Edit Your Photos. Please.

The video embedded above may not appeal to everyone but it could be interesting for anyone who takes a lot of photographs. It’s a short (6-1/2 minutes) testimony to the relationship between National Geographic photographers and their editors, and offers some insight into the editing process at a professional level.

I’ve had a number of opportunities in recent years to participate in workshops and other sessions led by professional photographers, including some from Nat Geo. The editing process is one important topic that always comes up and, it turns out, the photographer does very little of that editing by themselves. That’s why they have editors. 

However, those professionals use the term “editing” very differently than most regular picture takers.1 For them, editing photos is about cropping the image, maybe applying a filter or two, changing the brightness. Or just clicking the Auto button to see if the software can improve things. Professionals refer to those changes as “processing” the images.

For professional photographers and their editors, editing is the process of reviewing a relatively huge number of photos and selecting the relatively few that will be used in a project. At Nat Geo that can mean taking 40,000 images (or more) and finding fifteen or so that will best enhance the story.

I can’t imagine that job. It’s hard enough when I come back from a trip with 800 photos and have to pare them down to a collection that my friends and family will actually want to view. Part of my editing also involves writing a title (instead of IMG-1171), a short description, and adding a few keywords for each image I post online to Flickr and/or my SmugMug sites.

I also love viewing photos taken by others but I really wish more of them would do a better job of editing of their pictures. Too many people simply post almost everything they take to their social media channels with little or no culling of the lesser images. As a result, the narrative in those pictures can get lost.

Spend some extra time on editing those photos and they will tell a better story. Thank you.


1. I mean absolutely nothing negative in that phrase. I’m also a “regular picture taker” who is working to improve my skills and I love helping others do the same.

Facing the Future

Person of Interest scene

Apple is heavily promoting the feature in their top line iPhone X that scans and recognizes the owner’s face to access the device. I won’t be getting one.

Although there are probably a few bugs in their Face ID system, I’m not especially worried about any potential security issues of someone opening my phone because the software mistakes their face for mine. It’s just that the 2-1/2 year old phone I have now works fine, thank you.

However, on the broader topic of face recognition technology in the real world, a recent edition of the podcast IRL suggests we all need to pay attention.

We aren’t quite at the level of the techies in police and spy TV shows who can access almost any camera in the world and then identify faces with near 100% accuracy, but that future is closer than you might think.

For example, China is creating a database containing the faces of their entire population – 1.3 billion people – and a system that can “match a person’s face to his or her photo ID within three seconds and with 90% accuracy”. They plan to have it in place by 2020, just three years off.

But some applications are much closer to home. The photo management software that comes with most computers does a pretty good job of matching faces in your pictures. Google’s cloud-based Photos application has already collected several hundred million photos and you gotta wonder what they’re learning from all that data.

Anyway, the podcast episode, produced by the Mozilla Foundation, is worth a half hour of your time.


The picture is a promotional scene from the television series Person of Interest. Their computer could do a whole lot more than just identify faces.

Photos From EduCon

Another EduCon has flashed by and I’ll have more to say about this weekend a little later. For now, here are a few images I caught from this year’s conference.

The Friday opening panel offered their insights on the topic of curiosity. Moderated by Zac Chase and featuring Stephanie Sandifer, Antero Garcia, RaFranz Davis, and Milton Chen.

Chris Lehmann, SLA founding principal and our host for EduCon.

One of the EduCon discussions, this one wrestling with how to help students find the truth in current events.

Always looking for a new angle to picture the weekend.

Zac Chase, always passionate about whatever he’s presenting.

Cannoli shells waiting for the filling. I was hungry.

Photo Post

Last Friday here in the DC area, we had an unusually warm winter day after several weeks of freezing weather. That plus some rain produced some amazing fog on the Potomac River. Below are some photos taken from the waterfront in Alexandria. More are in this collection and in this one by Kathy, my friend and photo partner.

Iced In

A row of boats caught in the Potomac River ice at the Alexandria marina.

Birds

Ducks in the water and gulls standing on the ice.

Casino

The MGM Grand hotel and casino seen through the fog from the Alexandria waterfront.

Bridge

The Woodrow Wilson bridge shrouded in fog.

Día de los Muertos

I’ve been absent from this space for several weeks, and part of that was due to a wonderful trip to observe and photograph Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead celebrations, in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Although too many people in the US equate this annual event with our domestic Halloween, they are not at all the same. Despite the efforts of many large retailers to merge and commercialize them.

Anyway, below are a few of the images I took during the week. More can be found in the full gallery, if you’re interested.

Parade

One big part of the three day celebration were the many parades through the center of town. This was one of the smaller ones.

Selfie

Selfies are one of those universals in every culture.

Skulls

The variety of decorated skulls, visible almost everywhere, was amazing.

Face Paint 2

Although whole families are involved with Day of the Dead celebrations, children were front and center for many events, especially the parades.