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The Editing Process

Posted by Jacob Hawthorne on

We all have images that, due to an emotional attachment, we find hard to delete. But if we surround ourselves with our worst images we will continue to produce more of the same. Deletion is an essential part of the editing process. It allows you to continually trim your image library down and spend a greater proportion of your time processing your best/most important images.

I have a theory that there are three reasons why most folks fail to delete enough of their least successful images. It can be summarized as follows:


A lack of confidence as to what photos deserve deletion likely results in a lot of photographers failing to take action and delete images. As a result their library of images grows and their best photographs become harder to find amongst all the others.


A lot of folks like to brag about the many thousands of images within their database. The more they have the better they feel about themselves. But how many of those good folk have a library as well organized and functional as it is large?

Lack Of Organization

Most of us suffer from a lack of organization. Sadly the more images we add to our library the less organized our database becomes. This approach denies us of one of the most powerful features associated with programs such as Adobe Lightroom. The ability to locate a single image within a library of many thousands is a feature none of us should be denied. It’s essential to have our files processed, rated (e.g., between 1 and 5 stars) and with adequate keywords attached to facilitate the location of important images at a later date. For Lightroom users the ability to place your favorite images into a series of collections (Christmas 2009, Smith/Singh wedding, Antarctica 2017, etc) is also very useful.

A stand of  vibrant red wildflowers  in a rainforest in  Bali, Indonesia .

A stand of vibrant red wildflowers in a rainforest in Bali, Indonesia.

Organizing Negatives, Slides And Prints

But, despite best intentions, we’re all human and it’s not unreasonable to end up holding onto some images longer than we might under ideal circumstances. I’ve been guilty of this myself in the past. Despite numerous clean ups, where I’ve thrown out huge quantities of negatives, slides and prints, I still have far more than I’m able to successfully deal with.

I plan to have many of these negatives and transparencies scanned and incorporate them into my digital database that will then be imported into my Adobe Lightroom Library over time. I’II then undertake initial image processing and apply keywords and ratings. From there I’II be able to delete many files, prior to organizing the best images into appropriate collections. It’s a huge job that I’m unlikely to be able to complete on my own. More than likely I’II send the files out for professional scanning.

Yet Another Spring Clean

In the meantime I'm in the process of throwing out hundreds of prints, both large and small, on my way to living a far more minimalistic existance. I've undertaken this exercise numerous times over the years and, after this current round, I'II finally have reduced the quantity of prints down to a reasonable number. Hopefully just a couple dozen large prints and a bundle of smaller prints to help identify which negatives, from past travels, will be worth scanning.

I hope this post will help motivate you to organize your own photographs, film and digital, so that you'll also find locating, enjoying and sharing them much, much easier. It would be sad if they were to be lost.

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