I love my photos. All of them. I must have had some purpose in mind to pull my camera out, point it at a subject, and shoot a photo. These pictures were meant to capture a moment in time, so someday I could go back and relive the experiences. However, what I have found is that they are mostly sitting on a hard drive, taking up space. As someone that practices minimalism, I’m very good at keeping only a minimal set of clothing, kitchen gadgets, books, and limiting all other “stuff” as well. Adopting this lifestyle has made life a lot simpler.
The one area that I haven’t yet applied this practice of minimalism to is my collection of photographs. I have been collecting a set of photos for over 10 years. I rarely have the need to go back and look at photos that were taken at a random party in college, however I don’t really want to delete “irreplaceable” photos. I have always thought of photographs as irreplaceable, since it’s impossible to go back and capture each image and guarantee that it looks exactly like the one lost. This is especially true when it comes to capturing moments related to people and pets. Are they really ALL irreplaceable though? Will I care if I lose my uninteresting shots?
Since 2003, when I purchased my first digital camera, I have put together a cluttered top level folder of 88,192 photographs which are currently taking up 391GB of drive space. This amounts to 22 photos per day over the years. A large portion of these are either out of focus, uninteresting, duplicates or test shots. I have photos from old cell phones, and even exact duplicate files from when I bought my first DSLR and set it to save in both raw and jpg. Why keep everything? My rationale has always been that drive space is cheap and nearly unlimited.
I want to reduce clutter and keep only a minimal set of photos. I believe that less is more, and I’ll appreciate a smaller set of good photos over the full set of mediocre ones. It will also be a lot easier to backup a smaller set of photos as opposed to backing up a larger set. It’s nearly impossible to protect nearly 400GB of data without incurring a large cost for stuff that I mostly don’t care about. It will also be easier to access and find photos that I care about.
Criteria for a photo to be deleted(one or more must be true):
- The subject of the photo is out of focus
- The photo is not interesting
- The photo is poorly exposed (and not correctable)
- The photo is of a person that is unflattering (goofy looking, has their eyes closed, etc)
- The photo is of/or related to an ex girlfriend (or someone that I equally dislike)
- The photo is a duplicate or looks identical to a photo that I plan to keep
It took a long time to go through each individual file, a very long time. The process was completed, and I have successfully deleted a very large number of photos. I applied the criteria to each and every file and came up with a startling discovery. Most of my photos fit the criteria needed for deletion. I was able to reduce my total number of photos to just over 8,000, a reduction of 90%.
I’d guess that around 15% of the photos had the subject out of focus, 30% were as interesting as a pile of rocks, and the other 45% were duplicates of another image that looked better. I’m very happy with my resulting set of photos. This exercise also provided me a chance to go back and relive the last 10 years. Each photo told a story, and now I just have a clearer and more usable picture of the events. As an added bonus, I only have to backup around 50GB, when a 400GB backup was required before.
This is a repost of something I wrote a few years ago. Today, I still use this method to remove clutter in my library of photos. I can say, three years later, that I do not regret my decision to delete photos.