The One

by Steve Simon

Okay, it's a sad fact that photographers are often not the best editors. I think there are many reasons for this. For one thing, you were there when you took the picture. So often when looking at images, you remember and relive the experience, the light, the sound and the excitement you may have felt while taking the picture. I think that sometimes we tend to bring these remembrances into the editing process, and attacth the experience to the strength of the image.

We need to be objective, and if the images aren't evoking the emotions we experienced than maybe we can do better.

We remember the experience of taking each picture, which is not always a good thing when editing.

It's hard, if not completely impossible to be truly objective, and nor should we be. But I think it's important to be realistic and it's always a good idea to have a second set of eyes you trust, look at your stuff and give a detached opinion.

For years when I was a newspaper photographer, we looked at negatives through a loupe, and basically guessed what the eyes looked like in the positive, printed version of our photographs of people. In portraiture, the eyes are so important and I never felt it possible to really edit properly without seeing a positive version on either a contact sheet or print.

But Aperture is a photo editors' dream. Using Aperture's many and varied editing features like the amazing loupe, stacks, compare and select, ratings etc; in my opinion it is the best way to edit digital images; period. Here's how I never miss a frame.

I like to use Stacks, which lets me edit in an orderly and comprehensive way.

I talked about my editing process before, that coveted first look and first impression, going through every frame and choosing the misses and the technically challenged and deleting them, then rating the keepers. But looking back at earlier editing posts, I realize my editing process with Aperture is fluid and changes with the assignment and as my experience with Aperture grows.

After my initial edit, I then move to my favorite way to really squeeze the best frames out of my rated images in Aperture: Stack Mode. This is where I will promote the three-star keepers to Four-star "Stars".

Stack mode makes it much easier to squeeze the best frames out of every shoot.

I edit on one 23inch monitor for now, and I have customized my tool bar to include the following stacking functions: Auto-Stack, Stack, Pick, Promote and Demote. (I use the up and down arrow keys to move to the next stack or the previous stack). Eventually I suspect that I will be able to remember all the keyboard shortcuts, but for now I don't mind clicking on the toolbar while editing.

I click on "V" to enable the viewer and then I click on Auto-Stack (in my new customized toolbar) and play with the timing to get the separation of images between stacks that works best. I then clean up rogue images by adding and extracting them to and from stacks by dragging and dropping.

Under View>Main Viewer I make sure I'm in Stack mode. I then press V again to hide the viewer and get back to the Basic view, and start to compare images in the Stacks. I sometimes work in Full Screen mode, but I do like to see a larger group of thumbnails in the basic viewer, where I can quickly drag images to promote or demote within the stack, which I like. My picks are rated 4-Star, which I would often move to a web gallery for clients or perspective clients to see fresh, new work.

As I'm working through this process I may click on the " ` " (upper left corner key) to activate the loupe or press the Z key to see a 100 per cent view to check for sharpness and other details within the frame. (By holding down the Shift Key in zoom mode, you can move both images at the same time, great for comparing similar frames).

Can the Stacks feature in Aperture make you a better photographer? I think yes. It's very interesting to see your take in stack form--did you work it enough? Did you move around, move in tight and then further back, giving yourself some variety when it came time to edit? Did you miss something? By asking yourself these questions as you move through your shoot in Stack mode, you can learn much about the way you approach your work, which you can utilize next time out.

3.the lightcontact.jpg
By looking at the way you approached each particular shoot, you can learn to do better next time out.

Look for a review of my book Heroines & Heroes in American Photo Magazine, March/April Issue, @ newsstands now.

Also @


2007-03-01 11:48:58
Your first image is haunting and wonderful. Keep up the great work with Aperture. You're right that once you get a hang of the huge tool selection, Aperture is a pleasure and essential part of photo selection. I tried Lightroom beta for months and came away frustrated that even with the cool layout and clever bridge-like editing tools I still had difficulty keeping track of files and shifting them around in a management system.


Steve Simon
2007-03-01 20:20:02
I want to be out shooting. I don't want to learn a whole bunch of different programs. I have embraced Aperture and have no doubt Apple will be working to make this great program even better. I know that there are features in different programs that people like; no one program is going to be all things to all people--so I choose this one to organize and grow with-- in my photograhic life. It will get better and I will get better with it.
2007-03-03 16:56:37
I appreciate your comment "I realize my editing process with Aperture is fluid and changes with the assignment and as my experience with Aperture grows." Sometimes I feel like I have to know it all now in order to do well with the app. I don't have to create a concrete workflow now... but go with the flow. Thank You.
Frank Gregorek
2007-03-04 07:03:06
Excellent point, Beatrice.
2007-03-04 13:47:18
Excellent comments and touches on the area where I have THE most difficulty. I dread editing my images because I can not be objective and often too critical. While it is still a struggle Aperture has made my life so much easier.