It’s All in the Editing

“You must have a really expensive camera—what kind is it?” This is the question I hear most frequently when friends admire my pictures. People, it seems, imagine that if they had the “right kind” of photographic equipment, they then could take pictures that look just like mine.

My experience in photography, however, has taught me that the success of any given photo depends very little upon the kind of camera with which it was taken. Checking my Dreamstime home page right now, I see that nine out of my ten “most downloaded” images were taken with an inexpensive point-and-shoot camera. In fact, sales of my single most downloaded image (No. 11436768) have netted me more than twice the price of the camera I used to take the picture!

Forest path

“It’s all in the editing,” I patiently explain to friends who try to understand the secret of my success. To illustrate this, I sometimes ask friends to send me pictures they themselves have taken—pictures they had hoped would be good, but which in the end proved somehow disappointing. What usually happens is that after just a few minutes of editing, I can so substantially “improve” a picture that my friends are amazed. “You see,” I explain, exaggerating only slightly, “there are no bad pictures—just bad editing.” Or maybe no editing at all.

Although photography for me is more a hobby than a business, I still edit all my pictures—trying hard to shape each photo into a small masterpiece. It’s an artistic endeavor. My job is to bring a picture to life. I remove chromatic aberration and noise. I enhance the photo’s vibrance, adjust shadows and highlights, maximize brightness and contrast, correct hue and saturation. If there’s something in the photo that disturbs me, I consider cloning it out. I crop carefully for maximal effect. And I edit only a few photos at a time so I never feel rushed. I’m happiest pursuing a photographic philosophy that aspires more toward artistic perfection than mere realism. (I find the world already “real” enough!) For me, a picture’s truth lies in its beauty.

And I don’t stop editing until that masterpiece finally emerges—until I’m sure the people who see my pictures will experience an emotional response and say, “Wow!—wish I were there.”

Photo credits: Jay Beiler.

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