My Photo Editor Mind - Intimacy – Get closer

I get to look at a lot of images from a lot of photographers in varying stages of their careers – from beginners to experienced and seasoned photographers. And a common problem I see in many photographers’ work is a lack of intimacy. I actually think it’s one of the hardest aspects of photography to master. But if you want to be a great photographer, you have to be able to shine a light on the subject’s essence, their inner self. You are asking someone to become vulnerable in front of you and your camera. By achieving this intimacy, you are allowing me, the viewer, to connect with your subject, and that is when you take your photography to the next level.   

How do you accomplish this? I’m a believer in spending time with someone, lots of time, letting them get to you know you and trust you. I also think revealing a part of yourself helps too, or it might just be taking the time to listen to what they have to say, letting them know they matter. 

It’s tough, but this is when the magic happens. Just as composition and lighting are important aspects photography, so is intimacy.


My Photo Editor Mind - Website Update

It’s time to update my website. I haven’t touched it for a while, and, for me, it’s a daunting task. Because most of the recommendations and testimonials on the site are from people I worked with over three years ago, I’ve been asking people I’ve worked with recently to write something. I recently received this one from Ioana Moldovan: 

It was September 10th, 2015, when I had the inspiration to write Mary a message asking for her help. I had just returned from Ukraine, doing a story from the front lines of the war with Russia. I thought it was the most important work I had done that far and believed it needed a professional editor to give it the narrative arc I couldn’t. As a freelance, self-taught photojournalist from Romania, I had never worked with a professional photo editor before. The whole process was unfamiliar to me.

“Hi Ioana,” Mary wrote back, “it's hard to put in a little Facebook message what I can do, but basically anything you need.” At that moment, I was far from grasping the full extent of what that “anything” meant.

Ever since, Mary has been there for every important body of work I have done. She was never just an editor joggling images to send the right message, but also the person who challenged me to push my limits, to dig deeper, both into the story and myself. Mary has a sensitive eye, a deep and comprehensive view and a keen attention to details. She has this amazing ability to turn up the volume on a story and give its voice clarity and meaning. And she has the patience to make me understand why one photo is more suited than the other or why another approach might do the trick.

Working with Mary not only gave my stories the better look and feel they needed, but it made me a better photographer.

Now I know what “anything you need” stood for. It actually meant everything you need. I guess September 10th, 2015, truly was a day of inspiration.

Thank you, Mary! For precisely everything.

My Photo Editor Mind - Contests Judging

Watching this year’s POYi judging, I was reminded of how subjective photography can be. What I thought was a surefire “in” was “out” and vice versa. Sometimes, I actually got mad when I saw a good image get voted out. I saw some images I’d never seen before (different, unique) and then, all of the sudden, they were gone. But maybe the judges had seen them before. Maybe they were looking for something else this year. I had to remind myself that it was only my opinion.  

A couple of years ago I judged CPOY, and when you judge you bring your experiences, your biases, and every image you’ve ever seen before. That’s a lot of competition.

So when viewing this year’s contest, it was only how I saw these images. Maybe we all need to remember this around contest time. 

My Photo Editor Mind - Mental Vacation

In a rut? Not inspired? Shooting the same pix over and over, bored, dreading the next assignment? Maybe it’s time for a break, so you can recharge yourself. Okay, I know, you have to shoot for the next month with no breaks in the foreseeable future….but there are other ways to accomplish this.

When I was a photographer, one of the best things I could do for myself was start a project. My energy would be so focused on the project that it would inspire and energize me. Not a project person? Maybe it’s a hobby. I also enjoy home improvement projects, currently installing hardwood floors in our house. I become so consumed with the project, sometimes slightly obsessive, that other thoughts fall by the wayside. 

I appreciate it’s different for everyone, but a mental break can do wonders. Refocusing your energy on something other than those daily assignments can help inspire you and get you moving in a positive direction.


My Photo Editor Mind - 2017

Thank you to all the photographers who allowed me into their lives and souls and let me edit your work last year. Through you, I traveled to Bolivia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, North Korea, Romania, Canada, Australia, Iraq, Japan, Germany, to name a few, and many unique areas in the United States. I’ve gotten to learn about places I didn’t know anything about and got to meet some fantastic people. Here’s to a great 2018!


My Photo Editor Mind - Contest Time

What comes after Thanksgiving? Yep, a dire need to hit the gym. But maybe more importantly for some of you, it’s that time of year when people start planning their contest entries. I’ve already had people schedule my time to make sure I’m available. I’ve had my share of wins and yeah it feels pretty good, but it’s not everything. When you gather your work for possible entries, take a moment and reflect on what you have done this year: new stories, new ways of shooting, your accomplishments. Did a story you work on effect change? Did you meet a great subject that just inspired you?  There are probably a lot of great things that happened this past year, so take a moment and feel good about yourself. Reflect on the good work you have done, please. Win or lose, it’s the work that really matters.


My Photo Editor Mind – The Editor/Therapist Is In

When I was a photo editor at the Los Angeles Times, I used to joke that I was just as much a therapist as I was an editor. I don’t know if people really understand how the two are connected. Sure, I’m a picture editor; I look at images and edit them in a pretty sequence, but I always insist we talk after an edit. Why? Because it’s not just about the images. Every time you push that shutter, there are hopes and dreams connected to that moment. Did you accomplish your goal? Are you reaching your potential? Are you good enough? Are you in the right business? Are your insecurities peeking out again? Are they controlling how you shoot? I see this a lot actually. When I ask to see your outtakes or set up a meeting with you to chat, I’m trying to get inside your head to see how you handled the situation. Is there confidence, or is it frantic shooting? The next time I say I want to talk about the images after an edit, what I really want to talk about is your psyche.

My Photo Editor Mind:  What should I blog about?

It’s been so long since I posted any blogs…I have been so busy that there wasn’t any time to think except for the work in front of me. I loved it!  Then right in the middle of all that we went on a long-needed vacation to Spain. It’s been too long since I went out of the country. It’s amazing: once you step on the plane, you leave behind all the little stresses of life. Now I’m back to work and staring at a blank page wondering what to blog about, then I thought…I bet someone has a topic they would like to hear about. So let me know.


My Photo Editor Mind - Soft Edit

With that project almost done, now is the perfect time to review it and see what’s missing. I like to call this a soft edit. I think it’s really important to review your work, especially on longer-term projects to see what you missed, if the direction shifted, and to fill in the gaps. Have someone look at it that is critical, not one of your friends that thinks everything you shoot is great. You know who I’m talking about. If they can’t help you, then I can.