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Learn How to Cull, Edit & Process Like a Regular Dad

All kinds of amateur and professional photographers (including the writer of CK Guides) tell me that I am 'really good about' culling and editing my photos. I'm a really disorganized person otherwise. That said, here's what I do.  

  • I take as many pictures as I want to take on whatever camera I happen to have with me.
  • This can be my always-a-generation-older-than-yours iPhone, my super-portable Canon G11, or most recently my entry-level Canon DSLR. Sometimes, though, I'll even just grab a friend or family member's camera, take some pictures, and download them on my computer later.  It's something to do, and it's social. No one gets hurt.
  • I then plug a card (or my iPhone) into my Mac. I tend to do this at least once a month, and typically I do it the very day that I've taken some pictures that I'm particularly excited about. The iPhone I only dump when I run out of space, which is (sadly) frequently, because I always have an iPhone that is crappier than yours. I walk away and let iPhoto take its time figuring out what is going on. When I return, I select the earliest photo I'm fairly sure I haven't downloaded and then press command + V and select the most recent photo. Then I press "import selected." Next, I walk away and do something.    
  • After everyone had gone to bed and nobody needs me, I go through the pictures quickly and drag the ones I consider "worth keeping" into an album called "worth keeping 2014."  Yes, I have "worth keeping 2013," etc. Every picture I drag is a picture that is fairly (potentially) beautiful in my opinion. I admit failure. Beautiful moments that I tried (but failed) to capture DON'T make it in here, and images that now strike me as having great potential that seemed mundane at the time DO make it in here.
    • NOTE #1:  I don't do ANY editing/retouching while I'm dragging. That may/may not come later.
    • NOTE #2: I'm hoping that I will have the nerve to destroy all the pictures EXCEPT my "worth keeping 20xx" folders.  Then my children (and myself and others) will actually look at them, rather than sift through and get bogged down in the thousands of experiments and failures of this novice photographer.
  • If I ever am bored at night, I might edit the photos in my most recent "worth keeping" album to make each as good as I can make it.  I have no money, time, or technical aspirations, so I just edit them in iPhoto. With each photo, I think, "what do I like about the photo," and "what isn't quite right"?  If the interesting thing is the composition (not the color), I might edit to emphasize the shapes and composition. If the interesting thing is the color, I might edit and crop to focus on that. If the interesting thing is the light and shadows, I might experiment to find the best way to bring that out using the limited iPhoto software.
  • I show the most recent album as a slideshow to friends and family (usually on a vacation or weekend where there is nothing else to do) if they truly seem interested. This helps me understand how my pictures come across. I get valuable feedback about every aspect -- snapping the shot, selecting, editing -- by doing this. It also motivates me to work on my albums like they are little novice gallery shows that might be viewed at any time.  

I guess my system works (for me) because it's fluid, flexible, and stimulating. I import pictures whenever I get a chance. I select the good ones whenever I feel like it. I retouch them (or don't) at night whenever I get a chance (which is when other people would probably watch television or something). My Mac organizes them chronologically and seamlessly so that whatever camera I use is just fine. When it comes time to make a book, calendar, christmas card, slideshow or some other thing, I already know what I am semi-proud of (which is literally less than 1% of my pictures ... yes, sad, but true), and I only look at my annual albums.  It's fun and rewarding. by Rob McMaken, a husband, father, teacher, musician, and all around awesome friend. 


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