Stop! Don’t delete that image in camera!

I’ve witnessed this many times while out taking photographs with people. They quickly click through images using the screen on their camera and start deleting away. It makes me cringe and I almost always give them a little bit of advice — you might want to wait to look at those on your larger screen.

You never know what you’re missing

Looking on the camera screen is fine for just checking settings, making sure your exposure is correct and seeing if your subject is in focus or not. But it’s not really fine for assessing the overall usability of your images. Why? For one, the screens are small. Even the larger screens are not large enough to really see if an image is a keeper or not. Two, the light is usually horrible no matter where you are, making it difficult to truly see how good or bad an image is.

Editing is powerful, wait to delete

Even the ‘bad’ images can be made to work with a little bit of editing magic. Cameras today are capable of capturing a much wider dynamic range, this means you have more room to pull out details and shadows in images that may not be exposed quite right. Software is also quite amazing in helping us to be more creative. Images that may have been throwaways can be turned into more artistic and creative interpretations.

I knew these would be dark when I shot them but the light behind her made me want to shoot it that way anyway. Why? Because I knew I could play with my editing tools to see what I could pull out of it, I knew it was a good spot to shoot and a good pose. Instead of saying, “oh no, this will never work,” I took the photos anyway.

photo of underexposed dancer

To get to this black and white image I tried out a bunch of different presets just to see what could be done. I found one that I liked and continued tweaking the image from there. Decreasing the contrast worked wonders on lightening the image, then I used a graduated filter to help even out the exposure from right to left. With a little time and patience, you can do amazing things with the software options that are out there today. If I had deleted it in camera I wouldn’t have been able to work with it.

Art is subjective

You can create anything you want from an image. Maybe it’s not what you intended but the shot has a really nice color or motion to it. There are many photographers who also create digital art from their images using software to manipulate images into something entirely different from what was shot. I’m reminded of the twirls that can be created in Adobe Photoshop. The use of apps to create painterly-like images, tiny planets, cartoonlike and a myriad of other options can take a ‘bad’ image that you deleted and make it into an abstract art piece.

motion in images

When I shot this I could see the ‘eye’ in the waves of the water and while I really had no intention of keeping this image after I starting playing with it for a while, the more I liked it. A little crop, some color enhancing and that was it. It worked for a series of water in motion that I was working on. It doesn’t always take much to make something out of an image you may have otherwise deleted in-camera.

Experiment and play

I say this over and over again to those I mentor. Experimenting and playing are instrumental in learning, creating and growing as artists. How do you know if an image is not salvageable if you delete it in camera and don’t even try?