5 Minute, 5 Hour & 5 Day Edit
My experience with editing the same photo with three different time periods.
Deadlines are never fun to give yourself, but establishing them enable you to get things done. I have a hard time declaring when something is finished. I get carried away editing photos, and recently I’ve been thinking if the amount of time spent on something correlates with how good it is?
To find out I assigned 3 periods of time: 5 minutes, 5 hours, and 5 days to accomplish the task of editing the same photo start to finish. Why? Each period requires a different approach, 5 minutes to days covers a range that’s appropriate to edit a photo, and I was interested in seeing how I worked in these time constraints.
The photo I’ll be using:
At 5 minutes editing is a breeze. My thoughts were quick, uninformed, and did what felt natural. From a first impression I didn’t feel like I pushed it as far as I wanted to; however, the goal was to be able to put the work down and move on, and I’m content with that.
Shorter time limits are great for making quick decisions, exploration and rapid production of work. With little time invested many ideas or directions can be created. Assigning a short time limit to finish work creates a sense of pressure and urgency. For those who overthink things, working in this limit may be a beneficial approach to take. The result can be good or bad. Either way, there’s nothing to worry about. It was only 5 minutes and you can do it again if you desire different options. What I like most about working this way is 5 minutes is all you get. Whatever happens, happens. I plan to implement this approach more often in the future since I overthink things.
Longer time limits like 5 hours or 5 days are excellent for thorough exploration of a style. The feelings of pressure and urgency are gone, but there’s no excuse to cut corners. You can head in the direction you desire, and change it if it’s not going your way. This is great for exploring new styles that you normally wouldn’t consider. However, more time is invested with these approaches and that is not ideal or practical for most people.
5 hours feels more like a normal working pace, although more time than I would usually spend in one sitting without a break. I usually work on many photos in this period, so it was hard to focus on one. During this period I thought more about the mood I wanted to establish before I started tweaking things. I kept questioning what I was trying to say, and why I was changing details or colors. This period I let myself loose and explored a darker direction I normally would not take, but I’m satisfied. Instead of working on several different photos, I worked on different directions of the same photo that have slight variations. I like that I can explore a few other directions, without pressure and still retain a productive pace.
What makes 5 days so great is you can come back to the photo with fresh eyes, thoughts, and feelings. You can also see what’s successful and what’s not. This is my preferred way of working. Time is abundant and the pressure is low.
I find the 5 days edit starts out as a five hour edit, but after 5 hours I felt that I had something interesting worth pushing further, and it evolves into a five day edit. The remaining four days were about refinement, small adjustments, and begin able to notice all the nuances.
I learned that this longer approach isn’t about spending exactly 5 days or 120 hours. That’s not a practical or realistic way to work. It’s about using what ever time you have available over a period of 5 days to become more sensitive to details and make more subtle adjustments to enhance the photo.
If you’re not used to working on a photo for 5 days it can feel like you're stretching out time and wasting it, but if you keep at it you can end up in a place you never expected. You’ll start working out fast, but inevitable slow down.
Going beyond 5 days.
I’ve ended up spending more time on work because I didn’t know what I wanted to say, or how I wanted to push my photo. Also I was letting perfectionism prevent me from finishing and sharing work, something I still deal with today.
Let’s analyze how I end up here:
1. I was putting off work, making excuses, or wasting time.
2. Dwelling on an idea that’s not working
3. I was stuck and didn’t give myself a break
4. I couldn’t translate what was inside my head to the computer
5. I didn’t know when to stop and call something finished
Going beyond 5 days isn’t a bad thing. Just be cognizant of why your work is dragging on and why you’re choosing to spend this much time working on a photo.
Originally, this challenge was about time and working against the clock to defeat a creative block. It was valuable and accomplished what I wanted to. It’s interesting to see how these things play out. Personally the 5 minute edit was the most fun since I usually spend a lot of time editing, it was nice to quickly let something go and call it finished for once. Ultimately, I prefer doing things a little more carefully; however, the more time spent on something doesn’t always correlate with how great it will be. Great things can happen in any period of time.