Why you shouldn’t edit your images until weeks after a shoot

Why you shouldn’t edit your images until weeks after a shoot

Focus editor Philip discusses why it’s a good idea not to look or work on your images immediately after a shoot

We’ve all been there; you’re out on a shoot, you know you’ve captured some fantastic photos, and you literally cannot wait to get home to load them up and start working on them; there’s no feeling like it.

However, it’s worth giving something else a try, too, even when you’ve got some great shots; don’t look at them for a week, a month, or if you want to go hardcore, several months. Because then you’ll look at those images in a completely different way.

This is because you’ll lose emotional attachment to your shots, which can be a great exercise in helping you look at your images in a more objective way. Leaving your images for a while and then looking at them with fresh pair of eyes can help you work out precisely those images you like and those you don’t, those that are good and those that can be deleted. And you’ll be surprised at how different you’ll feel about your images by putting time between them. Often, those images you loved during the shoot won't be your favourites - you’ll probably find that others are better instead, along with a few surprises.

Here’s an example, below are some images from a shoot at Holy Island, Northumberland; the first couple of images are those I loved just as I captured them, and the second set are the images I preferred once I’d looked at the images a few weeks later. Notice how the selection is entirely different.

Layout of images from the shoot in Lightroom - which I use for making most of my selections

My favourite images during the shoot:

The scene in front of me for the images below had it all. Dramatic light, an illuminated castle, even a rainbow at one point - and I thought "this is it, this is one of the best shots I'll have ever taken". However, giving these images, and the shoot some space, upon closer inspection, I realised that actually there were some issues with the shots, they aren't as good as I thought they were at the time and simply put - I'd lost my emotional attachment to them - so I could look at these shots objectively.

Dusk at Lindisfarne, Northumberland - f/13 | 20s | ISO 160
A rainbow emerges at Lindisfarne, Northumberland - f/13 | 20s | ISO 160

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My favourite images after a few weeks:

Looking at my images again without any emotional attachment, I've found that, actually these three shots below are my favourites. Very different from those above, and actually, I think these are far more interesting, and contribute more to my ongoing Coastal North project compared to those above.

Tidal crossing at Lindisfarne, Northumberland - f/11 | 1/80s | ISO 160
Abandoned waterlogged fishing boat at Holy Island, Northumberland - f/14 | 6.5s | ISO 160
Dusk at the fishing harbour on Holy Island, Northumberland - f/13 | 2s | ISO 160

With this technique, another thing you can do is go back through your archive, dip into old shoots, and you’ll no doubt discover some great images you previously overlooked.

Of course, if you’re shooting for a client who needs the images turned around ASAP, then this technique isn’t going to work - the last thing you want to do is keep a customer waiting. But for personal projects, I’d highly recommend this technique. At least give it a try, as I guarantee you’ll look at your images differently.