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Dealing with Digital Photo Overwhelm

Hi all! Kinjal here again today! I hope you are all well and you’re having a smashing April! Spring is definitely truly here, and unfortunately in my part of the world that means it’s time for rainy season. I hope you had a lovely Easter celebrating if you did, or the holiday just with your friends and family if you don’t. Over here, I was lucky enough to spend 11 days with my partner exploring all over Malaysia and Singapore. We spent our time between 4 cities, going on 4 flights and 2 trains, taking a thousand and one photos.

Yesterday, upon returning to the office, my colleagues asked me how my trip was and I waxed lyrical about how beautiful the beaches were.

“Hold on a sec”, I said, “I’ll show you a photo!”

Except….you guessed it, I had way too many photos and no easy way to share them or find that great one relevant to my story. Like most of you, I absolutely adore going on holiday and I love making and taking photos but always end up in a tizzy when we return. Today, I wanted to share some tips with how to deal with digital photo overwhelm particularly after a trip away and a bit of insight into my own personal workflow.

General principles:

1) Take photos with intention and be wary of “Burst mode”. Take a moment to breathe before you take your shot and know you don’t need to take a thousand photos to capture one moment. All you need is one shot. That being said, there are moments where taking many photos of the same thing is a valid and necessary photographic technique. In fast paced situations, in various weather conditions, etc. But, if you accept from the moment of pressing the shutter that you only want 1 or 2 shots out of the burst, then when it comes to deleting later on, you’ll have already given yourself permission to delete, and free up the guilt with not keeping every single photo.

2) Have one place where all incoming photos live before they are sorted. This is sort of a workflow tip too, but capture all your sources into one place to make it easier on yourself down the line. I’ve gone into a bit more detail how this works in my workflow example.

3) Small steps! Don’t rush. It’s important to do multiple passes, some of which need to happen at the start, and some that need to be staged out, but manage your workflow so you have pre-made “chunks” that you can get to when you have time. I use photo months and days, so I only ever go through 1 day at a time.

4) Free yourself of the guilt – You don’t need to keep each photo. I’m repeating this again because understand that though it is digital, it is still clutter. Do you need every single photo your go-pro took of burst mode? Do all the photos tell a story, or can you make a *stronger* story with fewer photos?

Here’s a fun fact for you, my current photo library sits at over 45,000 for the last 10 years. (I’m working on it, I am!) but if I spent just 5 seconds looking at each of these photos, it would take me 2.6 full days just to get through my photo library once. And I want to spend that time making memories, not trying to wade through the thousands to find that one great one!

5) BACKUP. I say it in capitals because people so often put this off. But really, don’t. Being someone who has had multiple camera/card failures, and learning my lesson the hard way, backup is so important. There’s a rule for computer backups called the 3-2-1 rule. You want: At least three copies, in two different places, with one of those copies off-site.

As an example, my photos are on my laptop day-to-day. I also have Crashplan back them up to the Cloud – (Offsite) and have a third copy as a scheduled task every Sunday onto our NAS at home.

How this translates to my workflow:

1) Stage 1 – First pass:
Once I take a photo on whatever device it is, I look at it on the screen available and spend 5 seconds analysing it. Is there anything wrong with it? Is it blurry? Is it fuzzy? Did I frame it right? If not, I delete it on the camera, there and then. It doesn’t need to make it to my big screen if I’m not happy with how it looks on the small screen. Sometimes I’ll take another one. But also I try and understand that not every moment can be accurately photographed to capture the essence. Sometimes you just have to be present.

2) Stage 2 – Ingest:
I use dropbox for my primary ingestion folder. This is because my phone, ipod touch and iPad all auto upload to Camera Uploads and I can access the photos from anywhere when I have a few spare moments. Then I have my camera cards set on auto-import and a checklist when we return, to make sure I have the following sources captured.

– My primary and secondary camera cards
– My boyfriend’s primary and secondary camera cards
– Our go-pro card

One thing that is really important for me is to make sure I clear the cards as I go. Otherwise, dropbox will re-import photos into Camera uploads if I have moved them to another folder as it thinks they’re new files.

3) Stage 3 – Sort:
I now move all my photos into their dates ready for when I have spare time to sort through them. I also open up Lightroom, and hit synchronise so that Lightroom is up to date. At this stage, I’m not doing any deletes. At this stage, my photos are ‘marinating’. (For me, it is important to have a few days between when I took the photo and when I next see the image. You may remember this technique from my previous blog posts about Project Life spreads.)

4) Stage 4 – Second pass:
At this point, I do a quick pass of any photos I immediately like, and copy those into my corresponding Project Life folder of that week. You could copy them into “Photos to be scrapped”.

5) Stage 5 – Third pass:
Once the photos have spent some time living, and I’ve spent some time not going cross-eyed from looking at them, I do the third pass. This is my serious editing mode. I use Lightroom and I quickly go thorugh photos, using Ctrl X and Ctrl P (reject and pick). Delete, delete delete. I generally chop 60% of my photos out at this stage. Any highlights, I have picked out with P and now I am able to make a smart collection in Lightroom to easily share! Lightroom also lets me export to various social media places, but that’s not something I generally do.

6) Stage 6 – Scrapbook:
7) Stage 7 – Fourth Pass:
In a few months, I will do another pass in a bid to streamline my library. By that time, so much will have happened in my life, that the 20 photos I may have kept of the beach at different angles will have been over taken by newer memories and only one or two photos will stand out as strong memories. That’s okay. Think of it like keeping your wardrobe up to date – You want a few classic pieces, not just trendy accessories!

Well I hope you enjoyed a peek into my workflow and these tips are able to help you with the crazy digital photo age we find ourselves in. Let me know in the comments what your tips on managing photo overwhelm are, or what your process looks like!


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