Shooting to Edit

This is the final post in my series “Photographing the Perfect Image”! It was a fast overview through several topics, and I welcome you to reach out with any questions I didn’t answer completely in my writing. Each topic is important, but the goal of the series was to provide a little bit of background leading up to the next series, “The Digital Darkroom”. I want to leave you with the final idea that every shot you take should be taken knowing how you plan to edit the file. When you have a vision prior to recording the image on your memory card, the time you spend on the computer will be more efficient and arguably more successful. Here are a few final thoughts before we move on to post-processing.

Color or Black and White?

Before you decide on camera settings, choose if the final image will be color or monochrome. “Saving” a bad color file by converting it to black and white is a lazy and poor practice. By planning for a black and white, you can choose an aperture, shutter speed, and focus point that widens your histogram maximizes the texture and detail in the scene. Then, you won’t create so much noise in post-processing by bringing up whites, and you won’t lose as much detail when you pull down the blacks. Besides, wouldn’t it have been better to make sure the color file was shot properly?

quabbin reservoir winter storm in black and white
This stormy scene was rich in texture but the bland winter colors didn’t work for me, so I decided to shoot this scene as a black and white. With that plan, I shot the file a little brighter than I normally would have, so that I would have cleaner control over the contrast and details in the sky and rocks.


In Composition, I briefly discussed the idea of minimizing distractions. To reiterate, it’s good to know ahead of time if you need to clone out distracting spots or elements from the scene. This way, you can photograph your composition and try to place the distraction in an easily editable part of the frame, like open water or a repeating texture, for example.

charles river sunset reflection
When you photograph nature, you sometimes don’t have control over everything. In this scene, I had some friendly ducks that just would not leave the frame. So, I waited to take the photograph until they were in a spot that would be easy to clone out.

Light and Composites

Lastly, if you plan to do composite work, be sure to plan your light accordingly. I’ll cover this in more detail during my editing series, but images with conflicting light sources are quite painful to look at. A little planning will help make your scene agree with itself (and with everyone’s eyes!).

milky way galaxy over shining sea bike path in falmouth massachusetts
In this composite image, my goal was to capture the light source from the direction of the nearby island. I waited to shoot the foreground until the sun had moved further to my right, so that the light would match the milky way frame. This image was shot as a composite to increase the detail in both the sky and foreground, and so that I could create a surreal glow from the islands.

Thanks for reading these sporadic posts throughout the last few months! I hope at this conclusion you’ve come in contact with one or two new concepts that have helped you improve your technique. Though I feel confident in my knowledge on these topics, we can all learn something new. Do you have any tips, tricks, or thoughts that I didn’t cover in this series? Let me know in the comments – I’d love to hear from you! Stay tuned for the next series, “The Digital Darkroom”

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