My Photo Editor Mind - What is a freelance picture editor?

What do you do? I get this all the time. A freelance picture editor? What is that? Well in my case, I don’t work for a publication or freelance for a publication. I work directly with photographers. Need an honest opinion of your work? Need help deciding the direction of your future? Need a really tight edit? I can talk over story ideas with you or help you focus your website for the work you want to do. I can help you figure out who you are as a photographer. I can edit for a show, book, workshop, contest, or a grant. I can help you make sense of a video that is overwhelming and has no direction. All that and more, I’m here to help you.

My Photo Editor Mind - Nima Taradji

Finding and following your passion is what Nima is all about. A trial lawyer for 14 years, he had an opportunity to retire, so he turned is life-long passion to become a photographer into a reality. That’s pretty amazing in itself, but I think Nima’s strengths are his pursuit of understanding the world he lives in. You can tell what Nima cares about just by viewing his most recent work, showing the world a different culture, a different point of view, whether social, cultural or political.

I’ve worked with Nima over the last year, and every time I see new work from him, I see him continuing to grow as a photographer, challenging himself to venture into a world he knows nothing about to learn about it. It was no surprise when Nima got accepted into the Eddie Adams workshop last year. Here is one of my favorites images Nima shot last year from the Bud Billiken Day Parade.

New Budbilliken Edit.01.JPG

My Photo Editor Mind - It does matter

I spent the day filling out postcards for the ACLU, reminding people why it’s important to vote in the upcoming midterm elections. Following the 2016 election, the fight for voting rights remains as critical as ever. Politicians across the country continue to engage in voter suppression efforts. Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy and the fundamental right upon which all our civil liberties rest.  Please vote!

My Photo Editor Mind - It’s a sign

Anyone who has ever worked with me knows signs are a pet peeve of mine. It doesn’t matter: street signs, storefront signs, etc. It’s a sign; it doesn’t have emotion; it lacks imagination and creativity on the part of the photographer. Have I seen good sign pictures? Yes, but they are the exception, not the rule.  

Yes, photos of signs can be funny and clever, and I’ve seen great ones. But a person holding a sign, lacking any expression, gives me no essence of that person, and the sign takes on too great an importance. I always think of it as cheating in photography.  

I’m not saying a sign can’t be part of an image, but if you are relying solely on the sign to tell a story, you’re not doing your job.

My Photo Editor Mind - Take a breath

Take a breath. Maybe it’s the time of year, but I’ve said these words to quite a few people lately. Either 1) there is so much going on you can’t seem to cover it all, or 2) nothing is going on, and you know there is something happening but you just don’t see it or can’t find it. But running around like a crazy person isn’t the answer. Let’s take the first thing. You have a ton to cover, you need pictures of everything, that’s what the client wants. Okay, I get it. That’s tough, shoot everybody and everything. Whew! But instead of constantly running around, even if you have a few minutes at one site/event, stop and take a breath. Survey the land. Look around and focus on what you are going to shoot. 

Now, if the problem is that nothing is going on, running around chasing nothing isn’t going to help. Once again, survey the land. Set up in a place where the odds are good you might see something, get comfy and wait. It could be a scenic place so you would get a nice shot to begin with, and then again, take a breath and wait.

My Photo Editor Mind - Websites run amok

Why does your website have anything and everything you ever shot? If this is just for vanity, go right ahead, but if you are trying to get work, stop for a minute and think what you are telling me. I’ll tell you: I have no sense of who I am as a photographer. I have no idea what a good picture is, or for that matter, what a good story is. I care more about my ego than I do about the message of my images. I think every picture I take is worth viewing, which clearly translates into I don’t know a good picture if it hit me over the head. If you hire me, you will have no idea what you are getting because I clearly have no sense of myself. Get it? 

That’s not to say any of this is true, it’s just the message you are sending. I can help you organize your website so your message is clear.  

My Photo Editor Mind - Editing a book

Ioana Moldovan, a documentary photojournalist from Romania, contacted me right before she went to Toronto, Canada to shoot the Invictus Games. After working on the story for months before the games (the training, the relationships, etc.), she decided she wanted to turn the story into a book. Count me in, I said. She sent me close to a 1,000 images, and she needed them edited before she got on the plane so that she had a better idea of what to shoot while at the games. I did the edit over the course of several days and then started thinking about how to lay the images out and which to showcase. When she returned from the games, she had some great images, and we began working those photos in with the already edited photos. Within days (and hours of phone calls), we were done. 

Want to publish a book? I can craft the images so they flow perfectly and highlight your best work.


My Photo Editor Mind - A picture editor is...

I recently had some friends in town, and eventually, we got to talking about my job. They knew my title but not many details. Most people don’t know what a picture editor does. “Oh, you edit pictures? You just pick them?” Oh my, it’s so much more than that. Some of the hats I wear are: Therapist – a lot of times people are in a crisis situation and need either a shoulder to cry on or moral support. Mentor – helping guide a photographer to strengthen their photography, improve and grow. Butt-kicker – sometimes that’s what is needed, stop complaining and get to work. Project planner – helping you define a picture story to improve the visual reportage. Picture editor – actually picking a few pictures out of hundreds that will tell the story in the most powerful way. Website organizer – Well, I think you get the point. A picture editor is that inner voice you need to help you succeed.

My Photo Editor Mind - Lauren Stewart

Lauren Stewart wants to be a travel photographer. She came to me about six months ago and wanted help to improve her photography and start selling it. We narrowed down her vision for travel photography, defining who she was as a travel photographer and where to focus her energy. Lauren has a natural ability as a photographer; her compositions are strong, and she has a great sense of space and texture. We’re working on her getting closer to her subjects, but I know she can do this.

While she’s working on her photography, she teaches English in China during the summer and teaches tennis classes at the University of South Carolina when she’s back home. Also, she tutors English as a Second Language to students at USC and volunteers at a child’s language learning center that promotes cultural understanding.

Here is one of my favorite pictures Lauren recently shot in Kashmir.


My Photo Editor Mind - Words Matter

You only get once chance to make a first impression, and if that first impression is poor grammar on your website, my opinion of you just sank. I’m not saying you need to write poetry, but for goodness sakes, the grammar and spelling should be correct. I’m talking about simple things like, “I worked [on] the New York Times.” Seriously?  Which leads me to captions, if you can’t write a simple sentence, I’m guessing your captions won’t be very good either. Take some time; have a friend look over your website. Your pictures can be great, but oh those words matter. Poor grammar and misspellings take away from your professionalism.