Today’s Question: I remember a long time ago I heard you say that you don’t delete photos. Is that still true (if it ever was)? It seems to me that deleting photos is necessary to avoid filling up a hard drive with photos I’ll never use.
Tim’s Quick Answer: It is true that I almost never delete photos, but I certainly don’t recommend that all photographers adopt this approach. It is an approach that I prefer to take, but that isn’t right for all photographers.
More Detail: There are certainly situations where I will delete photos. For example, if I have captured an image that is clearly bad (such as when I press the shutter by mistake while walking with my camera) I will often delete that photo at that time if I am not in a hurry and am not photographing a subject that requires my attention.
I will also sometimes delete photos after I’ve imported my images into my Lightroom catalog, such as when an accidental capture was made with the lens cap on.
But in most cases I don’t bother taking the time to delete my outtakes. Instead I identify my best images from a photo shoot (in my case using star ratings) and then filter my images by star rating so that at any given time I am only looking at my best photos.
This approach enables me to retain all of my outtakes as “just in case” images that can be used if I decide one of my favorites from a photo shoot exhibited a particular problem. It does cause me to have more photos in my catalog (about 300,000 and counting) than I really need, and to fill up my “photos” hard drive (currently 4 terabytes) faster than I otherwise would.
It is important to keep in mind that my decision not to generally delete photos is really a philosophical decision. I have simply found over the years that I prefer to keep (nearly) all photos I capture, and then filter those photos based on specific attributes so I’m only viewing a relatively small number of photos at any given time.
For those interested in exploring this topic further, and learning more details about why I don’t generally delete photos, you can read my article “To Delete or Not to Delete” in the February 2013 issue of Pixology magazine. If you’re a current subscriber and missed that issue, you can send an email to email@example.com and she will be happy to send you that back issue. And if you’re not already a Pixology subscriber, you can sign up now and request this back issue (and others) at no additional cost.
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