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It’s always a huge rush to come across that killer photo when editing a shoot. But here’s the rub. I’ve witnessed it and I’ve heard numerous stories about it. Too often that amazing photo goes unnoticed in that Photographer X captured so many images, it gets lost in the shuffle. It goes unnoticed due to eye fatigue. It goes unnoticed in that there are so many similars, the great one doesn’t jump out - you get the idea. If your workflow is such that this is not a problem and you love to capture similars, you’re good to go. But if you already spend too much time editing and you prefer to be out in the field instead of in front of the computer, read on. 


Let’s first analyze the phenomenon. Similars are made if there’s lots of action, if events quickly unfold, or if expressions rapidly change. Photographers also tend to make a lot more photos if they visit a new destination or if they’ve never photographed a given subject and it’s their first encounter. Some photographers simply want to guarantee they cover every possible angle, expression, turn of the head, etc. When I teach a workshop or lead one of my photo tours, I’m often heard saying, “Exhaust all possibilities.” Here comes the BUT - the rules of good photography don’t change just because it’s your first visit to a location, because you’ve never photographed a given subject, because action occurs, or because you need to capture every angle. Let’s explore this thought a bit more deeply.


Scenario 1: ACTION - If action occurs, there will always be a peak moment. When a motorcyclist enters a hairpin turn, the knee goes out and he takes the bike close to the ground. A hurdler extends both legs and every muscle tenses as he or she lunges over the barrier. If the action is repeatable, study what goes on and press the shutter as it nears the peak. It pays to research your subject before hand so you’ll be familiar with timing the key moment. Sometimes the action is not repeatable and you’re compelled to press the shutter more often. This is fine but the bottom line to remember is it will always reach a height and it’s those moments that produce the best images. Edit before pressing the shutter by learning about your subject prior to the shoot and predicting when the climax will occur.


photo editing

©Russ Burden


Scenario 2: MOTION - Let’s imagine it’s your first time photographing an organized,  birds in flight, raptor shoot. Every time the bird flinches, you lay on the motor drive. While this may net you a keeper, did you first evaluate some of the givens? Based on the how the light illuminates the bird, are you standing in the best spot? If not, move so you don’t have to edit out the images of a poorly lit raptor. When the bird starts to fly, will the background be clean or will there be all sorts of distractions behind it? If you answered distractions, change your angle and get down lower, move to the left or right, etc. No need to edit out birds with bad backgrounds. Where it lands, are you in a good or bad spot? Edit before pressing the shutter by positioning yourself in the best possible spot. You’ll save a lot of time in front of the computer. 


photo editing in camera

©Russ Burden


If a dog chases a frisbee, the moment you want to capture is when it snatches it out of the air. Follow the dog’s movement and all the while have your finger on the shutter so your autofocus tracks the subject. As it catches up to the frisbee get into ready mode. When both the dog and frisbee appear in the frame, press the shutter all the way and stop once the peak moment is over. Don’t overlook the panning shot of the dog chasing the frisbee, but don’t get caught up in 8 frames a sec if you’ve already captured a good one. Position yourself so the dog and background produce a good shot - edit before pressing the shutter!


Scenario 3: NEW LOCATION - It’s your first visit to a new location so you place your camera on high speed motor drive and let it rip. But the rules of good photography don’t change simply because you’ve never been there. A poorly lit shot of a temple, barn, mountain, or vibrantly dressed native won’t miraculously morph into a great image just because you’re making more shots. By all means take a record shot, but don’t expend all your energy and effort hoping you get that killer photo.  All it’s going to do is translate into more edit time. If it’s a bad weather day, realize the limitations and don’t force the situation. Augment the light if you think it will help or go to plan B to try to make some good images. While it’s hard to not press the shutter given the new and exciting surroundings, think back to locations or subjects you’ve often photographed in the past when the light or other factors weren’t good. The pictures just didn’t pop. If the light isn’t good, if the animal doesn’t cooperate, if the background is bad, document the event with a record shot, but don’t force the issue. Enjoy the moment and take it in for what it is. As photographers, we often neglect to do this. If the light is bad, we’re “granted permission” so take advantage and think about all the time you’ll be saving in front of the computer not having to edit out the non keepers - edit before pressing the shutter!


In camera photo editing

©Russ Burden


To learn more about this topic, join me on one of my Nature Photo Tours. Visit and click on the NATURE TOURS button for more information. Also, email me to be placed on my Tip of the Week list and to receive announcements about upcoming tours specials or to pick up a copy of my book, Amphoto’s Complete Book of Photography. You can purchase a signed copy directly from me or visit your local book store or Amazon. Contact me at to order your signed copy.


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As usual, great advice...really saves space on the memory card as well to edit in camera.
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