Admit it, you have lots of images clogging up your hard drive, iPad, even your phone. What you keep or save on all those personal devices is up to you, but as far as your “serious” photography goes, I am willing to bet you have fatally flawed photo’s that are not doing much more than slowing down the drive or making the images you do want harder to find. Why am I so sure about this? Because, I am no different from you in this regard and in the last two days I tossed out 3000 images, and have about as many more to go. I briefly considered throwing my laptop into Puget Sound and calling it a day, but that seemed a bit rash. Like burning down the house rather than cleaning out the closet. That’s a bad thing, right? Um…..Yes! So let my errant ways be a cautionary tale to you.
Some photographers are ruthless and diligent. They shoot, they go back to the hotel, upload all their shots, and toss the drek – all in the same day! Really, swear to god they do this!!! They do not equivocate over 3 essentially similar images. No lie, I have personally known photographers like this. Some I even call friends.
In fact, when doing the Lobstering Life book I worked with one such as this. We would both go out on a boat for a day. In that time we would take somewhere between 600 – 1200 images. I would come back to shore very tired, kinda queasy, and absolutely reeking of dead fish. All I could think about was finding a hot shower and a warm bed. The images? “I’ll do them tomorrow”, I told myself. However, tomorrow came before dawn and I repeated the whole process. And the day after that – same process, same self-deception.
Now, I am not a mathematical genius, but I can tell you that in a week of shooting the shots pile up in a big ole hurry. Then, at the end of the week, your editor, or your partner says, “show me your best dozen.” The disciplined photographer has a handle on that request as he is edited down to maybe 20-30 keepers and 12 favorites. On the other hand, I have 400 that,”might be useful at some point”. The diligent ruthless photographer (i.e., my friend) is more prepared and knows he will never need the hundreds of other shots he took that are almost good enough. The equivocater (i.e, me) is left with stress and panic.
The other thing about the disciplined photographer – which I really hope to become some day – is that she/he is no longer burdened by all the drek. Me? A full two years after turning in the final images for the Lobstering Life book I am just now clearing the tossers off my laptop. I am amazed at the stuff I am finding as I purge. It feels very very freeing to hit the delete button and just let it go. Like clearing your closet of the old jeans that fit before the babies came and you will never fit into again. Get rid of what is not useful instead of burning down the house. Breathe, you will be fine and you really won’t miss those shots, or those size 4 jeans. If this causes you excessive anxiety, put the photos in the trash, set the jeans aside for Goodwill, have a glass of wine, and sleep on it. One night only. Next morning -” Delete from Disk” followed by “Empty the Trash” – you can do it!
One caveat – It is ok to keep an image or two for specific reasons. For example: it tells you something about the place and you are over 1000 miles from home, it’s a teaching shot, it had fat Elvis AND Big Foot in it. Make sure that there is a justifiable reason for every shot in your Photographers catalogue. My own system is to label those odd keepers with one star. Image labeling is a topic for another day. For now I will inspire you to do your own cull by coming clean and showing you some of the drek that was lurking on my computer…
May the force be with you!