Editography: How To Create More Photos Without Working Harder

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Have you ever had this moment before?

You came across something you’ve never heard before. Instead of scratching your head cluelessly, you knew right away what it means like you have read it in a dictionary before.

I happened to have a moment like this recently.

Just a few days before that, I posted a photo on my Instagram that talked about “salvage post-processing”. One of the comments I received mentioned the word “editography”. ​

I’ve never heard of it but I knew what it meant!

What Is Editography?

In the Instagram post, I mentioned that I often revisit my photo archive to discover hidden gems that I have missed previously. With a fresh mind, I almost always find images that are “edit-worthy”.

These images then get post-processed in my normal workflow. More often than I realized, I like how these images turn out to be. This makes me wonder how I missed them in the first place.

So, to answer the question - Editography means creating photograph by editing (old/archival) images. I don’t know if that makes sense? That’s how I interpret it 🙂

“Edit” because we are editing a batch from the images we took a while ago (can range from something recent to several years ago) to see if we can create something meaningful out of it. We don’t actually get out there to shoot new images but using what we already have.

For “tography”, I don’t think there’s any meaning to it except to relate “edit” to photography.

Your Image Archive Is A Treasure Chest

I have an external hard drive that is constantly plugged into my iMac. When I download images from the memory card from my camera, I move them straight into the hard drive. Then, I use Lightroom to import images for organization and post-processing.

In the past, I used to go through all my new images in Lightroom and just pick the ones I think has potential to give my full attention in post-processing. Not so long ago, I started using Fast Raw Viewer routinely for culling before importing the worthy images into Lightroom. This leaves even more “untouched” images in the hard drive!

What I’ve described above has been my routine for several years now. I don’t know how many photos are there in the hard drive but I do know there is a lot. My best guess is probably a few thousands but less than a million?

Considering the cumulative number of photos that didn’t make it to the cut over the years - there are A LOT of images in the archive!

Why should you care about this?

Our perception of what is a good photograph changes from time to time. What you have is a ton of stored photos waiting to be re-discovered. Some of these might even turn out to be some of your best work.

You got to start digging!

What Influence Your Perception of A Good Photograph

Have you ever noticed how the type of images you considered “good” or “publishable” changes from time to time? I have definitely noticed that myself.

After spending some time figuring this out, I came up with three factors that influence your perception of a good photograph.

Experience, your mind and your image post-processing skills.


grungy hdr in black and white

I used to do grungy HDR like this

The hours you spent mastering the art plays an important role in how you perceive an image as a good photograph. This in turn affects your photography style. Beginners tend to evolve their style more frequently than the more experienced ones.

This makes sense because as a beginner, you’re constantly learning new ways to create images. You’re also constantly paying attention to other photographers’ work. If their work resonate with you, you’ll probably follow what they do and adapt it into your style.

Your photography style is constantly changing, so your perception of what is a good photograph changes as well.

For the more experienced photographers, you have probably seen and done enough to establish your own style. You’ll also have a more matured opinion on what is a good photograph. This doesn't mean your perception of what is good doesn't change, it just changes less frequently.

A Fresh Mind

“A fresh mind keeps the body fresh. Take in the ideas of the day, drain off those of yesterday…” - Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton

As part of my post-processing workflow, I often revisit images that I have post-processed a few days ago. I almost always (like 99.99%) ended up tweaking and fine-tuning the image. Sometimes the changes are more dramatic than the others.

Our perception of a good photograph not only changes over time (long term), but changes on the immediate period of time too (short term).

Hard to believe?

Try it for yourself! Go back to the images you have done processing recently. See if you still like exactly how it looks.

In the image above: the "before" is right after I've done post-processing; the "after" is following further tweaking in adjustments a few days later. 

New Skills

When I first started in photography, I got hooked on HDR. I thought the looks of an HDR image is amazing. So, I started following people who does the kind of HDR images I like.

Now when I look back, I thought my HDR images back then were horrible. They were grungy, over-processed HDR images.

Ever since I ditched tone-mapping and adopted exposure blending into my workflow, my images look more natural. If I hadn’t learned about exposure blending, I’d still be doing grungy HDR and my perception of good photograph would be very different now.

As your post-processing skills are improving, you will start to think and see images differently. You’ll think about how you’re going to post-process the image even before you click the shutter release.

Sometimes, you think an image is not edit-worthy because you haven’t got the editing skills. The issue with that is often you don't realize you haven't got the editing skills (the unknown unknown) so you think the image can't be edited.

With that in mind, always keep all your images and never ever delete them unless they are messed up with technical error.

Go Dig Your Archive

I hope by now I've convinced you that you have a gold mine (of photos) tucked away in your hard drive waiting for you.

Go out there and do some photography when you can. But when you’re feeling a bit lazy or just want to be home to stay cozy, get yourself a drink and do some editography.

Editography is new to me and I have so far dug out and processed some images which I didn’t think they were good enough at the time.

Here are some of my favorites to share with you 🙂

san francisco bridge

San Francisco bridge

mosque iran

The interior of a mosque in Iran

santa monica beach

Santa Monica beach

marrakesh at sunset

Marrakech at sunset

Persian interior architecture

For more tutorials on image editing technique, please check out the editing technique resource page!

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