What do you edit out and why?

January 20th, 2019
Frogger, @tdaug80, made a comment on this photo:

"If I had my computer, I could have edited that stop sign out. The person is with me, so we'll leave her in"

Which made me wonder: when and what to edit out and why?

And does cropping or repositioning to get a better angle count as editing?

I know I will remove dirty marks and dust from macro shots, or dust from the camera, but would try to reposition or crop rather than edit out things that are in the scene.

So what do others do?
January 20th, 2019
Interesting debate. I don't have the skills to remove things,still pretty baffled over editing beyond pulling up or down the light, colour, contrast or shadows. I will crop a little if there is something distracting enough to warrant it. I am a firm believer in taking the picture the way you want it in the camera personally, but I know editing can be a whole art form in itself and produce amazing images.
January 20th, 2019
For me, it depends on what my intention is for the image, and what result I'm going for. If I was trying for an artistic winter scene effect, I'd clone out both signs, but if I wanted it to be a more real, street photography type scene I might leave them in.

For me, to crop out the sign on the left in this image would make it too unbalanced, so I'd remove it instead. I would always crop out distracting elements if the image can take it!
January 20th, 2019
At my local photography club, the members emphasize that we are creating photographs, not just taking pictures, so they don't feel compelled to show what was really there. There is one guy who has a library of clouds that he will paste in to make a clear blue sky more interesting. I think he is taking things too far.
January 20th, 2019
Warning...a very long entry on editing/revising from my non-professional perspective!
I see editing/revising a part of a photographer’s workflow. Especially when taking photos in RAW, editing is a necessity as the camera has made no decisions for us regarding contrast, WB, brightness, etc., but instead is simply recording the raw data of our photo.
Like writers, photographers edit to make sure there are not random flaws in the image. Where a writer might spell-check, a photographer checks edges to make sure there aren’t twigs or items leading our eye off the page. We may remove random light “leaks” or even sensor spots that detract from the main image. Even in street photography, such edits make sense as they do not involve changing the meaning or the document of what we’ve seen, but simply make for a stronger image. Cropping may fall into that category. When I shoot street scenes, I often capture the bigger scene, so later I can make sure my focal object is on a line of thirds (see the 365 theme for January). Or, if I’ve used a wide angle lens, I can remove distortion but not lose the focal image in doing so. Summary for this point: editing is, to me, a necessary part of ending up with the image we had in mind when taking the photo, and using the control that shooting in RAW was designed to provide.
A different type of editing – or processing – comes in when I’m thinking more artistically about the image. A lone tree, for example, may be positioned in the ‘wrong’ place for the scene and cropping can help change the proportion. I might also remove items not of relevance to emphasize the ‘lone tree’ (removing a small bush, or a structure, that detracts from the artistic sense of the scene). I might shift from color to B&W and thus require changes to contrast, structure, etc. to make the scene ‘work.’
Finally, there is what I think of as ‘artistic processing’ – if I had eye-hand coordination, I might have been a painter. Instead, I can use photography and processing tools to do what I can’t otherwise do – create an image that I have in my head that does not exist in the actual world, but is nonetheless something I am hoping to create (for the art of it, to tell a story, for fun and humor when using toys like Danbo or P3, etc.). For this, there are programs to create diptychs or triptychs, or composites, or weird processing programs that put scenes in bottles or create abstracts. Photoshop is probably the most sophisticated with its layering, or Textures which I find a little more intuitive -- but there are a lot of ways to combine images of your own as well as 'stock' ones.
Bottom line, to me there is no one type of editing – and like most writing, the ‘first draft’ is rarely the final one (try creating a memo and then not going back to read through it – chances are it will go out with a typo you wish you’d caught). The degree to which the editing process departs from the documentation of the scene is related to the purpose the photographer/writer has in mind when creating the piece. And to the degree that it matters, 'truth in advertising' comes in. If it's an obviously fantastical theme, I usually don't make the point that it wasn't real (e.g., penguins don't fly over a city or sit on a lot in Oregon to watch a waterfall). If I've composed putting a moon in a different place, I may indicate how many photos are in a composite or simply say the image is a composite.
What I’ve learned in my 6 years on 365, along with courses I’ve taken, is that we begin to internalize compositional rules and techniques so our editing over time becomes very focused and often is in our minds when we take the initial shot (e.g., seeing the world in terms of ‘thirds’).
All this is simply my own musings…I’m guessing professional photographers have a clearer way of talking about workflow and what is ‘authentic’ to the point of the image. And that it probably varies for baby and wedding photographers versus landscape and street photographers (or any other category of focus) as well. And it’s taken me at least 5 years to get to the point where I’m comfortable enough with processing to handle 80% of the situations I face. So, I still have a LOT to learn!
January 20th, 2019
Somewhere, and I need to dig them out, I have some textures for layering that I took and processed for that purpose. I stopped using them when I wasn't creating photos regularly, just recording, so it's all a question of degree, I guess.
January 20th, 2019
Honestly, I think the answer is pretty straight-forward. Determine the message of the image, and perform any edits but only those edits that strengthen it's message. Ultimately that ranges from no edit at all to a full-on composite. But to me, the "why" always remains the same; to strengthen the message of the image which is not the same thing IMHO as 'trying to make the image better' or 'more interesting'.

