| Written by Ronnie |
I was asked about this for a Q&A post, but I thought it might be fun to discuss this in an open forum and try to find out how you guys all go about culling your photos?
Despite what many of my students think, there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to culling/deleting photos. Not in my opinion, anyway.
Considering that we all have our individual approaches to photographing, and taking into account that we all use our photos in different ways and for different purposes, it makes sense that each of our individual criteria for culling photos is unique.
Before I started shooting RAW, my personal criteria was simply to delete the really bad and blurry photos which I knew I would never, ever include in any scrapbooks, photo albums, or photo books, and to leave everything else. Having said that, even the word "blurry" is rather subjective here, because there are some blurry photos that I do like and have kept. So, perhaps more accurately, my criteria for deleting photos was: "Photos which I knew I would never, ever use."
This approach worked well for a couple of years as I was mainly taking photos on my iPhone and the files were mostly 1.5MB each, so I wasn't too worried about my hard drive filling up too quickly.
However, when I started shooting RAW on my Fujifilm x100s at the beginning of 2015, I knew I needed to be stricter with which photos I chose to kept because each of my Fuji RAW files were 30MB – meaning my hard drive would fill up about 20 times as quickly if I continued to keep the same proportion of photos.
So in addition to deleting the blatantly "un-usable" photos, I also started deleting photos which I didn't feel have its own story to tell. Again, this sounds hugely subjective, and it is. On a rational level, I'm asking myself:
- Does this photo add to the story of me?
- Does this photo add to the story of Rick and me as a couple?
- Does this photo add to the stories of each of our children?
- Does this photo add to the story of our family?
- Does this photo add to the story of our extended family?
But mostly, whether or not a photo has its own story to tell is something that I feel with my heart when I look at the photo.
As an aside, it's probably worthwhile noting that I don't usually try to pick "the best photo" out of a sequence of photos. Partly, this is because I know that I often make use of photo sequences in my life album layouts and in my story books and photo books, and in the past, it's always been helpful to have different options to play with and choose from. But also, I believe that a sequence of photos itself can sometimes tell a story in a way that a single frame is unable to.
But like I said, choosing which photos to delete and which to keep is a very personal decision.
The criteria that you use is ultimately entirely up to you.
If this is something that you're currently trying to figure out, here are some factors that might be helpful to consider:
- Do you shoot JPEGs or RAW? If the latter, how big are your RAW files?
- How much are you willing to invest in external hard drives?
- In ten years’ time, what sort of photos will you wish you would’ve kept?
- How will your photos be used? In blog posts? In photo books? In scrapbooks? For promotional purposes?
No matter what your criteria ends up being, the important thing is to try and be consistent when you are sorting through your photos.
(You might even find it helpful to scribble your criteria on a Post It note and stick it somewhere visible when you are sitting down at your computer.)
So, my friends, it's over to you. What is your personal criteria when it comes to deleting photos?