Your editing process begins in the field

Andrew Beck Andrew 1 Comment

The title may be a bit misleading and may also have you asking “This doesn’t sound like something Andrew would say” given my preference for getting lost in a campfire rather than an computer screen whilst on safari.

I’m not referring to actual editing of images in the field but rather about how you go about capturing images in the field.

You see, the first stage of editing takes place long before you flag or reject an image imported into Lightroom, it begins with when and whether or not you decide to trip the shutter.

Think about that for a second.

How much time, effort and storage space would be saved if, rather than shooting absolutely everything you see, you evaluated the scene in front of you on its photographic merit and took images only of scenes that tickle your fancy?

I realise that I’m coming from a privileged position of being fortunate enough to visit incredible destinations repeatedly, but regardless of where I am but these days I find myself running through a series of questions before even lifting up my camera to frame an image.

These questions include things like:

  • Does this scene have photographic potential?
  • Do I already have similar images in the bag?
  • Are there any potentially distracting elements in the frame that I can address now by changing position?

Think more, shoot less and realize that perhaps not every scene needs to be photographed. By “editing” in the field with your shutter finger you’ll be saving yourself a lot of work (and space) when you retrun home to start the real editing.

Here are some tips on how you can “Edit” in the field…

Consider Shooting on Continuous Low

The  affordability of massive memory cards and hard drives seems to have provided the catalyst needed for photographers to capture almost every scene at upwards of 12 frames per second.

The result.

A sequence of images which are quite literally separated by a millisecond which makes it incredibly difficult for one to work through a sequence and select the “hero shot”. There’s a time and a place for shooting continuous bursts of action but for the vast majority of the time, rather than tapping out 3 or 4 frames of a static subject, save yourself the editing time and space on your memory card and consider shooting on Continuous Low (CL) where it is much easier to trip a single frame at a time.

Wait for the pivotal moment before shooting

A classic example can be found when capturing the yawn of any of the big cats. I have seen people fire away on continuous high the moment a yawn begins, only to have filled the buffer when the pivotal moment when the jaws are opened to their maximum.



You’ve seen it before, wait for the right moment to take the shots. Continuous Low will suffice even for this sort of action!

Analyze the scene and identify the photographic potential.

A Marabou feeding on a large catfish in the Mara provided 2 potential moments in my mind. The first was the Marabou pulling at the catfish and raising the limp body out of the water to make it easily identifiable.


The second was catching meat ripped from the corpse.


Barring any unexpected dive-bombing from fish eagles or any other raptor, something I did look around for at the time, that was all that was on offer and with these shots in the bag I put my camera down.

Pay attention to what you include in the frame

If there is “that one blade of grass” or “that branch” ruining your scene, don’t take the image only to be disappointed when you download and view it in Lightroom.


Whilst some people still like to clone these elements (like the distracting branch to the top left of frame) I find it much easier to change position or wait for the moment when the subject moves away from the distracting element and then take the shot.


I guess the take home message here is that you can make your editing process that much easier by paying attention to what it is you are shooting in the field and evaluating the photographic merits and potential of each sighting before even capturing a frame.

Think more, shoot less…

Not every sighting presents a photographic opportunity and sometimes sitting back and enjoying the moment is the best you can do…

About the Author

Andrew Beck

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Very few people can tell you what their passion in life is. Even fewer will be able to tell you that what they do for a living is in fact their passion. My love for the bush and conservation took me on journey which would not only allow me to explore the continent which fascinates me so much, but to share my passion for photography and conservation with others. Be sure to check out my my website and instagram account.

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