Edit: P.S., for this specific image, I think the 'message' is the lit trees and their glow on the scene and more specifically the subject. The stop sign silhouette is dark and breaks up the pattern of the tree lights which draws the eye to discover why. The other sign is bright and that also draws the eye. In both cases, the attention is taken off the trees, their lights, and the silhouetted subject which 'weakens' the image. So, in this specific image I would agree that removing the both signs would strengthen the image.
January 20th, 2019
Pretty much what @dbj_365 and @taffy said... I will edit to exorcise the image in my head.... sometimes that can be a lot including moving or removing any and all distractions.... and when compositing, of course, anything goes... I do try not to “lie” though... I will usually say when I’ve done a ton of editing, and I try not to edit too much if I’m trying to show you an actual thing or scene (as opposed to what’s in my head)...
January 20th, 2019
what @taffy said... For me there are two types of photography, documentary and art. I fall heavily into the art camp as that is my background and what brought me to photography. I think that there is so much confusion on this topic because for some reason people still believe that the camera doesn't lie. All photographs lie to some extent, just by your choice of lens or aperture you are selectively removing context. In journalism that fact is accepted but removing an object that was in the frame to make for a better composition is a violation of journalistic norms. If you are in the art camp you can do whatever you want... just don't pretend that it is journalism.

I guess my point is all photographs lie. Journalism has rules about how they can lie, and art has no rules.

@casablanca @m2016 @tdaug80 @shannejw @dbj_365 @northy
January 20th, 2019
@dbj_365 well said. i edit out things in the background that are too bright and distracting to the eye, things in the background that might cut through someone's head, or manmade things that intrude on a natural scene, that sort of thing, generally to clean up, just like you might retouch a face to get rid of a blemish. just love how easy and well photoshop removes stuff nowadays
January 20th, 2019
@jakes Absolutely, but then again you are an amazing professional photographer with wonderful training and qualifications. I think your work is beautiful and you are clearly an artist. I would love to be able to create work as beautiful as yours and maybe as life moves away from kids and school here, I can get a chance to learn and train. That would be fantastic!

I guess there are probably many people on here like me who are confused and unskilled in editing and don't know how to make something different from the raw material in front of us. So we do less to a picture because we don't really know what to do or how.

But that is one of the things I enjoy about this site so much - the variety of skill and style that gives you thoughts and ideas about what is possible.
January 20th, 2019
One of the things I tend to immediately edit out are big fat ticks on a koala face - really spoils the image :)
I also edit out twigs that obscure if possible.
But I do crop most of my images as I often need the quiet time of sitting back and pondering to get that artistic feel for what result I want.
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