by Essdras M Suarez, Pulitzer Prize Winning Photographer

cap·ta·tion [kapˈtāshən]
definition:  An attempt to achieve or acquire something especially artfully; reaching after

All Articles by Essdras M Suarez

On Editing

September 1, 2017

Several years back, a client of mine and three of his friends hired me to go on an Africa photo safari with them as a photo mentor. They were all CEOs out for a good time and we truly had a blast traveling and shooting together. The trip spanned fourteen calendar days, and ten of these were actual shooting days. And even though, I wasn’t there really to shoot but to teach. They were kind enough to insist, I’d shoot side by side with them as I’d impart them with some photo wisdom and at times a bit of common sense as well.

Serengeti National Park 08-21/22-13   At the Grometi Camp at what is known as the Serengeti National Park's Narrow Corridor near the border with Kenya. (Essdras M Suarez/ EMS Photography

Serengeti National Park 08-21/22-13 At the Grometi Camp at what is known as the Serengeti National Park's Narrow Corridor near the border with Kenya. (Essdras M Suarez/ EMS Photography)

By the end, I’d shot roughly about 20,000 images and by the last day of the trip I had 1,045 images, I considered worthy of a second look. It is out of these collection of images that I knew my final “keepers” would originate. When I came back home, I narrowed this edit to 600, then 450. And finally, 4 days after being back home, this brutally painful process yielded 300 or so keeper images.

By now you might be asking yourself: “How the heck did he go from 20K to 300??

I rely on a simple and proven editing process I’ve refined throughout my 20 plus years of being a professional photographer.

This workflow has worked for me under a myriad of circumstances. Be it on assignment, at war or while leading a photo workshop locally or internationally.

The Funnel Process:

At the end of each shoot- this might be after an hour, or after a day depending on the type of assignment I’m doing. I download the content of my cards into my laptop and then back these up into an External Hard Drive. I try to bring enough cards with me so I don’t have to erase my cards until I’ve come back home. At home, I’ll back these up into a second or even into a third EHD.

Once these have been copied I use a program favored by many photojournalists called Photo Mechanic. It allows you to see your take as a digital contact sheet of sorts and with it you can tag, prioritize and color code your images.

Depending on the type of assignment, this is a process done within minutes and within the constraints of pretty tight deadlines. However, even when I’ve been shooting for multiple days and under a generous deadline, I’d still end up doing the same process every single time.

The first time around, I go through every single frame really fast and barely stopping to analyze details of any given image. One hand controls the forward and backward arrow buttons while the other hand hovers over the letter “T,” which is used for tagging images in Photo Mechanic. When I’m done, I copy all of these tagged images into a new folder I’d name: “Project ‘X’_date_Tagged”

At the end, I’ll end up with a “tagged images” folder containing images from all my different cards. In the case of the African safari edit, I ended with a tagged folder of about 1,045 images.

Alas, I found the days in Africa to be full of excitement and adventure but very long. So at nighttime, I’d find myself trying to edit through leaden eyelids and barely able to remain awake. When I came back home, I wanted to make sure I hadn’t missed anything so I took all the tags off from the original 20,000 images and repeated this process twice.

Once all 20k images were once more a tabula rasa, I once more proceeded to go through every single folder and every single image while tagging along the ones I like. Once finished, I repeated this process two more times and each time it took me roughly about 1 hour and 45 minutes to complete.

Each time, the end result was in the neighborhood of a 1,040 to 1,050 tagged images.

Here is the big reveal: When it comes to editing, listening to your gut and first instinct is the way to go.

Captation Tales-2

“Keep shooting, keep moving, keep adjusting”

Essdras M Suarez for photowrkshop dir

me by tom for Nikon


A two-time Pulitzer prizewinner, Essdras M Suarez worked as a photojournalist for over 20 years, the last 12 with the Boston Globe.  He’s also received multiple awards for his portrait, food, product and travel photography.  His images have been published in such well-recognized publications as the National Geographic, Time Magazine, New York Times and Washington Post and many more national and international publications. Having worked in over 60 countries around the world, he is now based Alexandria, VA, where he established EMS Photo Adventures to enable the sharing of the diverse experience and knowledge gained as a photojournalist to the photo enthusiast.

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