Gone are the days when you would go out and shoot something and come home with a couple rolls of film. Two rolls of 36 exposures=72 shots. These days people are shooting hundreds and thousands of images and coming home and just sticking them on hard drives. I have classes where people have accumulated libraries of 30,000+ photos and they aren't shooting professionally and they have only been at it for a few years. Something’s gotta give-usually its the hard drive. So space is cheap and online cloud storage gives both give us more reason to say ‘I will just keep it all.‘ I am saying let’s clean house-delete some of those files! Now, generally when I say this in a class full of people-it gets really quiet because the thought of deleting files has hardly occurred to most.
First let’s look at our lives and how we photograph them. There are images of babies first steps and birthdays where they just look so cute we have to have them all-ok keep them all, but please delete the obvious mistakes. If it is vey under or over exposed or out of focus, it’s got to go.
We have many vacation images from when we travel far and wide and we want to keep documentation of our journey, ok keep them but delete obvious mistakes. These are your ‘record’ shots.
We also have images from snowy days, flowers, sunsets, and landscapes, etc., where we take a few dozen images of the same or similar shot-this is where you have to be tough on yourself.
The reality is, that no matter what your skill level is in photography or how long you have been taking pictures, when you shoot these types of photo there are a lot of shots that just aren’t good enough. Something isn’t correct in the image,whether its the focus, the composition, the exposure. It just didn’t all come together. Then there are shots (there are only a few), when everything falls into place, and it’s as perfect as it can be. Those are the ‘keepers’-delete the rest. Maybe you can’t decide between a few of them and thats ok-they can hang around. I can guarantee you if you didn't think it was an amazing shot today you won’t think it is next week either.
I understand that the idea of deleting images feels uncomfortable to most-including myself. If you start to look at your library, which no doubt has thousands of images already, the task can seem daunting. It’s like trying to clean out a closet that’s been neglected for years-you just don’t even want to look at it. It’s something you are going to get to when you have ‘time’. The truth is we don’t even want to find that time.
You have to start somewhere-so let's start fresh and work our way back.
If you don’t have editing software that will help you organize and rate files-now is the time to get one and start making it work for you. My suggestion is Adobe Lightroom.
From this point forward every time you go out and shoot something, when you come home and download images, go through them and force your self to delete the files that are never going to be anything else but space on your hard drive.
Next,use your editing software to go through them again and rate the images. Most programs like Lightroom have some sort of rating system that you can at least 5 star the images that you love, and maybe 4 star the ones you aren't sure of. Then delete anything that didn't get a star. Finally, back up those files, there is no point to keeping backups of files that are getting deleted. Streamlining the digital library is something that needs to be incorporated into everyone's workflow. If you can do at least a rough edit on import it will not become overwhelming and you will also spend less time searching through superfluous images. So clean house...your hard drive will thank you.