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What Image files to keep, what to send to the dust bin of history?


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#1 Steve Williams

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Posted 06 May 2010 - 08:46 AM

I'm struggling with how to weed through my first two years of underwater digital images. Especially since the hardrives are going to fill up rapidly with the new larger files from the new cameras. I'd love to hear from you all on how you decide which images to keep. Up to now I've kept every image in two places but I'm rapidly coming to the realization that doing that doesn't make much sense. I probably got in the habit from archiving all the old slides.

On one hand memory is cheap and you never know what someone may want or what future processing will allow us to "fix". Just an example, a guy contacted me recently and wanted to use an image. He said he really liked some of my ray shots but wanted to know if I had any without the rays. :) He just wanted blue water. I dug around and had a few for him to choose from because I had kept all the files I had used to test the exposure. If I had culled my files mercilessly as I've been taught I'd have thrown those out.

On the other hand it just doesn't make sense to keep every file.

So I've got to make some room and make it easier to keyword and find what I keep. Which files do you keep and how do you decide?

Cheers,

Steve

Edited by Steve Williams, 06 May 2010 - 08:52 AM.

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#2 Balrog

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Posted 06 May 2010 - 09:16 AM

I keep everything that's properly exposed, properly framed and in focus but if I have 4 or 5 goes at a subject only keep the best one.
But then I just do it for personal amusement. Never sold a shot and never likely to.

#3 Scubatooth

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Posted 06 May 2010 - 11:14 AM

I keep all of the images i shoot, no matter what. The reasoning behind it as the software has progressed the images in the past that were looking to be unsalvagable are now able to be saved (content aware filter on CS5 being a big one), some arent portfolio worthy but memorable from that time/event/trip. Plus its a good way of learning from old mistakes so as not to repeat them.

HDD space was never a issue as HDD have gotten less expensive over the years. I just keep upgrading the harddrives and or servers as I shoot more and more photos. Im glad lightroom is around now as it keeps thumbnail images of everything in the catalog so that i can be able to go through all the images i have shot at any point in time without having to dig out that particular harddrive (if its not on the server or offsite back up) or project book if it was shot on film.

Edited by Scubatooth, 06 May 2010 - 11:14 AM.


#4 loftus

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Posted 06 May 2010 - 01:07 PM

I absolutely don't keep everything. I would say that at least 50% of what I shoot is trashed on the first review.

After that I ask myself 4 questions when deciding whether to keep or trash an image.

Will the image make a good print to enlarge say 16x20 at least?
Is the image acceptable photographically, focus etc and part of a bigger photo essay type story, like my recent trip to Haiti for example?
Is it of some personal value like friends, family pics etc?
Is it something unusual or rare and at least a decent shot?

Everything else goes in the trash.
Even though hard drive space has come way down in price it's still not free, and I see no reason to fill a drive with stuff I'm almost certainly never going to use.
Why have a huge catalogue that requires 3x longer than necessary to scan through?

Edited by loftus, 06 May 2010 - 01:08 PM.

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#5 diver dave1

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Posted 06 May 2010 - 06:26 PM

Steve,
I am struggling with the same issue. Thanks for starting this thread. After moving to SLR for u/w last yr, files add up fast. I also shoot raw for family snaps and general land use. HDrives are cheap but would I ever sort through that many lower quality pics? I am heading more toward the Loftus approach, I think. Its not the cash for the drives...its sorting through all the additional mass.

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#6 Timmoranuk

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Posted 06 May 2010 - 09:57 PM

With a RAW spawning a set of processed jpegs I cull ruthlessly. Probably fewer than 30% of my images only make it ashore! Once on the desktop and the dual monitors the proportion will drop to 10% or less. I am a draconian self-critic.
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#7 Steve Williams

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Posted 06 May 2010 - 10:12 PM

Thanks for the initial inputs folks. We have a very interesting cross section so far looking at the poll data. And at least two honest individuals among the group. :)

Looking for some more folks to help us out here,
Steve

Edited by Steve Williams, 07 May 2010 - 09:43 AM.

