An ordinary person's thoughts on the complexities of art & life ...

An ordinary person's thoughts on the complexities of life ... or just ramblings from the mind of a working Mum with far too little time to think!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Taking Stock

I have always been a minimalist by nature, and as such I find it extremely difficult to tolerate clutter in our home, so much so that I regularly sort through our many cupboards and shelves to clean out the unneeded and pass them onto to where they will be more useful - with the exception of books that is, of which we have far too many to count!

Over the past few days I have gone through our home for items of clothing, toys, linen and other essentials that we can donate to help the hundreds of families that have lost all in the devastating floods that have swept through our state, and this week, our city.

I am embarrassed at how easy it was to collect 12 large bags of good clothes, shoes, towels and bedding that we are able to give away without even trying, and I cannot believe just how much my three girls still have in their cupboards that they quite probably will never use! Enough for me to go through everything a second, and indeed a third time, which I aim to do this week! 

Though I pride myself on not being a hoarder and have always been somewhat obsessive about cleaning out, it was a shock to realise that we have somehow collected so much more than we could ever need. And this applies to all areas of my life, including my photographic work.

As our fine art photography business has grown, I have come to realise that I need to find a better system of storing and easily retrieving the huge number of digital images I have amassed.

I have so many folders of raw originals and copies of the adjusted originals that I have shot over the past few years, that unless it is a current image, it is difficult to find anything in less than an hour. And, as I found out more recently, sometimes it can take me all day to find a series of images that a client has requested!

I know I badly need to ‘spring-clean’ and heavily cull the number of images as there is no way I need to keep all of these files.  And the first step in this elimination process needs to happen when I download the images from my camera, before I process the raw files.

But, how does one go about it? Each time I try, I manage to discard only a few before I start seeing reasons as to why I should keep each and every image.

When we start taking photos, it is so easy to delete those images we are unhappy with.  And as we improve as photographers, we should in theory become more ruthless with our image assessment because we are more able to recognise the flaws in our photographs. 

However, the problem is that as we become more professional we are able to make most of those assessments about exposure, light, composition and focus before we take the shot.  We know right then whether it will be a good image, and if it is not, we don’t take it.

I don't do any post-processing of my images apart from converting the raw files and tweaking the exposure and contrast levels. I set everything up by eye and may take only one or two shots of the subject if I am happy with what is in my frame before I move on. 

As I shoot almost exclusively hand-held, if there is alot of wind and I am shooting with a slow lens, I will take a few images to ensure that one will be sharp.

Upon downloading, if I am unhappy with the focus of an image I will discard it, but usually if I am happy with the composition, the light and the focus when I press the shutter, I know I will be happy with what I download onto my computer later.  
And if I don’t discard the image at the downloading stage, I am unlikely to press the delete key at a later stage.

It is this emotional connection to my images that makes it so difficult to judge their value. And the value of an image is entirely different depending upon who is viewing it!

My on-line gallery is a prime example. Many times I have resolved to revamp the gallery and remove many of the older images. Then a sale comes through for one of those images that I would have removed and I decide to leave it as it is.  However, I keep adding new images and my gallery becomes more difficult to navigate and less focused.

My husband - whose somewhat ruthless opinions on editing I stubbornly resist, but ultimately do trust - believes that only the truly outstanding images should see the light of day. He would probably discard a good half of my gallery if given the chance!

I know he is right ...  
Perhaps as fine art photographers in business, we subconsciously try to cater to everyone’s tastes so that our work has the best chance of appearing on as many walls as possible.

Instead, we have to develop a more critical and ruthlessly objective approach to our own work at every stage, a very difficult step for most of us, but ultimately one that will set us apart from the millions of digital photographers out there.

All images published on Extraordinary Light are available for purchase as greeting cards, matted prints, framed prints, posters, canvases and large wall art, including those not available in our on-line gallery (soon to be revamped!) 
To enquire about images not available in the gallery, please contact Tania.


  1. ah I can't stand seeing images deleted, I just love all of them (okay there might have been three I didn't like) - I'm the hoarding part of the business, hehe. Tania.

  2. These are FANTASTIC! and
    I know exactly what you mean about hitting that delete key!

  3. Beautiful images Renee...I am completely "Wowed" each time I view your photos and posts. You hit a chord on this one...I am trying so hard to be selective as my digital files multiply onto external hard drives. I think of you and your states recovery every day.