Editing Tips for Photo and Video Presentations

How you edit photos or film will have a direct affect on the flow, impact and power of a story, whether it’s for family and friends, business partners, within a magazine article, or for a potential client. Next to the quality of the images taken, the editing process is crucial in order to grab and hold the attention of the viewer during photo or video presentations.


We’ll begin with photos, where one may presume that the editing of an image is of minor importance. That is far from the truth. For instance, when creating a story in a magazine, the editing of those images is going to play a vital role. You’ll want to show only your very best. As an example, any distracting elements on the edge of the image frame is going to pull the viewers attention away from the subject, so you’ll want to edit out (crop out) those distractions. Then add some cunning script and it will make all the difference in the viewer’s acceptance of a presentation.

The First & Subsequent Images

The very first photo is the “opening scene” to the story and its prime goal is to stir the readers’ interest. That’s why photographers and editors alike put everything into making it a powerful image. From the very beginning, those first photos need to be the most fascinating. Other important pictures covering the story are then often spread over double pages of a print magazine, or throughout an online article for optimum impact, but that doesn’t mean that they too aren’t edited. All images should be edited so one is presenting quality throughout the story. Later, less spectacular edited photos may be shown, but they can convey important details and additional information to complete the entire presentation.


Similar rules are going to apply for photo video or film presentations. You’ll want to grab you viewer’s attention right from the start in order to carry them throughout the entire presentation.

In the film business, editing is half the battle when it comes to attracting an audience. In a commercial, the very first seconds count. In a feature film, the first minutes either attract or distract the audience for a long stretch of the story.

Consider these basic principles when editing a simple video sequence, as shown in these six scenes on horseback riding.

Photo of horse on beach by Gert Wagner

Photo of running horses and riders on beach by Gert Wagner

Photo of horse legs and horse reflection in water on beach by Gert Wagner

Blurred photo of flying seagulls by Gert Wagner

Photo of horses ears and another horse and rider taken from back of horse.

Photo of galloping horses and their riders on beach at sunset by Gert Wagner

Opening Image:

Introduces the story with an eye-catching image.

Long View:

Provides an overall perspective to the story – scene from afar.

Abstract Detail:

Serves as a stark contrast to the preceding long view, with close-up impressions that create tension.

Second Layer:

Adds a scene with only 40% transparency for reflections in the water of the preceding clip.

Unusual Camera Position:

Creates a surprising viewing experience by showing a view from the rider’s position.

Closing Scene:

With the camera very close to the riders and by showing the sun close to setting at the end of the day, it provides a sensible conclusion as they exit the image frame.


This sequence is simple and yet it contains a few
important basic elements that make for a good narrative.

Gert Wagner on Vimeo

With the opening shot, the viewer is immediately drawn into the action.

Following that attention grabber, the long view is putting emphasis on space relative to the detail, thus creating the atmosphere for the story.

The stark contrast in the next scene creates tension, while the blended-in seagulls adds more ambience..

Note: The reflections of seagulls in the water are added with a second layer clip put over the other scene, flipped upside down as in a real reflection, and reduced to 40% transparency on the timeline of an editing program.

When looking for unusual viewing angles, the rider’s position seemed appropriate. However, having a healthy respect for horses, I asked the rider to hold a small consumer camera while galloping through the splashing water. While a hand-held camera on a horse will likely turn out on the shakier side, it delivers a sense of immediacy and action. A very steady shot would actually take away from the experience of riding a horse. Mind you: all galloping scenes move logically from left to right. However, the original shots were not necessarily taken in the same order and direction and thus had to be flipped around accordingly in post production for a more harmonious flow of scenes.

The art of storytelling corresponds with the art of editing. And remember, those seemingly unimportant shots may well serve as useful supplements when mixed with the greater shots. They can deliver more detailed information or just some additional atmospheric impressions. In this case, the reflection of the horse’s legs and the seagulls in the water are good examples of the usefulness of those minor shots.

Now it’s your turn to try your hand at creating a story presentation with impact – one that flows well and keeps your viewer’s attention.

by Gert Wagner
All Text & Images: © 2012 Gert Wagner. All Rights Reserved.

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