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#8 TheRealDrew

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Posted 06 May 2010 - 10:24 PM

I keep them all. No matter how big the camera files are now, hard drives are cheap and hold alot. Think about how many 8 Gig cards can you put on a 1.5terrabyte drive, and those are under $100 now. I will mark a small amount that I actually think are worthwhile (still have the film tendency of thinking if I got 3 shots I liked on a roll of 36 that was a real good roll :) ), but there have been times when I missed shots (photo or video) during a review that were worthwhile. With quick keying, smart albums and the rest it is easy to tag things as not worthwhile or worthwhile. Plus I go back and see what I didn't like.

Once something is trashed it is trashed and gone, if it is just marked as "ehhhh.." you can always go back.

#9 Scubatooth

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Posted 06 May 2010 - 11:18 PM

Well the hardest part in all of the storage of my images was getting to the point where they were organized and cataloged, that was why i didnt delete any, this also plays into why i dont delete them now. Well let me modify that, I only delete the ones that have no hope, like way out of focus or are corrupted.

Organization took the better part of a year as some images i have 6-9 copies of across multiple drives, when i finally condensed things down, built a DAM protocol, and naming conventions it was much more manageable, mostly due to LR2. Now there is a importation process to ensure everything is backed up. Then once there on the serve is when i go through images I rank them with 0-5 stars; 0 being duds to 5 being cream of the crop(<1-2% of all my images, and which most have made my portfolio), with most falling into the 3star range. Then within LR is use the color flags, and tags in the file name to denote where a image is in the process.

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#10 decosnapper

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Posted 06 May 2010 - 11:42 PM

I keep everything. Why? Three reasons:-

1. Very little of my work is opportunistic - I go with a preconceived idea and if I don't come away with I originally envisaged I can be left feeling like the rest of the images are failures. Post shoot editing would have removed so-called "duds" but if I leave them and go back (say) in 3-6 months then I "find" images that work for other reasons. This is after the original intention/failure of the shoot is forgotten. Last month I was asked if I had a subject and it turned out I did but the RAW had never been processed.....the sale was more than worth the trouble of keeping, finding and processing.

2. Copyright. Defendants in copyright infringement claims have tried to use "its not your image" defence to resist paying damages....a curious tactic that would stand up if tested. The infringer is not saying they didn't steal, just that the claimant is not the owner of the rights.......By having everything to prove ownership (this would include receipts for travel, accommodation etc) including all the RAW files showing a sequence of events, the body of evidence falls in your favour. Never tested this personally, but its a good enough reason to keep all.

3. Improvements in software processing of RAW files. We are at the beginning of a digital revolution. In 10 years it might be possible to rescue just about any image, the gains in software are just unknown and to ditch near misses is perhaps short sighted.

Hard disks are cheap, reliable and can be backed up and moved offsite for minimal cost/effort. The RAW files are valuable.

Edited by decosnapper, 06 May 2010 - 11:46 PM.

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#11 TheRealDrew

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Posted 07 May 2010 - 08:41 AM

including all the RAW files showing a sequence of events, the body of evidence falls in your favour. Never tested this personally, but its a good enough reason to keep all.



I often think the same thing on that point. If you shoot three shots, let's say, in RAW and it is almost a filmstrip happening, to me it would add to proof of the photo in context. Very well could be some probative value there if push came to shove, more so in light of how inexpensive it is to keep and catalog things.

#12 DiverPam

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Posted 16 May 2010 - 12:46 PM

Another question with this.

RAW + Jpeg - what do you all do with the Jpeg files once everything is converted and you have it backed up? Do you delete - keep? And how does Lightroom treat these Jpegs? Does it treat them as seperate photos and catalog them this way or see these are dups?

Thanks for starting this thread Steve

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#13 Steve Williams

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Posted 16 May 2010 - 12:58 PM

Hi Pam,
I don't shoot to capture RAW + jpeg any more. Since I switched over to Lightroom it's so easy to modify the images and I almost always see something I'd like to tweak I just leave it set to RAW only and save the room on the card. Another lesson learned is not to keep the jpegs in the LR catalog upon export. There's no need really. I keep the jpeg I've exported in a folder but no reason to clutter up the LR catalog. Lots of ways to search for the treasure. :lol:

Cheers,
Steve

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#14 DiverPam

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Posted 19 May 2010 - 10:47 AM

Thanks - Okay..one more question along these lines. What do you do with the NEF file once you convert it to DNG? Do you keep that as well folks or delete. I am finding that everything is getting cluttered up very fast and now that I am trying to get eveything together so that I can organize with my new lightroom (YEAH finally have it), I am concerned about what to do.

