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01-22-2019, 05:51 PM - 3 Likes   #1
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Inspiration through Culling and Curating

About once a month, or at least every quarter, I sort through the photos I've taken one final time before I move them off my PC to external storage. Though I often cull the obviously unsalvageable or otherwise poor shots almost daily when I download, tag, process and upload for the Daily In and Single In challenges, sometimes I either fall in love with a shot and can't bear to purge it, or I tell myself "I can do something with this, but not right now". After a month or more I realize that the shot was not that good, or I really can't make it improve it enough to make it a keeper.

The only exception is usually a picture of family or friends.

This review helps me by showing improvements in technique, but also shows a trend of bad habits I need to consciously correct. It helps me consider capturing a familiar or often used subject or location in a different way, a different angle, a different lens, a different crop, and makes me eager to try to capture it once more.


Now that I pay for Flickr, I decided to go through 3 + years of uploads. In an effort to curate my photostream, I purged many shots that were just not very good, or shots that had earned little to no attention. This caused me to consider how I might capture some scenes and subjects in a more captivating way. I also sorted more of those pictures in to albums, generally based around a theme.

All in all, this evaluation of 5+ years of digital photography did inspire me to try a few new ideas, to revisit some old neglected gear, and to be more conscious in everything that makes goes into creating a technically good and artistically interesting photo both before and after opening the shutter.

How many of you regularly sort and purge your back catalog? Are you ruthless in your self-critique and swift to delete, or do you give yourself a bit of leeway?


Last edited by robgski; 01-22-2019 at 06:36 PM. Reason: Misspelled word
01-22-2019, 06:27 PM - 2 Likes   #2
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Proud digital packrat here! With the low price of digital storage, I happily hoard everything.

The notion of reviewing past work seems very valuable for all the reasons mentioned. But deletion and forgetting each ugly bit of personal photographic history seems counterproductive. Keeping everything lets one relive both the glories and the mistakes multiple times which helps reinforce the lesson.

That said, the best of the best get special treatment. The better of the rest get some tagging. And the rest sit on the hard disk as a homage to both humble beginnings, honest mistakes, failed experiments, and more recent blunders.

(Plus, I never know when some automagical AI might be able to fix that blurry, underexposed JPG which my nose set to a white balance of 20,000K.)
01-22-2019, 07:41 PM - 2 Likes   #3
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Yep - throwing away an image - no matter how bad it is seems like book burning!! Who knows what the view back from the future brings. It would have been so easy to throw this neg away eons ago. But a crappy little instamatic was all I could afford in those days and pictures of my first born are all too rare.
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01-22-2019, 10:28 PM - 1 Like   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by robgski Quote
How many of you regularly sort and purge your back catalog? Are you ruthless in your self-critique and swift to delete, or do you give yourself a bit of leeway?
I'm a little like you. I periodically go back through my photos and delete those that just don't work for me but I was too invested in them at the time to deal with them. Typically things like which of these 14 almost-identical shots should I keep? If I can't decide which of two photos to keep then they must be close enough to identical that I can ditch one of them. Storage is cheap, but geez the files from my K-1 II are big! Since I got it I've been using Raw+ and dual cards, with jpegs sent to one card and DNGs sent to the other. I move the jpegs to the computer and then, after reviewing everything on the big screen, decide which photos justify keeping the DNGs and which ones are just fine in jpeg format. The jpegs are pretty darn good...

01-22-2019, 10:59 PM   #5
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After moving house, I discovered so many "historical" photos that I should have thrown out way back then, so glad now that I didn't, after 30-40 years they become even more interesting
However critical self assessment really can be helpful
01-23-2019, 01:35 AM - 2 Likes   #6
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I'm merciless. With a DSLR I never keep more than the one or two frames that I think are really worth it, and I'll often delete an entire day's shooting without any qualms. Although I'm much more lenient about keeping family happysnaps than I am with the arty-farty stuff.

Back in the film days I used to cull my slides as soon as they came back from the lab, and if I kept four or five frames from a roll of 36 then I felt I'd done well. The keeper rate was always higher with film, simply because the cost made you think twice before you tripped the shutter.

I'd never get rid of any of my really old family snaps though. There are only about three dozen surviving photos of my entire childhood, because film was expensive and we weren't a well-off family, and every single one of them is a treasure that brings back intensely vivid memories.
01-23-2019, 01:58 AM - 1 Like   #7
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Another digital hoarder

My photos are my memory and record of my garden development (instead of writing things down it's easier to take a photo that has date and weather etc embedded). So no culling for me, just buy a 6TB disk.

