There are a million ways to edit your photo series or project, here is one quick, introductory guide using Sticky Notes.
Picture #1: SURPRISE. Let’s start by picking one picture – the most surprising picture of the entire series. You can interpret ‘Surprise’ in many ways, but the picture should be visually strong and engaging, perhaps unexpected, and arouse my curiosity enough to want to see more from the series.
Picture #2: ESTABLISH. Pick an Establishing picture next. The establishing picture reveals where this series of photographs takes place and sets the premise for the series.
Picture #3 & #4: DEVELOP. Let’s develop the edit. Pick 2 significant photographs that develop the story and reveal what the series is about to you. Be discriminate and tight in your selection – Pick 2 pictures that show us something new without being repetitive.
Picture #5: CONCLUDE. Let’s finish the edit with a final 5th photograph to conclude. You can interpret the ‘Conclude’ in many ways depending on what the series is about and what you want to say.
Experiment with the Edit. There are no rules. Experiment with your edit. How does the narrative work and feel when you shuffle images around. The controversial French film Irréversible was narrated in reverse.
Don’t Repeat, Reveal. There may be non-linear projects that don’t follow a traditional narrative with a start, middle and end. The project may be a repetitive survey or meditation on one subject, perhaps. Even then, avoid repetition. Each photograph should reveal something new.
Expanding the Edit. You can also build and expand on the 5 Picture Edit by using them as chapter markers or identifying signifiers to add more photographs.
What Are You Editing For? A fundamental question to ask is what are you editing your series for? What medium and how are the audiences viewing the work? 2 dimensions, 3 or 4? Book, web slideshow or exhibition?
There Are A Million Ways To Edit, But Only One Gut Feel. Every editor is different, and so will be their interpretation of a project. You may end up with multiple edits of the same work, and for different purposes. So be informed and intuitive, and go with your gut feel. Yes, easier said then done but worth a shot.
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