Do you need those NEF files once the conversion is done? As you can see, I still have a steep learning curve with RAW files.

Thanks - DiverPam

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#15 TimG

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Posted 19 May 2010 - 10:59 PM

I'm with Loftus.

After a year at KBR a photo had to be pretty special for me to keep it. 150 images a day; say, 350 days..... that's an awful lot of hard disk space and slowing of my computer for images that I will likely never look at again. I reckon if I kept 12 in a day it had been a good day. When I re-reviwed the images at, say, the end of the week I'd probably cut these 12 down to 2-3.

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#16 loftus

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Posted 20 May 2010 - 06:09 AM

Thanks - Okay..one more question along these lines. What do you do with the NEF file once you convert it to DNG? Do you keep that as well folks or delete. I am finding that everything is getting cluttered up very fast and now that I am trying to get eveything together so that I can organize with my new lightroom (YEAH finally have it), I am concerned about what to do.

Do you need those NEF files once the conversion is done? As you can see, I still have a steep learning curve with RAW files.

Thanks - DiverPam

You don't have to keep the NEFS once you have DNG's, but strictly speaking the NEF files are the true originals, so I would keep those as my masters and only have DNG's or PSD's of images that have been taken into Photoshop. (At least this is the way I work in Aperture, not sure if it's the same in Lightroom.)
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#17 bmyates

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Posted 20 May 2010 - 08:35 AM

First of all, I think that those of us who are amateurs (I consider myself a "serious amateur") naturally have different habits, processes, and expectations than the numerous professionals here on Wetpixel. Having said that, I happen to have put together (for a presentation to a photography club) some stats from my last (very short - only 4 days of diving) trip:

Total underwater photos shot: 934
RAW files kept: 532 (57%)
Edited in Photoshop: 87 (9%)
Put in slideshow or web gallery: 41 (4.4%)
"Excellent" shots: 3 (0.3%)

As you can see, I tend to keep about half the RAW files (the rest get dumped before importing from the card), but I only do anything with (process) about 1 in 6 of those, and only actually end up showing anyone about 1 in 20 of the originals - those are really the only ones I consider "worth" keeping. (The reason I keep so many more of the RAW files is mostly in case I'm later looking for a shot of a particular critter, etc.) And only a few from that trip were what I considered "really" good (excellent).

Interestingly, my "hit rate" of decent shots has remained consistent at around 5% for me ever since my film days over a decade ago. I sometimes wish I didn't have to shoot 19 bad shots to get one good one (or hundreds to get one "really" good one), but I've resigned myself to that being the case.

Edited by bmyates, 20 May 2010 - 08:36 AM.

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#18 vazuw

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Posted 20 May 2010 - 10:49 AM

I think we all struggle with this. I am always amazed and sometimes embarased by how many shots i take. Like others we have a hard time parting with shots. I for one am sure someday technology will advance to make them all keepers. I just returned from a 10 day shoot in alaska, above water, shooting eagles and predators eating at the herring breeding runs. I came home with 200 GB of shots. My goal is to get it down to 50 best shots. god help me. You may see some posted......in about a year!

#19 philsokol

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Posted 20 May 2010 - 11:28 AM

My stats seem to run about the same as Bruce's. If I download 1000 shots, I'll dump about half right off the bat, then cull those to 200-300 out of which maybe 50 will make the final cut to a gallery or slide show.

Problem is, I can't bear to part with the those after the initial cut. This means my data base is expanding rapidly and includes lots of files I will realistically never use. Yes, hard drives are cheap, but I find it still takes processing power to crunch through all those files when searching or working on something which gums up the works (I'm using Aperture 2).

I vow to be a little more ruthless and less sentimental in the future...

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#20 Newmediasoup2

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Posted 20 May 2010 - 01:56 PM

I recently deleted THOUSANDS of images taking up space on the hard drive from our very first days of UW photography (they were all horrible! kept a few for posterity and laughs!) until our most recent trip. Since there's two of us shooting, you can imagine the amount of images I sorted through over just a few years time. Video is a whole other story, and I'll let Joel tackle that job! Going forward, the rule for us is to delete the crap right away (as soon as is brought into LR), then rate the images for later use. Next step for us is to properly tag each image right away. We haven't consistently and thoroughly done that, so that's my next big job. Yuck! :D

Good Luck, Steve!
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