But the K1 files are just huge so I might look at keeping the JPEGs as the "record" and cull the RAWs - but just like trying to cull the contents of my sheds and garage, I'd rather spend the time taking more pics

(At least I'm consistent - my garage and sheds are all full of "stuff that might come in handy" that usually does the week after I cull it!)

Which reminds me - a Beaufortia sparsa is finally flowering after 4 years and needs recording.

Last edited by vrphoto; 01-23-2019 at 02:01 AM. Reason: afterthought
01-23-2019, 02:04 AM - 2 Likes   #8
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With wildlife and macro, it's easy - no point in keeping anything not perfectly focused (unless rare species or behaviour or poor composition) - I invariably take multipe shots and delete all but the best at the time of reviewing in Lightroom - the only problem being when the subject is static for a while and there are a dozen or so equally good shots - then I keep them all at the time, meaning to go back at ome future time to reasssess, and never do Sreet the same, except there are seldom multiple similar images, so, after discarding any that aren't interesting or well composed or focused, I discard on first edit.

Landscape, urban, portrait, etc, pictures tend to be more considered - it's easy to get rid of mistakes, but not much more - that's where I accumulate more pictures I never use than any other area, probably.

So I get rid of the rubish - RAW and all, then process rest as jpegs, export them if I like them - try to remeber to delete those that I don't consider worth exporting, then select one or to to go to Flickr - hopefully the best, but also as a quick marker as to where I was and when so I can go back and look at the rest on the external hard drive(s) more easily.

When I want a picture for a competition or prnt etc I usually call up everything that was processed, using Flckr to help me fnd the date, as I say.

But, witn over 4,500 pictures on Flickr, some of them doing nothing to convince anybody I can take good photographs, it's probably time for a cull - but it's hard


Last edited by ffking; 01-23-2019 at 03:56 AM. Reason: typo
01-23-2019, 02:20 AM - 1 Like   #9
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I go through my photos and try to discard when I decide to print, looking at older photos makes it easier to see what's worth printing and what isn't. Flickr prompted me to just remove old photos that I was ignoring anyway (not sharing, not printing). Going through my Flickr account, I found perhaps a dozen that I really like, certainly not the 900+ that are left there's a lot for me to learn and to improve with this hobby

When downloading from the camera, I keep few photos, especially from what I take for my own fun. The keep ratio varies with the genre, I shoot a lot more photos for action or concerts than landscapes. Even with family photos, I try to keep as few as I can, so that when I decide to print them they're not overwhelming to look at in an album.

Last edited by aaacb; 01-23-2019 at 02:26 AM.
01-23-2019, 04:03 PM - 1 Like   #10
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I sometimes go through and discard old pictures that at the time I thought were ok, but now changed my mind. What I don't get rid of is our family photos, some have been converted to jpeg, most still are raw files. I am also more diligent about my backups. Up to about 2003, I used DVR's or CD's for backups, making several copies. All my old family film photos were also scanned and saved this way. Then someone wanted to purchase one of my Mt Rainier photos. I had a small jpeg on my drive, but the original was "safely" on DVR backups, and they were all stored together. Went to retrieve it and found that all the storage media was corrupted, all was lost. Most important was all my older family pictures were gone.

Now I use two external USB drives with full copies on each, another copy on my laptop, and all important stuff uploaded to the web. The USB drives are stored in a fireproof safe.
01-23-2019, 05:39 PM - 1 Like   #11
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When I cull, I am pretty good at keeping one or two of a series of otherwise identical shots. Problem ends up being time and family. I've got no problems getting rid of even family shots assuming I have multiples of a shot, but man, having a 2 year old at home and a time suck of a job barely gives me time to take photos let alone cull them out. Usually I just do a folder at a time (and process some keepers too). It's fun, but now I have about 15 years of digital photos. To do justice to the task would take quite a while.
01-23-2019, 06:43 PM   #12
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I keep more garbage than I should. Abundant hard drive space and using Lightroom to hide the trash that I can't bring myself to delete make pack rating far to easy.

QuoteOriginally posted by ffking Quote
With wildlife and macro, it's easy - no point in keeping anything not perfectly focused (unless rare species or behaviour or poor composition) - I invariably take multipe shots and delete all but the best at the time of reviewing in Lightroom - the only problem being when the subject is static for a while and there are a dozen or so equally good shots - then I keep them all at the time, meaning to go back at ome future time to reasssess, and never do
I definitely relate to this. I'm consciously working on mercilessly deleting the redundant but it's an uphill battle with my hoarding habits.
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