Unless you are a diligent scrapbooker, editing images is a skill most people don’t take time to learn. As a result, most of us have boxes full of printed images that never see the light of day. And with the advance of smartphone cameras, it’s even easier and cheaper to take hundreds of images. How many times have you seen a friend post 40 plus images of their trip on their Facebook page? I like to see travel images but I don’t need to see ALL of them. Quantity does not necessarily mean quality. To stay on top of our photo inventory, we need to learn how to ruthlessly edit our images so that the best ones can shine through.
Around the world, over 1 trillion digital pictures are taken every year. That’s a lot of images cluttering up phones, hard drives and cloud accounts. If you have limits to your cloud storage, not editing your images means you pay more each month. But even if you choose unlimited storage with Google Photos there are costs to having so many images. Not only do they take up precious space on your cell phone, all those images clutter your mind and suck up valuable time when you are trying to find a particular image. Getting used to editing and sorting your images into albums on a regular basis will make it much easier to share and create content and it may save you some money down the road.
Getting started is easy but first I should say that before you get into hardcore editing on your computer, it is good practice to back up your images to a temporary folder on your desktop. When you are finished editing and sorting the best images and are certain you have kept only the ones you want, you can delete the temporary folder.
If you are editing images on your iPhone, even if you delete them, Apple puts them into a Recently Deleted album for 30 days so you have a chance to change your mind. If you are certain that you don’t want to keep those images, you can go into the deleted photos album, select the images and delete them permanently. Or you can just wait the 30 days for the application to delete them automatically.
Get rid of all of the images that are too dark, too light and most important, out of focus. If you only look at your images on your phone you might not see that they are out of focus – the joys of a small screen. Zoom in to be sure. Or better yet, edit your images on your computer.
Get rid of the duplicates and research images. Often we will take many shots of a group of people to make sure that everybody in the shot is smiling. Pick the best one and DELETE the rest. If your camera takes an extra HDR image, pick the one you like and delete the copy. Same goes for Boost shots. I will often take pictures of products I am thinking of buying. Once a decision has been made, these images are deleted.
If you are editing your images on your computer, you can use software like PhotoSweeper for the MAC or Duplicate Photo Fixer for the PC to review your folders for duplicates. Of course, sorting the images into chronological or event-based folders makes this process much easier.
Separate the wheat from the chaff. Now you need to pick the best images, the ones that really express what you saw. This is of course, highly subjective. Some people think every image is important and that’s o.k. The point is to remove the images that are just taking up space and that will get in your way later on.
Depending on the software you use to review your images, you can move the lesser images into a separate folder or you can tag the best ones and change the view to sort by rating. It all depends on your personal work preferences and what you plan to do with the images in the long run.
As I mentioned in this post, understanding the WHY of picture taking makes it easier to manage them. Are you going to share them with friends and family? Are you going to make a travel book? Are you planning on printing and framing them or even make a movie? Essentially, will you want to look at that picture again in say, 5 years? Does it effectively express what was happening at that time?
In 2008 my husband and I visited Paris and we were quite shocked to realize that the grab and go coffee culture doesn’t exist there. Parisians love their coffee, but they like it at the bar, talking with friends, taking a moment in their busy morning before they head to work. Within two days we succumbed to the pressure and slowed down. It was an important part of our trip so we shot a video of the experience.
These are the things that you keep. The things that tell the story of that trip, of that day. They show where you were, who you were with and what you were feeling. Everything else is just filler or white noise.
Of the 20 or so pictures we took of the Jardin Luxembourg in Paris on that warm Spring day, the featured image for this post and these two images show perfectly not only the gardens but also how the Parisians love to enjoy the space.
The beautiful thing about reviewing your images is that the more you do it the more you will recognize the images that work and those that don’t. The next time you may think to try a different angle or to take more time to make sure the image is in focus. You may set up your group shots to make sure you can see everybody’s face, or you may include a close-up perspective to complement a wide-angle shot. Or maybe, you will remember to shoot video as well as stills.
However, editing does takes time and focus so you have to be committed and motivated. It’s kind of like exercise for a lot of people. Initially, you don’t want to do it but after, you are happy that you made the effort. And just like exercise, it works best if you put it into your schedule. As the award-winning photographer Chase Jarvis says, it’s not that you don’t have time, it’s just that you haven’t made it a priority.
Do you have a long commute? Reviewing your images on your phone while you sit on the bus is a good time saver. I like to do it while watching tv at the end of the day. Give yourself an hour a week to edit and back up your images so that when the time comes to share or organize them into a book or video, you will know exactly where to find them.
If you need a bit more inspiration, check out this post on procrastination. But if you are overwhelmed by how to start the process, you can contact me for a free initial consultation.