A Case for Photographer Objectivity

One of the wonderful things about photography is that it is, for the most part, an individual effort — a personal expression. It takes an entire crew to create a TV news story — a producer, camera person and sound person, at minimum.  A movie requires hundreds of people. Still photography, however, is more similar to writing a book: it’s generally seen as a one-person endeavor.

One of the common mistakes photographers make, however, is continuing this one-person-show mindset after the event or shoot is over.  Even writers depend on others, and the fact that so many authors attribute their success to their editors shows just how important it can be to involve other people in your art.

I recommend, at a minimum, always having another set of eyes look at your pictures.  Why?  Photographs are not created in a vacuum.  Emotions are captured along with each image, and those emotions cannot be separated from the images.  But emotions are not limited to a photograph’s subjects; they are also felt by the photographer.  It is crucial that you are aware of the fact that these emotions can and will carry over into your editing of them.

For example, if the photographer overcame an extreme obstacle to get that picture (perhaps a difficult church lady telling you not to shoot during the ceremony, but you found a way to get a view anyway), he or she might feel a stronger attachment to the image.   The feeling of triumph associated with that photo doesn’t necessarily mean the picture is a keeper, however.   It’s hard to stay objective about the editing process when you have your own emotions tied up in certain images.

If you are still skeptical about emotions clouding your judgment when editing your own photographs, try this little experiment.  Open an event you edited but have not looked at in over a month.  Look at the keepers and rejects and see if there are some decisions you would make differently now.  Chances are you’ll question more than a few of the choices you made.  Being further away from the event, you have the ability to look a little more objectively at these things.  The passage of time changes everyone.  It’s a simple human reality: our own perceptions and experiences slant our view and change as we move further away from the moment.

So what can you do?  It is your vision, after all, and you don’t want someone else interpreting it.  Well, when dealing with a single art photograph that may be true, but for weddings or other large events with hundreds or thousands of photographs, it is a good idea to get input from others who are emotionally detached.  Some labs today offer editing services, and this is a great way to get a new pair of eyes you can trust to look at your photos.  PWD Labs, for example, does all my editing, and they do a great job.  I’m able to give their editors — themselves experienced photographers — guidance and feedback, and they have learned what I like.  In this way, I’m not totally removed from the process.

Besides adding a level of objectivity I could never achieve, having a professional editor cull and correct my photos lightens my workload and helps my images look as good as possible.  Give it a try.  You might just be pleasantly surprised at some of the choices they make that you wouldn’t have.