role of the Editor, take all those photos you edit and drop them into this folder. Now they have been separated from the main images but they have not been deleted. They are safely stored in the Edits folder. Here is the final step. In about 2-3 weeks, open up those images in the edits folder and look again. Chances are, the emotional attachment has diminished and you will ask yourself, “Why am I saving these?” and you will move them to the trash. Bye, bye. Let me share a secret with you; even after 25+ years of taking sports photos, I still find myself building an Edits folder every once in a while. Especially when they are photos of family or friends. In almost every case, those edited pictures end up in the trash within a few weeks.

One other reason why editing is so important is for sharing your images with others. It could be that when you are out there shooting pictures, you are attempting to take photos of all the kids on your team. Good for you! However, have mercy on all those other parents with the same To-Do list that you have. Although they will appreciate the photos, they wont appreciate a gallery of 500 images which includes all the images you should have edited to begin with. When I first got into photography, I used to think that the more images I gave to my clients, the more choices they would have. After time, you realize that too many images become a burden for the person you are sharing with. Instead of 500, send 50. They can still include a wide variety of athletes; you have just fine tuned the choices.

Ready to get tough? After your next shoot, edit quickly, be critical and find that inner editor.

Have fun!

bio pic

Scott Quintard is a professional photographer based in southern California and a 25 year sports photography veteran who specializes in teaching parents and aspiring photographers about how to capture sports imagery. Credits include 12 years as the official team photographer for the UCLA Bruins and a seasoned contributor for NFL Properties, MLB, NBA and NCAA. Scott is a husband and father of three young athletes. See more of Scott's offerings at

Release Date: Nov 20 2013

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