A collaborative online community that brings together photographers and creative professionals of every kind to find ways to keep photography relevant, respected, and profitable.

Have an idea for a post?

Want us to find an answer to your question? Interested in becoming a contributor?Email us

‹ Home

September 17th, 2009

Editing on the road helps focus long photo stories

Posted by Sean Gallagher

Sean Gallagher, a photojournalist living and working in China, won a travel grant from the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting in February for his work on the country’s desertification. From a whirlwind trip to complete his coverage, Sean created several posts, slideshows, and the multimedia piece below. Sean explains how important it was to edit as he traveled to check in with his themes and cut down on post-production time. Don’t miss his earlier posts about finding and planning in-depth stories.

(Click on the four arrows in the lower right corner to expand to full screen.)

I returned from my six weeks of travel with about 2,500 images; I have never been a prolific shooter, probably because I started out shooting slide film and knowing the cost of each frame. Throughout my trip, I made a point of downloading and categorizing my images as I made them. To keep all the files in order, I created folders for each location I visited with RAW and JPEG sub-folders.

Since I was traveling for such a long time, I knew it was imperative to keep on top of my images so I didn’t face a nightmare editing session when I returned home. My organizational efforts also allowed me to keep track of where I was with the story, making edits in the evenings, following how my narrative was developing.

The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, which funded this project, asked me to write weekly blog posts about my travel experiences. This discipline helped me enormously because it made me stop and think about the importance of each stage of my trip. This further helped me keep track of my narrative and helped me stay focused on the main themes I wanted to explore through the work.

On my return to my home in Beijing, I found that my meticulous filing in the field meant my editing was half done already. I could go straight to post-processing the images and then seriously think about edits for publishing outlets.

My first outlet was the Pulitzer Center, which had first rights on the work since they had commissioned it. For Pulitzer I created the multimedia presentation above, presenting each body of work as ‘chapters’ within the larger story of China’s desertification. Producing a multimedia presentation was one of the stipulations for my grant, and I had complete freedom in its creation. The presentation is nearly 15 minutes and contains more than 100 photos, many more than I would send to a magazine, for example. When approaching magazines, I edit down to a tight 20-to-30 images.

In order to give this work the best possible chance of being picked up, I approached magazines before I left, informing them of my upcoming trip. Once I returned and the images were ready, I re-contacted them in order to gauge their interest. My work is also distributed by a number of agencies, which also contacted clients before and after my trip. I think this approach was key in gauging who was seriously interested in the story.

So far, my images have appeared more in the Chinese press than in the Western press, which isn’t a bad thing — I was very keen to bring this story to the Chinese public. I was also invited to have a 50-print exhibition recently at the International Conference on Science & Technology for Desertification Control in Inner Mongolia, a meeting of some 300 scientists and experts in the field. This was a wonderful opportunity to provide a new visual awareness of this issue to people who are directly involved in addressing it.

My next plan is to create a book of this work for Pulitzer. I am now approaching publishers to gauge their interest in the work. I hope the distribution of this project will continue, in print, online, and in exhibition form. Desertification is a serious global issue that is not fully appreciated or understood by either the Chinese or the international public. Through my photography, I hope I can do my part to help change that.

Be Part of the RESOLUTION: Do you edit while you’re traveling or do it all when you’re back home?


  1. September 17th, 2009 at 8:15 am

    Editing on the road helps focus long photo stories | The Click

    […] Editing on the road helps focus long photo stories | RESOLVE — the liveBooks photo blog: Sean Gallagher, a photojournalist living and working in China, won a travel grant from the […]

  2. September 17th, 2009 at 8:49 am

    Will Widmer

    This is beautiful, poignant work Sean. Congrats and best of luck for distribution — this work needs to be seen.

    I agree completely with the advantages to editing in the field or at least on a semi-regular basis during travels. Personally I’ve done it both ways — on several trips I’ve been reluctant to lug computer equipment along with cameras and lenses and have opted for travel hard drives/memory card readers, but end up with a daunting amount of images to wade through upon return. It’s also much easier to add captions when things still seem fresh in your mind. Even when I’m making good notes in the field there are always missing pieces that are much easier to follow up on when I’m still on location and in the groove.

  3. September 18th, 2009 at 12:02 am

    shifting sands – desertification in China | duckrabbit - we produce beautifully crafted multimedia

    […] shifting sands – desertification in China […]

  4. September 28th, 2009 at 5:19 am

    Amazing photography – China’s Desertification « Tourist Profile

    […] need for much more text from me, just head over to this link here China’s Growing Sands and watch the video and read the […]

  5. December 13th, 2009 at 8:52 pm


    Hello !.
    You may , probably curious to know how one can make real money .
    There is no initial capital needed You may begin to receive yields with as small sum of money as 20-100 dollars.

    AimTrust is what you need
    AimTrust incorporates an offshore structure with advanced asset management technologies in production and delivery of pipes for oil and gas.

    Its head office is in Panama with structures everywhere: In USA, Canada, Cyprus.
    Do you want to become a happy investor?
    That`s your choice That`s what you really need!

    I`m happy and lucky, I began to get real money with the help of this company,
    and I invite you to do the same. It`s all about how to choose a correct partner who uses your funds in a right way – that`s it!.
    I make 2G daily, and what I started with was a funny sum of 500 bucks!
    It`s easy to start , just click this link
    and go! Let`s take this option together to get rid of nastiness of the life

Leave a reply



Learn how to engage your audience and
build brand recognition across social
channels. Learn more...

Free eBook

Search Resolve



Pick your package. Pick your design.
No credit card required.

Start 14-day Free Trial
Compare packages