First edits with Lightroom or Bridge

In my humble opinion, a budding digital photographer should have a basic knowledge of the science behind photography and begin that internal conversation of perception vs. reality. What was your response to the question, "Is what the camera sees and produces reality?" As you peruse this lesson, ask yourself how this question relates to your process of editing and sharing photography as individual images or collections.

imageWhen it comes to experiencing the world and creating photographic evidence of those experiences, each one of us reacts a little differently. You may only feel inclined to pick up your camera when you are with friends or if you see a beautiful shape formed by mundane, inanimate objects. Some develop a little problem called "viewfinder eye" from squinting through your camera with such intense frequency.

Wherever you fall in the spectrum, know it. Consider how you are inclined to use photography to document your life, and make sure it falls in line with other understandings you have about philosophy, psychology, communication, and so on. You have the ability to say very different things through your images based on how you use the tools of a photographer, for example, your use of framing, use of light, juxtaposition, etc. Begin with an understanding of what you think a photograph has the power to say, and then let's move into how you practice to make that so.

First edits

"Pulling a good picture out of a contact sheet, is like going down to the cellar and bringing back a good bottle to share." -Henri Cartier-Bresson

While speaking about the science of photography and working with film, one often comes across the concept of a contact sheet. This is the piece of photosensitive paper that has been exposed to light through a roll of film that has been splayed out. A contact sheet allows you to see the images you are working with in chunks. With this, you can see what science provided you to work with as you cultivate your message through photography. Contact sheets are the tool with which a film photographer starts to go through their first edits.


While we don't use contact sheets with digital photography, the process of looking at all your images and pulling out the one or ones with your message is crucial. In this day of media overload, less is more, and simplicity provides clarity. Though the investment of time and resources in a digital image is nothing in comparion to film photography, you do still invest your time in publishing your digital images (and the time of the viewer in absorbing your images). Time is precious today, and audiences have a shorter attention span to absorb the same sort of impact from an image or collection. Camera vomit may embody the your experience in some sense, but the message of that experience may get muddy if your images don't have a narrative.

And you know how much we humans love our stories...

We don't have contact sheets, but we do have applications that make this chunking and first editing process more efficient. My suggested application for this task is Adobe Lightroom or Adobe Bridge (both available to TGS students).

With these applications, you can organize your images into folders (also possible through Finder), but, more importantly, what you can do with Lightroom or Bridge is quickly browse your images in full screen and begin to filter through them for the ones that project your message or story.

imageI do this by using a star ranking system; keyboard shortcut #1 for 1 star means needs Photoshopping, and keyboard shortcut #2 means ready to upload. I fly through my images and make quick judgment calls, tapping a 1 or a 2 on the keyboard to designate the next action for those images. You can use filters to only see images with a certain star count and from there go about the second process of editing or publishing.

This is one way you can recreate the valuable practice of going through contact sheets.

I recommend that you don't delete your images in this first edit process, unless they are absolutely terrible. You never know what images might reveal their value to you later in your life. I have one image that I disregarded in 2007 that with a second look in 2011 revealed its beauty and ended up in my first photography exhibition in 2013!

It's important to note here what you are looking for.

How to pick the special photos

This is a presumptuous header that implies I know how to advise all readers on how to pick their best photos. We are not all the same with the same perception of reality nor the same message from those images. Everyone likes different elements about their own photogrpahy, but what I will share are a few understandings that many widely-shared images and powerful images lead us to grasp.

Double moments

Street photographers call the moment the shutter clicks the "decisive moment," and it's safe to say that at TGS, you will be creating photographic work that can be categorized as street, documentary, and/or photojournalistic photography.

In the hyperlinked article, Eric Kim quotes a very well-known street photographer about his description of the decisive moment.

“There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative. Oop! The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever." -Henri Cartier-Bresson

A wonderful photography teacher I worked with in high school by the name of Ernesto Bazan spoke often of double moments. These are found in images where, in that decisive moment of the shutter click, not only one "Kodak" moment is happening but the stars aligned in that frame to allow or capture two. These are special images that allow viewers to further immerse themselves into your image and say something with the juxtaposition of the moments.

Why do you think double moments are so engaging for viewers of photography?


Take some time to go through your images with Adobe Bridge, and identify any double moments you captured in one image.

A basic language of photography

Now it's time to start practicing the art form by talking like a true photographer. Watch the following video a couple times to make sure you can use these common terms.

View Original Video

Put these words in your toolkit as a way to explain your choices during the first and second editing processes.

Here's a writing prompt that will allow you to develop your understanding of the true capacities of the photo medium and your use of it: What do you think your images project as your message of reality from the 8-day trip?

Is it just a matter of how it looks to the naked eye? Are there other tools or understandings that help me get the proper exposure of the full image? Why yes. Yes, there is. We will cover that when the art of light painting continues with Photoshop.