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Wedding Webinar – Editing Photos, How to Choose the Best Shot

Editing Photos, How to Choose the Best Shot
Wedding and Event Photography and NIK Image Enhancement Webinar
John Bentham

Digital Photo Academy and LivinginHD present a free monthly series of photography webinars on Your host, John Bentham answers many questions live during the webinars. Additional questions, answers and tips are posted here on where you can also view the archived webinars.


Photo by Craig Strong, Lensbaby, Portland Oregon

The stylish photo above shot by Lensbaby inventor and CEO, Craig Strong has a dreamy quality to it which is what the Lensbaby does best. You can see the classic Lensbaby Sweet Spot center, surrounded by the soft focus fall off front and back, and the soft breadth of focus side to side. Craig culled through a number of frames to pull this one one shot where the center sharpness was just right in addition to the positioning of the bride, groom and priest.

When editing a large number of photographs the difficulty is often determining which are the 10 best, or one best from a series of photos. This can be especially difficult if you are just beginning your photography career. I remember my first assisting job many years ago, I was a week out of photo school and had landed a job working for a fashion photographer. My very first task was to develop 50 rolls of 35mm black and white negative film the photographer had shot a few days before. Stressfully I developed the film and made contact sheets without any hitches and I started looking through the images with a loupe. The shoot was a marketing campaign for a wool marketing board. The photographs were of a young boy wrapped up in a plaid wool blanket asleep in the back seat of a beautiful vintage 1950s Chevy. It was a sweet, nostalgic, softly lit beautiful image. The problem was out of 1800 images I couldn’t tell one from the other, to me they all looked the same.

Photos by Adam Stoltman, DPA Instructor New York

In the sequence of four photographs above shot by New York DPA Instructor Adam Stoltman you can see the progression of events as the bride and groom enjoy a personal moment alone on the beach during their wedding in the Bahamas. When editing this sequence you should look for specific things to determine which is the strongest image. Top Left: This photo is interesting but the groom is all but blocking the bride. There is a little bit of sea grass coming in from the bottom but its more a distraction than a working element. Top Right: This photo is beginning to come together, there is separation between the bride and groom. The grass is more prominent. Bottom Left: In this image the grass becomes a more significant and playful element making for a stronger photograph by adding another dimension and depth to the image. Bottom Right: This for me is the best image of the series. The sea grass is in a nice position. There is good separation between the new couple where you can really see their clasped hands a very nice touch. And finally the brides face is tilted up catching the light a bit more than the previous shots. Sometimes all is takes is a bit of luck. Of course once you’ve done your homework, and found your camera position, and chose your focal length, and set your focus, and nailed the exposure, etc, etc ……! Look again at the final select below and you will notice the details I have pointed out.

Photos by Adam Stoltman, DPA Instructor New York

When you first start looking at images, yours or those of other photographers, this is a uncommon issue. The skill of choosing a winner develops over time and develops faster the more images you look at. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to edit a shoot down to just one image a good technique is to compare no more than two images at once. Its very easy to get confused and overwhelmed when you’re juggling 20 – 30 images in your head. You keep jumping back and forth between 10 – 15 good ones and get confused very easily and can never come to a decision. The trick is a system, you just start with an initial edit, weed out what we call the winks and blinks, any shots with people making funny faces, or any technical gaffs, where the exposure or focus didn’t work well etc. Delete those. Then go through and tag what you consider the best as an initial edit. From a shoot of 500 images you′re looking to pull out 100 possible images. Then go through that 100 and pull out a better quality selection of 25 images. Now you′re down to a reasonable number to begin comparing individual images in pairs. Switch your editing process to a method where you are comparing only two images at any one time. Adobe Bridge works well for this as you can easily pull up on screen any two images from a folder. Then star rating system in Bridge is useful as well, you just tag your possible selects with a star (or multiple stars) and then by switching the view option to View by Rating, you can drag or save all your selects to a new folder in one move.

Using this method reduces the editing process to a simple process of elimination  – Is this one better than that one? Yes or no? Each time you compare two images you choose the best one and then move on to compare it to the next image. Don’t waver, don’t start back pedaling and give an image a second look, fight the urge. You will find this works very well if you stick to your guns. If you don’t believe me just start the whole process over again. More often than not you will come out with the same best shot in the end. After a bit of practice using this method you can edit very quickly and painlessly. After doing this for 20 years I can now cull a shoot of 2000 images down to 10-20 select images in about 1 hour. You’ve heard the adage, first you get good, then you get fast. Give it a try and go for it.

Photo by John Bentham, DPA Instructor New York

The image above shot by New York DPA instructor John Bentham was chosen from approximately 25 images of the bride and grooms dash from the church to the limo. All in the scene was tart to finish 30 seconds but by shooting high burst rate John was able to record quite a number of frames. John chose the shot above because it appeared the bride and groom were really worried about being pelted with rice, it showed defensive posture and their determination to get to the car. A somewhat atypical image perhaps but fun none the less.


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