Mike Tittel recently reached out to Wonderful Machine for a new print edit on his portfolio. We previously worked together, as I helped with his photo selection for his promotional material. I was excited to take on a more involved editing project with the sports, fitness, and lifestyle photographer’s photographs.
As a photo editor, you see a lot of portfolios. Many pass across your desk quickly, and within a few pages, you have already formed opinions about the photographer’s work. It takes a lot for a book to be truly memorable. It has to stand out in a sea of other portfolios, often reviewed in a hurry. I heard that Mike’s old book, with its vibrant orange cover, gets noticed wherever it goes. My job was to come up with an equally memorable series of photographs, which showcased the best of his work.
Mike’s style ranges from outdoor, lifestyle work, to darker, dramatically lit photography. Early on, Mike and I had conversations about how to balance his styles of photography. It was important to integrate our different approaches, as opposed to having them compete with one another.
The dynamic between these two styles of photography became the narrative that drove the organization of Mike’s work. First into pairs, then spreads, and eventually a sequenced portfolio layout. The process began by printing mini versions of the initial edit. These pictures (printed and cut to about the size of a deck of playing cards) became a tool for putting the photos together into spreads. Once the images were grouped into spreads, I laid them out into a sequence, slowly eliminating the spreads that didn’t quite fit.
I knew that I was fully committed to a few images from the get go. The photo of the swimmer standing amidst a reflective, and darkly dappled pool was my initial thought for how to open the book, and remained so throughout the entire editing process. I also loved the photo of a male runner casually stretching his arms above his head as a bridge looms majestically in the background. To me, this photo captured every element of Mike’s photography in a single image. I thought it would be a great place to end the portfolio, and it too became a powerful force in my thinking about the general trajectory of the edit.
Once I’d narrowed the sequence down, I bounced it off of my fellow photo editors here at Wonderful Machine. After getting some great feedback, I made a few final tweaks and sent off the first draft to Mike.
Mike liked the overall direction I had taken but thought that the book could use a bit more lifestyle work. Round two of my edit focused on including a few more lifestyle photographs, swapping out an image here and there. I also created an additional lifestyle spread. The book was now very close to completion, and Mike and I both felt like the right mix of sports, lifestyle, and fitness photography had been achieved.
After that, the edits became minor adjustments to the sequence, and small amendments here and there on a few spreads. Mike was really happy with the final results, and soon began the process of printing the book in-house. Of the final piece he said:
It looks amazing—probably my favorite edit to date. It has a great feel and flow. The larger images are more impactful too. I’m super excited to get out and share this one.