I just deleted over 1200 photos from my recent trip to Japan, which is the most aggressive culling of photographs I have ever done. This is in addition to the initial elimination of some 300 or so photographs which were outrightly out of focus or poorly exposed. Clicking “Empty Trash” is not an easy decision, and I’m glad that I’m not a professional photographer. That would be like being the guy who has to put puppies down at the animal shelter.
Of course, some might argue that deleting photos isn’t necessary, given the ginormous size and relative cheapness of digital storage these days. I can get a terabyte hard drive for under $100, which is just ridiculous. Back when I was a kid, my father bought our first external hard drive for our overflowing Macintosh LC II. We got a LaCie 320 MB (yes, that’s megabytes, folks) for $350, which was a good deal at the time. “A dollar per megabyte, that’s a good deal,” I remember Dad saying. Yep. It was. In 1994.
Anyway, if data storage is so cheap, why bother getting rid of photos? For one, cheap is not the same thing as free. Secondly, if I just dump everything onto a bunch of hard drives, I’ve got to then manage those drives. I’d be stuck moving physical things around instead of more liquid data, so the problem isn’t really solved at all, but in fact exacerbated.
Ultimately, though, the problem is that it’s all just stuff. Granted, it’s stuff that I created, but that doesn’t change the fact that I do not need or want more things in my life. Certainly not things that are of little value, and the photos that I culled were all low-value. Many didn’t have high artistic or technical quality. Others were duplicates of ones I decided to keep. I think that if you’re going to to surround yourself with stuff (and let’s face it, we’re going to do just that) it should be stuff worth having around.
Having decided to keep a few things around, the task of managing those things arises. Even 500 photos is too many for a coherent story, so organizing them becomes necessary. Using Aperture, I’ve geotagged and added faces to all the photographs as per usual. Additionally, I finally devised a keyword (what Aperture calls a tag) system that I think I can use and more importantly, sustain. I borrowed from Scott Davenport who borrows from William Beem, and they offer decent examples of their own keyword systems. The point is to decide what is important and then make appropriate keywords for those things. Then, organize those keywords. Finally, apply the keywords. Voila! Organized photos. It takes a bit of forethought to set things up the right way, but the results are fantastic.