With digital cameras, it’s all too easy to capture hundreds or even thousands of images. Shooting high-speed bursts of images is excellent when trying to capture the perfect moment, but you end up with many photos that you don’t need or want. If you don’t have a good workflow for culling images and making selects, your hard drive will be jam-packed with unwanted images in short order. National Geographic contributing photographer Steve Winter worked with WIRED on a new video that outlines the thought process of a professional photographer as he makes image selects. It’s a neat look behind the scenes and inside the mind of a pro.
For the video below, Winter, a wildlife photographer with extensive experience photographing big cats in the wild, was challenged to turn his lens toward a domestic cat in the studio. He applied his decades of experience to the task of telling a story about a house cat in a single frame out of 112 frames.
Winter’s first pass through his large group of images is to edit for technical issues. Images that are underexposed or overexposed are thrown out. After the first round, 91 images remain. The next round of culling focuses on framing. This is different from composition. Winter is looking for images that cut off part of the cat because it was moving. The third round of selects focuses on composition. As Winter puts it, ‘Composition is so very important, and I was taught that at a very young age. As soon as an image feels clunky, you’re going to know it.’ While he can crop, Winter prefers to compose within the camera’s frame, which he says has made him a better photographer. After editing for framing and composition, we’re down to 28 images.
After eliminating images that are incorrectly exposed, badly framed, and not compositionally sound, the next step is eliminating photos that don’t do a good job of telling the story of the cat and its home. Finding one single image to tell the story is no easy task. If the cat is looking away from the backdrop of the city, it’s not conveying the same emotion, so those are eliminated. If the photo is too tight on the cat, it doesn’t tell the full story of the cat’s home, and those are eliminated, too. It’s interesting to watch Winter choose between similar images.
After narrowing it down to just a pair of images from the original batch of 112, how does Winter choose the ultimate keeper? Gut instinct. As Winter says to close out the video, ‘Every day is a school day, and as we edit, we learn what we can do next time.’ If you learn what you like and dislike about your images, you’ll become a better photographer.
To see what Steve Winter captures when he photographs wild cats, head to his website where he has beautiful photographs of leopards, tigers, cougars, snow leopards, jaguars and much more.