Are you a Hoarder or a Purger?

by Jul 25, 2019

When I go out on a shoot in the refuges, or my other bird photography, I’m always on burst mode. It’s not uncommon for me to shoot 1500 images in a day. When I import them into Lightroom, I do an initial cull, removing focus and exposure fails and other technical dings. that’s can be 5-15% depending on how well the AF cooperates.

I then go through what’s left and do an initial select of the ones that catch my eye. Anything that isn’t picked in that initial select I flag as retired, and copy off to my NAS to be ignored. Sometime at least 3 months in the future (and as much as a year later) I’ll review them again and decide if I missed any I want to keep. So far, over reviewing 5000+ images this way, I’ve recovered 13. To be honest, not one of them I’d really have missed if I just had deleted them the first time, but I like a second look once the emotion of shooting them is gone as a safety net.

So typically, if I shoot 1500 images in a day, by the time I do this initial culling, I’m almost always around or under 100 images. the rest are gone, likely forever. I then do my detail edit, which involves a second cull of images that are good, but just not as good as the ones I’m keeping but duplicate the subject and poses. I try to only keep one unique image of any specific subject/pose.

By the time I’m done, if I start with 1500 images and end with 30ish worth posting in public for people to see, I’m happy. I think my record is about 110 on a day where everything just magically worked. Ending up with 5 or 10 happens, and there are days when I end up with zero. I throw them all out rather than drop my standards, because I don’t want to publish stuff that isn’t good enough.

I also occasionally go through the library and cull the weakest images out in a given species or subject. I did that this evening, in fact, and removed about 200 poorer (mostly older) images.

I know people who hang on to every image, thinking that some day technology improvements might make them usable for them. I did that for a while, then realized that at one point I had 15,000 images on disk I had no intention of ever touching again. Why?

I realize disk is cheap. But do you want to hold on to weak images in hopes you can fix them some day, or should you spend that time creating new, better images that don’t need fixing? I’ll do the latter every time. And I think you should, too.

I think the “keep them around in case” is a bad idea, focus hard on your best, put all your time into them, and then go create even better ones, rather than hoping new technology some day will take weak images and make them awesome. Imagine how much even more awesome those new images will be in that technology when they don’t need fixing.