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Best way to sort through photos

Marc Felber , Mar 05, 2010; 11:20 a.m.

Would anyone know the best way to sort though 2 TB worth of raw photos. This has been very time consuming which I am confused which ones to toss and which ones to keep. I have so many photos. Do you keep the close up's and the ones with the sharpest F/stops? or Just keep the ones with the least amount post processing work. I am so overwhemed with all these files. I don't know what to do. What are my options.


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Rob Bernhard , Mar 05, 2010; 11:25 a.m.

I'm really trying to figure out how someone other than you can possibly tell you what photos you think are worthy of keeping.

Rob Bernhard , Mar 05, 2010; 11:34 a.m.

And my response is not meant to be as glib as it sounded, but seriously, how is this answerable? The obvious deletes should be deleted and everything else is up to you and your situation. Are you selling these photos? Are you printing them? Are you looking to hit some magic number to deliver to a client? The situations are nearly endless.

Perhaps, given your recent frame-rate-thread, you need to look at your entire image-capture process and not just the post-side of things.

Charles Webster , Mar 05, 2010; 11:39 a.m.

I just don't throw any images away unless they are: black frames, unacceptably out of focus, unintentional pictures of my feet. etc.

I use Lightroom to catalog my photos, using stars to rank them and flags to indicate "keepers" That way I can quickly find the keepers in any collection but don't worry about having discarded a shot that might benefit from further post processing later.

I don't keep the exported JPEGs I make for the web site, since they are on the server and can be recreated easily. I keep TIFFs made for clients, but only for a couple of years after the shoot. I figure I can always recreate them if necessary.


Hal B , Mar 05, 2010; 12:38 p.m.

I think even the best of us can't produce more than 1 decent photo every 5 minutes. Each time you are photographing, if you come back with 1200 pictures after 90 minutes, reduce the whole pile down to 18, and you'll have 18 terrific pictures. This is alot more manageable than 1200 pictures that all look alike. You have to do this every day, every time you shoot, with relentless persistence. Over the years, you can't afford to hold on to every single frame that your camera ever produced with a click of its shutter. Most shots are drivel.

Seriously, I have to recall back to your previous post about shooting 10 fps, too. At 10 fps, you can acquire 30 frames of the EXACT SAME THING in 3 seconds. Your primary duty when you get back to your computer is to pick out the 1 best sharp frame and delete the other 29. This should be done on the SAME DAY, not several weeks or months down the road.

If you've already pack-ratted 2TB of photos, you've already created a mountain of work for yourself. Start one day at a time. Take this task in small bites, and eventually you will work through all your photos. Every day, sort through your photos from that day as well as one day in the past. If you already have 2 years of archives, by the end of two more years you will have cleaned up all the history and will have 4 years of your best work saved, and none of the garbage.

Bill from New York City , Mar 05, 2010; 01:13 p.m.

Welcome to the world of editing and we all have this diffculty going through the photos a selecting the keepers and photos that will be deleted. You mention you have 2 TB of raw photos but it will take an effort with 25 photos when you have to select the best five, just not as long with 2 TB.

What I can tell you after you done it plenty of times it gets easier. I do mine in Lightroom. The first pass I find the reject photos. Then I review the rejects and once a while I change my mine and keep it.

Since you have "so many photos" if you find photos of the same subject group them and deciede the best ones. A boring photo can be tack sharp and interesting photo could be not as sharp. You as the photographer have to deciede what to keep, what moves you.

Some photos I will keep just because they are a post card of a trip. Nothing creative about the photograph but I keep it to reminder of what I did and saw. Other photographs I look at them as say to myself "What was I thinking!" and delete it.

What I suggust you take an hour each day and review your photos. Do not try to do it one go. When you are done go back to the photos to review the ones you think to delete, see if you have an keepers. Also a quick pass with your keepers for any photos that you think should now be deleted.


Godfrey DiGiorgi , Mar 05, 2010; 01:26 p.m.

To manage huge amounts of photographs, with the intent being to DO something with them rather than just enjoy pressing the button a lot, takes a bit of forethought, useful tools, and policies-procedures for image management.

I use Lightroom for image management.

For each group of photos imported into the catalog,

- Add creator and copyright information.
- Add location metadata.
- Add a simple set of keywords describing the content
- Organize the files into a directory tree by capture date into the original file repository on the disk.

These things are done in the import process. I tend to import files in batches not exceeding 100-200 exposures at a time simply to make the task manageable in the time before my brain overloads and considers it a chore.

Then do a sort and grade:

- Walk through the last import and add the files into collections by subject type (landscape, still life, people, sports, travel, whatever).
- In each collection, quickly walk through each photo and flag as to whether I'm interested in it (in the context of the collection) or not with a 1 star rating. Add a star if the particular photo appears with a star already. You might also flag as rejects any that are definite trash bin fodder (radically poorly exposed, unfocused, dumb content with no value exposures count as trash bin fodder for me).
- After going through all collections, group select all of them. Filter for all the ones that have no stars, and remove them all from the collections. Put them into an "uninteresting collection" and remove them from all the other collections.
- Delete all the trash bin fodder from the disk.
- Review the 'uninteresting' collection by itself and remove anything there that actually is interesting.

When you've gone through your entire mass of files this way, you can say with some assurance that what's in the category collections is of some passing interest and you might do something with them, what's in the "uninteresting" collection is stuff that you might decide to just delete if disk space is getting tight, and you've made a reasonable jump at putting enough annotation in place that you can find things as your interests wax and wane.

The more focused on a particular use and idea you become, the more stuff you'll find you can delete out of hand.

Douglas Lee , Mar 05, 2010; 10:36 p.m.

I would use Lightroom or PhotoMechanic and go through them and edit in as opposed to editing out. That is, mark the keepers. Delete everything else. No reason to make multiple passes through the same stuff. Going forward, do the same thing. i.e., edit in. Good luck.

tom winberry , Mar 06, 2010; 02:08 p.m.

That is a lot of work. I concur with Douglas Lee. This software and process is quickest I've found for that job. Using LightRoom2 mark all the keepers, delete all the rest... then repeat that process until you're down to the collection you want to keep. after rating, I do a quick crop. this is non-destructive, and it helps me see just how sharp my images are. soft focus gets deleted.

Marc Felber , Mar 08, 2010; 11:02 p.m.

I guess is better just to use the 10% rule keep 10% of the best shots of the total. So if I narrow down to 500, I just keep 50 of the best shots. Thanks for all your advice. I shoot 10 fps to increase the probability of getting 1-2 sharp images of the 10 shot frames.

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