Determine Photos to Keep & Delete

posted: March 20, 2015

This has always been the most frustrating step in my workflow. When performing this task, I am torn between my desire to not clutter my hard drive (and Lightroom catalog) with photos I will never use and the decision as to which photo(s) I should retain.

Most of time I just keep all but the obvious discards… those that are out-of focus or soft focus, poor composition, etc.  I do delete these from my hard disk in Lightroom but I am still left with quite a few photos that seem to me to have no reason to be retained.

At times when I am in the field, I will work a subject. I may adjust the exposure compensation, aperture, ISO and/or shutter speed going for the optimum exposure. I may try the shot with and without filters. I may vary the composition slightly striving for the optimal composition. When I take photos of volleyball, I will often set the camera on high speed and in the case of my Canon 1Dx that means 12 frames every second.

This results in a group of similar photos. This complicates matters for me.

Thus I am struggling for a better way to accomplish this task. The approach described below is new for me but it seems like it might offer a breakthrough. I am going to start using Star Ratings. This came about after reading a number of books and articles on the subject. I have however put my own personal stamp on this.

I had always viewed star ratings as the worst way to go. My objection was based on the question “What does each star rating represent?” The breakthrough in my thought process came when I read the book “The Digital Negative” by Jeff Schewe where he suggests the multi-pass approach where one progressively reduces the numbers of images being considered. I witnessed a version of this approach in action when I was a member of the St. Louis Camera Club and photos were being judged.

In the Library module (Loupe view mode), my workflow for this step is to use a multi-pass approach to rate my photos. At Import, all photos have a rating of 0 stars by default. As I progress through each pass, the number of photos decreases based on star ratings I assign to the photos in that pass.

First pass - determine whether a photo will undergo further rating (1-star) or be designated for deletion from the hard drive (0-star). The 0 star photos are the “obvious discards” I described above.

Second pass - determine which of the 1-star rated photos should remain at a 1-star rating and which ones should continue in the rating process. Those photos moving on to the next pass will be given a 2-star rating and will become candidates for a 3-star and above rating.

Third pass - further refine the ratings. Those photos moving on to the next pass will be given a 3-star rating and will become candidates for a 4-star and above rating. You may want to start developing photos at this stage in order to decide if the photo should be considered further.

Fourth pass - determine if any of the remaining photos are good enough to take up “permanent” residence on the Gallery page of my web site. Those that do will be given a 5-star rating.

At times I employ the Compare and Survey view modes to assist me in this review process.

Note: not every photo outing will yield 5-star photos or even 4-star photos… at least mine don’t!

Here is another perspective on this subject

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