My previous mantra went something like this: Never delete a photo because someday in the future, you might be glad you saved it. Future post-processing software and acquired capabilities could help save inferior images. And hey, hard drive space is cheap.
Well, I’ve been hitting the edges of the 1 terabyte limit of my internal hard drive (13″ Macbook Pro Retina) and so I’ve been rethinking the previous mantra. Sure, I could tote around an external thunderbolt hard drive but that kind of defeats the whole lighter-than-air portability quest I’ve been on and really, who needs 44,673 photos?
So, into my Lightroom library I delved, with the noble goal of paring it down big time. And pare down I did. My library now stands at 27,812 and it (and I) are breathing a lot easier these days.
The laborious process of going through all 44k+ photos taught me several things, but first about the images above: that’s Shadow, our 13 year old Lhasa Apso, and the image on the very top is the second photo in my library. Presumably it’s the second digital image I ever captured, probably days after rediscovering photography in the form of a Canon Powershot S30 point and shoot camera acquired in January of 2002. The notion of a cross country trip with my family later that year was budding and so I wanted to become familiar with this newfangled digital photography thang. The second photo above was taken many, many years later. Not only does Shadow look older but I hope I’ve learned a few things along the way resulting in more compelling images. I hope.
Read on for 5 lessons learned from the process…
Lesson 1: Crap is Crap
If I thought it wasn’t very good right after capture, then generally speaking, it didn’t get better later. The idea that my future self might re-look at a poorly composed capture of some rocks in a fresh manner and see art just hasn’t panned out. If I thought to delete it then, I should have deleted it then.
Lesson 2: Thank Goodness I’m Past the HDR Phase
HDR capture and processing done right is cool beans. But there was a long stretch there when every single shot I took included three or five bracketed shots. Talk about swelling up a photo library. And in light of Lesson 1 above, five marginal shots don’t magically turn into five wonderful shots down the line. Additionally, I’ve learned that through careful post-processing, a great deal of the dynamic range latitude you gain from HDR can be pulled out of a single RAW file. You live, you learn.
Lesson 3: Parse Realtime
This is a never-put-off-until-tomorrow-what-you-can-do-today lesson. I’m looking through countless photo shoots when I didn’t properly delete the subpar images right after the shoot. Like the clutter that builds up in your house, it gets harder to deal with later (when there’s clutter sitting on top of the clutter). Clean as you go!
Lesson 4: Enough with the Trees
Probably 30 percent of my images are from the photowalks I often taken in the various local and state parks nearby my house. There are some personal gems in there, but generally speaking, it’s hard to make works of art from the same ole same ole pictures of trees. I think I’m done with trees.
Lesson 5: Import Wisely
All decent image editing/cataloging programs allow for the use of key-wording and tagging of photos. The time to do that is upon import whereby you can automatically add key-words to metadata such as “Grand Canyon Trip” or “More Pictures of Trees” or whatever. It makes finding and dealing with a growing library so much easier later. I wish I knew then what I know now.
This could have been the 6th lesson — shoot more deliberately. For indeed, that has been the biggest lesson of all. But that, friends, requires its own blog post. I’ll be writing about that soon.