In this digital age, the cost of snapping a photo is insanely cheap. But does that mean I keep every single photo I take?
This is a question someone asked me the other day, and an important question for those who are just starting to think about how they will set up their own personal processing workflow.
Deleting bad photos isn’t exactly high on my priority list, but I do delete a lot of my photos. Here’s are some of the most common times folks will delete photos and why I will or will not delete photos at those times:
1. In Camera
While photographing an event, sometimes I’ll delete obviously bad photos straight off the camera.
However, I usually don’t do this because often first impressions can be misleading (not to mention, the playback screen). There may actually be some beneficial elements to an image that may seem bad initially (ie. not cropped in perfectly…this makes a picture look bad initially but may actually be good later because it provides room for cropping, especially for different ratios), I’m usually thinking about way too many other things to make a good judgment call on whether or not a particular photo is good or bad, and sometimes I can’t really even know if it’s good or bad without looking at it at 100% on a computer.
So, generally, I don’t delete many pictures off my camera.
2. Immediately in Lightroom
Instead of deleting them straight off the camera, I will generally import all my photos from a memory card into Lightroom straight away. This saves me the time and hassle of choosing which pictures to import in the Import Area (which isn’t designed for sorting through pictures or viewing them anyway).
After importing everything, I generally go through and flag the photos I like, reject the ones I really don’t like and know I will never use (ie. unnecessary duplicates, the least-sharp in a series, the obviously under or overexposed shots in a series, etc.) and leave the others alone. I then edit the good ones and…usually that’s all the time I can spend on that project. I’m usually moving on to the next job.
I very rarely delete photos immediately after or during a job. You just never know when a client my respond back and request a photo of such and such a guest at their wedding and the only shot you have of them is a blurry one that you would have deleted initially had the client not requested it.
When I start to get warnings that my computer hard drive is getting low on space, that’s when I generally am reminded to go and delete past photos. At the end of a month or year I will sort my photos by rejected flag and select them all and delete them. This is just as easy to do at the end of the project, if you’re sure you’re at the end of a project.
If I have the time, I can re-pass through past folders and reject more photos than the ones I rejected on the initial pass, but I seldom have the time to do this. I’d like to have the time to do it, but such is life.
The non-flagged ones I keep. I’ve often come back and been grateful I hadn’t deleted all my non-flagged photos because I’ll be pulling a picture for an STS op or something, where the crop or subject wasn’t exactly suited for the initial purpose I took the picture.
So, while waiting till “later” isn’t exactly the best time to delete photos, and it’s certainly not the most economical or cost-efficient method, it’s the way it happens for me, because of it’s low position on my priority list.
When do you delete your photos? If you had a dream workflow, at what point would you do the deleting? Would love to learn from comments from your experience!