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.

My Photo Editor Mind - Show me the light

I recently saw a movie that was shot in the badlands of South Dakota. There was a million scenic shots of the country and landscape, over and over and over, another one and another one, but there was one thing missing from almost all of these shots. Good light. It’s as if they picked the worst time of day to shoot these, as if the photographer couldn’t be bothered to wake up at sunrise (or stay awake until sunset).

I was seriously peeved by the time the movie ended because I had to be tortured for 90 minutes with this onslaught of bad images. Granted, there are times when you don’t have a choice when to shoot something (the event is happening in the middle of the day), but when you do have a choice, remember that good lighting is a major factor in a great picture. It can add drama, texture, and emotion, or direct the viewer’s attention to a certain area of importance. After all, what is photography? It’s painting with light. So get painting! 


My Photo Editor Mind - Interpreting your soul

Being a freelance picture editor with clients from all over the world, sitting down next to each other for a chat about the work isn’t really possible. So not only do I feel my work is picture editing but actually interpreting your soul and your vision. My job is to figure out your intent with your images and then help you tell the story. 

It’s pretty amazing when I sit down with a collection of images and let them speak for themselves. Sometimes, it’s actually easier without knowing what the photog’s intent was, but to just see them and feel the emotions behind them. Eventually, the photos start telling their stories, your intentions become clear, and I begin to put the puzzle pieces together the way I believe you originally saw them. I always insist on a talk after an edit to make sure I saw what you saw, and sometimes, it turns out I saw something you might have missed.

My Photo Editor Mind – “I read the news today, oh boy”

To everyone who works in the news industry and spends countless hours seeking out the truth, thank you for keeping our governments, corporations, institutions, etc. in check, informing us about what is happening in our neighborhoods and our world. Keep up the good work; you are doing an indispensable and important job. And to those journalists who have experienced violence, threats, and reactionary criticism, stay strong. You are the guardians of truth and justice, and they must be protected. The news industry, especially newspapers, will always be a part of me, and I truly respect your dedication. 

My Photo Editor Mind - Emmy Judging Round 2

Getting ready to judge round two for the 39th Annual News & Documentary Emmy Awards. I can’t talk about any specifics of what I judged in the first round, but I can say it’s great to see innovation when it comes to telling stories. Can’t wait for round two.

My Photo Editor Mind - Best Editing Advice

After I have completed a rather large edit for a project or story or even a website, there is one thing I always do – go through all the outtakes. Seriously, all of them. I recently edited a project and had decided on my final selection. The sequence was right, the flow of images was right, each photo building on each other, telling the story. I felt it was complete; I was done. Then as I always do, I went through the outtakes.

The process of editing is a process of elimination, so you finally have a set of photos that works, but through this process, you might have deleted an image that actually works with the final edit that may not have worked with your initial thoughts on the edit.

I always check my outtakes, and on this recent project I actually pulled images back into the edit that were initially discarded. Be patient with the process; you’ve spent an awful lot of time to get these images, now take as much care in editing them. And if you need help, you know I’m here to help.

My Photo Editor Mind - Website Design

I have been getting a lot of questions lately about website design. My answer is always the same; concentrate on content, and the design will usually fix itself. I’m not saying design is not important; of course you want to make it easy to navigate around your site, but what truly matters is the work.

When you are organizing your images, think of the categories that emphasis the work you want to do and who you are as a photographer. You can’t be everything to everyone. I find that photographers excel when they are shooting what they love, whether it be stories, or daily life, etc. That’s not to say you shouldn’t add certain categories that compliment your passion. I recently worked with a photographer and after viewing her website, I really didn’t understand who she was as a photographer. After a short conversation about the images, finding out what they meant to her, we then proceeded to re-categorize her images into concise categories that not only showed off her style, but what she excelled at.  

We didn’t change it much in regards to design because we didn’t have to. Each category now had a defined thought and vision. So when you viewed the site it was clear what her message was and who she was as a photographer.