Clean the Clutter – The Longer the Wait, the Easier the Edit

Samantha and I have spoken many times about being ruthless in editing your work. Keep only the good stuff, toss the rest. Easier said than done though!

Of course, the longer you wait to edit your images, the more likely you’ll be objective and really clean the clutter. I finally got around to editing and processing my images from The Glory of Autumn in the Canadian Rockies Workshop held in, wait for it… 2011! So after two and a half years of sitting on the hard drive it was easy to look at the images objectively. Of the 500 photos I took, most of them seemed pretty pedestrian. I narrowed the selects down to about 50 images with ‘potential’ and in the end kept only 25 photos. I wonder if I waited another 2 years if I would keep any at all! Hmmmm… I just found several folders of images from the fall of 2005, the more time passes, the more ruthless I get.

Below are the 16 images I liked the best from the 2011 workshop. It remains to be seen if any of these images make it to my top 100 list over time. It will be interesting to see if I have anything at all to share from the 2005 trip!

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©Darwin Wiggett

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©Darwin Wiggett

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Abraham Lake, Kootenay Plains, Alberta, Canada ©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett

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©Darwin Wiggett

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©Darwin Wiggett

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©Darwin Wiggett

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©Darwin Wiggett

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©Darwin Wiggett

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©Darwin Wiggett  

About the Author

I am a Canadian landscape and outdoor photographer who loves long hikes in the woods, yummy food, hairy dogs, good company and a good guitar jam.

13 Comments

  1. Jeff Sinon
    April 14, 2014

    I’m the same way! I’m pretty brutal during my initial go-through of uploaded images, but there’s still a lot that just sits there taking up space on my hard drive.

    Going back through older folders with a more critical eye, less influenced by emotion, I not only weed out more crap, but I almost always find some hidden gems that I’m amazed I never did anything with.

    Reply
    • Darwin Wiggett
      April 15, 2014

      Yes, those hidden gems, stuff you you take with intuition but not with intention. Those ones end up standing the test of time because they come from the heart and not the head (the latter being a product of expectations).

  2. Sarah Marino
    April 14, 2014

    I really enjoyed looking through this collection, and really love the first image. It is really striking and beautiful.

    Distance from the experience definitely does help with objectivity. I also find that the images I liked most when photographing often do not stand the test of time and I instead come back to images I did not really like as much when taking them. I have the habit of often liking images where I took a single test photo and then moved on. I so wish I had worked on some of these test shots more because they turn out better than some of the compositions I then settled on later.

    Reply
    • Darwin Wiggett
      April 15, 2014

      Sarah, your experience is common. We go and make photos with expectations of a result (e.g. a big sunrise over a reflecting mountain lake) but the quick snap we made of a leaf floating on the pond has more resonance. Our intuitive mind makes creative images, our intentional mind makes safe, predictable images.

  3. Scott Dimond
    April 14, 2014

    Darwin, I understand your point, but from a business standpoint, does it really make sense to leave “raw inventory” sitting around for 2 1/2 years before “processing it” and having it available as a “finished product” that could produce revenue? Scott

    Reply
  4. Darwin Wiggett
    April 14, 2014

    Photos can produce revenue? Wow, that’s great news! ;-)

    Reply
  5. Jeff Cruz
    April 14, 2014

    Thanks Darwin. It’s good to know that it’s not only me that “sits” on their images. I have yet to go through photos from a Spain trip I took in 2009.

    I like the term you used, “pedestrian”. I hope you don’t mind, I will steal it and use it with pride when I explain images that lack the certain je ne sais quoi.

    Reply
    • Darwin Wiggett
      April 15, 2014

      Most of us make pedestrian images most of the time… it is the rare gems of personal vision that keep us interested in photography.

  6. Gary Crabbe / Enlightened Images
    April 14, 2014

    Yup. I myself have just caught myself up to April 2011. I made a vow this winter that I would finally plow through some of those long forgotten folders; some dating back to my very first digital image, then captured with my spanky-new Nikon D2x way back in 2005. For most of those old folders, I may have only processed between 4 – 25 images; perhaps 30% of what I might have done a few years ago. I call it “slice n’ dice” editing. But alas, “Ruthless” is an easy word to tell others how to handle their editing, but it’s always feels a bit more difficult when it’s our own images. But it can be done… with practice.

    All very worthy and beautiful images.

    Cheers!

    Reply
    • Darwin Wiggett
      April 15, 2014

      Would it not be great to be totally caught up. I have given myself to June 30 to finish my backlog of images. Whatever I am not done by then will be thrown away! Now that is motivation.

  7. hiro
    April 14, 2014

    Thanks, Darwin. Great images say usual. I should clean my fridge. I have to develop film I shot since 2012.

    Reply
  8. Randy Centner
    April 15, 2014

    Beautiful selections Darwin!
    The subject you bring up reminds me of the old days of slides and that that medium meant two things: slides were more unforgiving than digital so it was far harder to fix a bad image and two, a big trash can was required to sit next to the light table. It seemed a requirement (expensive but necessary) to toss them away if they weren’t ‘perfect’ but every now and again stuff that shouldn’t make it through did because of emotion.
    Case in point… my first bald eagle. He sat high in a tree at St. Marks in Florida… about a 1/2 mile away and even with a 600mm it takes an eagles eye to know that is an eagle at all. But those slides made the cut back then mostly because they were my first. I knew even if everyone else was unsure even with a 10x loupe.
    Those slides have stayed around (not really sure why) but that was many years ago and I’m not about to wade through those thousands of slides now to cull the bad ones. Those files give the filing cabinet something to do and I think I’ll let those dusty sleeping dogs lie. Someday my kids will get to ‘enjoy’ them.
    But I think I’m much more strict and brutal with my shots now, especially with digital. There are times when I might only shoot 50 or so images and not be happy with more than 2 or 3 so those stay and the rest vanish at the click of a mouse, which is okay since it’s a waste processing something that should go. There is other stuff to do besides tweak bad images. :)

    Reply
  9. Jan
    April 16, 2014

    Hi Darwin,
    I absolutly agree with your observation that the chance of an image to be considered a keeper diminishes over the years, but at least in my opinion this has less to do with a more ruthless attitude depending on the photos age. I see that my standards of quality are rising constantly as I evolve as a photographer and something that I considered state of my art two years ago might not meet my standards right now. So it’s not really myself that has changed, becoming more ruthless, but it’s to a relevant degree the images that change. Of course, these two things are connected when you’re on a high learning curve, but the perspective is different – more positive I might say ;)
    Thanks for making me think about this. Have a great day,
    Jan

    Reply

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