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Photo Editing: Anatomy Of Vandenoever’s Edit

Thursday July 18th, 2013

by Paul Stanek

Sometimes approaching an edit of a body of work can feel a bit like approaching a block of stone to sculpt. Is a photo edit like Michelangelo’s stone, where the perfect sequence is already lying inside, waiting to be discovered? Or is it more interpretive, with no one exact solution? Either way, I find it incredibly interesting to occasionally peek behind the curtains of an editor’s choices. Always willing to be my own lab rat, I’d like to present a sort of play-by-play of one of my recent sequences for a print portfolio; an anatomy of an edit if you will. My goal here isn’t so much to prove that my sequence is the perfect solution, more so, it is to give you a look behind my own curtains in hopes of stimulating some dialogue about the processes of editing.

One of my latest portfolio edits was with Boulder-based photographer Julia Vandenoever, whose imagery is as charming to work with as her personality. What makes her an even more intriguing photographer is that she’s got plenty of photo editing chops herself. One might imagine editing for an editor being somewhat like taking a photo of a portrait photographer; but I’ve found the experience to be quite rewarding. During our discourse, she inquired about my choice of opening shot for the book:


This casual question, from one editor to another, piqued my interest. Why was this image such a natural opener in my eyes? I decided to write down all my instinctual responses:

  • Julia’s work, although ranging well into portraiture/storytelling, has a splendid food theme threading through it.
  • The image depicts an offering, a courteous invitation. In a pristine cloth apron lies a bundle of some mighty fine looking baked goods. It’s almost as if to say: “Here, come enjoy my delicious creations.”
  • More pragmatically, for her book, this landscape format and specific image proportions serve well as a full-bleed start.

I should also note that the editing process wasn’t entirely linear; I also had a particular closing image in mind. My goal became to find and optimize an arch between these opening and closing shots, which traveled through all the highlights of her photographic identity. This process sometimes involved working from the inside out.

For the sake of brevity and purity, I’ll present the following image bridges in a sort of “stream of consciousness.”

Moving on from the opening bakery spread:


The angles of composition in these images are symmetrical. Their palettes naturally work splendidly, and they’re contextually relevant to the baked goods theme. They also help lead into the next two images:


Here we’re still dealing with food, but we also introduce a lifestyle element. Mirroring the human element and the food close-up is the next pairing of roasted peanuts:


The funny thing about peanuts is that they’re shaped a bit like mini-potatoes, which brings me to my next pairing:


Here we start to focus a bit more on the portrait element of her work, where we’re meeting the characters behind the stories. The pose of our floral-dressed baker in her kitchen loosely mirrors our potato farmer on the left.

While we’re in the kitchen, let’s take a look at what our cook in a hoppin’ restaurant is doing:


Then let’s take a step outside and reintroduce a bit of lifestyle by seeing how some patrons of the restaurant are enjoying their fare:

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The last bar shot above lends itself to a close-up bar shot that just so happens to be an ideal segue into this fantastic portrait of a bartender:


These various glass bottles and compatible color palettes invite some booze-filled glass vessels of a different party:


These “fruitier” drinks bring us to a different type of bartender, more of a “hobbyist” entertaining guests on a relaxing weekend:


The bright reds and greens in these outdoors lifestyle images provide a smooth transition into a series of fruitful close-ups and their human counterparts:

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In this last pairing, I introduce the daughter of the gardener, which provides a bridge into more of a child/family/lifestyle section:



And there’s a very minimal pink element in the following, helping to thread them together:

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Playing in the lawn naturally lends itself to, well, playing in the lawn:


The boy’s red shorts were my cue to shift to another boy’s red shirt, albeit in a very different (and red) setting:


Those cowboy hats led me to these cowboy hats:


And what better way to follow up the introduction of white fuzzy ears, than with a close-up of white fuzzy ears?


Awww. Keeping with the animal ear motif, and running with some of the pink hints coming back in:


I only hope the two adorably pink bald characters here find the own innocent humor in their pairing.

From one portrait/”detail” pairing to another, I introduce a hint of the corner of what appears to be a bustling intersection:



Now clearly in “travel” territory, I can explore some inviting, quintessential facets of European journeys:

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And here, on the right, why not subtly introduce a hint of retail with a (still very touristy) shop salesman:


Yet now that I have introduced the thought of shopping, I feel unabashed about transitioning into a more commercial marketplace.


This impeccable shot of a corgi paired with a photo of a jar of corgi pins is quite possibly my personal favorite pairing of the sequence, and always brings a grin to my face. While we’re in the same store, we can add in an effective pairing of a happy customer along with a happy employee:


The heart in the background and the legible store name “Coloradical” on the bottom of his rim cap really provide an extra couple (red) cherries on top.

The bright, solid colors suggest the building of some form of crescendo. You can’t see the cheerful employees legs in this shot, but you can see enough to infer that they’re crossed similarly to the legs in this final shot of bold, pink high heels that I’ve been working my way towards all along:


The perfect closing shot for a print portfolio? I’ll leave that for you to decide.

“Flip through” Julia’s entire portfolio here:

Interested in sharing your thoughts on this edit, or pursuing an editing project Wonderful Machine’s photo editors? Check out our consulting page or call us at 610-260-0200.

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