I’ve always wanted the perfect ‘workflow’ and I think I’m finally edging towards what works best for me. Over the last two years it’s changed so many times I couldn’t have told you where anything was. At the start of January this year it involved a camera, laptop, iPad, iPhone, Lightroom, Lightroom Mobile, and Flickr. My Lightroom had around 30 collections and a total 9000 photos. I’m not even sure how to explain what was going on every time I plugged in my SD card.
After a lot of device swapping and app opening, I usually had a picture or two I maybe liked. The more I read the more often the idea of culling your collection came up. Although, credit where it’s due, Matt Martin takes most credit for the nudge here. So, not (always) one to ignore good advice when everyone gives it, I decided to see what I could lose.
I’d never really paid attention to the number of photos I had. When I sat down one evening to prune a thousand images or so I ended up going at 9000 with a chainsaw. The amount of pictures I’d clearly tried to save for some reason was incredible. Hundreds of terrible photos, terribly edited. Thousands of pieces of absolute garbage down to the point of accidentally taken photos of the inside of my bag. 150 pictures I liked enough to keep (162 including some Yuka had taken). The pictures that didn’t make the cut went in the trash. It was tough. It was cathartic. I’m sure I lost a couple of things I’ll have to remind myself not to be sad about one day. I still made the photo, I haven’t deleted that time. It felt like a hard reset. All I had left were photos I’m proud of. Photos I don’t mind showing people. Photos I wouldn’t be too embarrassed to print out and show to my friends. Photos that remind me why I go everywhere with a camera.
I took my 30 odd collections down to two: 2016 & 2017. Nothing from before that ever even entered Lightroom. I exported the pictures that made the cut into a new desktop folder and synced that up with Dropbox. I’ve imported a couple of times since then, but I’ve been harsher at the import stage. If an image grabs me, it can stay. If not, it never makes the hard drive. Then there’s a quick run of the imported images and a delete of anything that doesn’t feel worth keeping at second glance. Finally, a 30-second edit and I export. My iPad (and with it LR Mobile) is gone from the workflow. Flickr is gone. My phone lets me post to Instagram – at least until I can kill that addiction off. Having Lightroom look so neat has softened the import struggle a little. I enjoy the challenge of keeping everything neat and tidy. Having already done the hard work, it’s easier to keep on top of it.
For every positive that comes with a tidy collection, a tidy workflow, knowledge of where your photos even are; the most satisfying part of The Big Delete was slowing down the closer I came to present day. The first few months were almost entirely deleted without question. In the middle I was still deleting in groups of 300 before I found something that made me think. The last few months gave me more food for thought. I still had a lot of photos I couldn’t believe I’d tried so hard to make something of. But it felt good to see progress. I’m excited to come back at the end of the year and see what survivors can go into deep storage. I think if I hit 500 photos sitting in Lightroom before the end of the year, I’ll realise I’m getting back into bad habits and I’ll bring the next, hopefully smaller, delete forward. In the meantime, I’ll keep on enjoying how quickly I can get from the top to the bottom of the All Photographs tab.
Tokyo, March 2017.