Last month, I had the opportunity to work on a new print edit for sports, fitness, and lifestyle photographer Mike Tittel’s portfolio book. I had the pleasure of working with Mike before on the photo selection for his promotional materials, which he also worked on with our designer, Amanda Friend. This time around, I was excited to take on a more involved editing project with Mike’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, and to stand out in a sea of other portfolios—often crowding a desk, to be reviewed in a hurry. I had heard that Mike’s old book, with its vibrant orange cover, gets noticed wherever it goes. My job now was to come up with an equally memorable series of photographs to showcase the very best of his sports, fitness, and lifestyle work.
Since I was already familiar with Mike’s photography, I was able to quickly dive into an evaluation of his style—which ranges from outdoor, lifestyle work, to darker, moodier and more dramatically lit photography. My early conversations with Mike were about how to balance these styles of photography in the book, and how best to integrate these different approaches in a way that would not force them to compete with one another.
The dynamic between these two styles of photography became the narrative thread that drove my 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 the look and feel of the sequence.
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 things down to a sequence that I really liked, 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, and creating one additional lifestyle spread of a smiling woman sitting on a bench by her bike, accompanied by a woman with raised arms on a beach, and a yoga-like handstand shot. 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.
Click below to flip through a virtual copy of the full portfolio: