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Although I use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom to manage my photos it doesn't really matter what you use, you have to take control! It's great that we've reached a point in technology that we can have literally thousands of photos on our hard drives and hundreds if not thousands on our portable devices. However, if you don't take control now you're headed for trouble.

Sand Falls

Every time you take out that digital camera of yours and start firing you're going to have dozens if not hundreds of images to import. You'll import them, look at them, pick out your favorites and share them with friends and family either electronically or via printed projects. Great! However, what about the shots that weren't your favorites? Do you keep them? If you do, it won't take too long before your computer will slow to a crawl. Although programs like iPhoto are rated to handle over 250,000 images in a library, that doesn't mean that it's a pleasurable experience. Even if you have a super fast computer that can keep up, the question is why keep photos that aren't your favorites?


Did you get the shot?

Looking through the fountain

As a photographer, that's the question I constantly ask myself on every shoot that I do. Because shooting digitally is so easy you may have a tendency to over shoot an event. What I mean by over shooting is taking dozens or hundreds of photos of the same scene, person, etc. Don't get me wrong, I know that sometimes (if not most times) it may take several frames before you're happy. However, once you've got it MOVE ON! Either move on to the next thing or change up the shot. 


Tips to keep the number of shots down

Edit in camera – If you take a shot and look at the LCD and immediately realize that shot is NOT GOOD and you have the opportunity to take it again to get a better one, immediately delete the one that's not good. This way when you get back to your computer you'll have less shots to import and the ones you import will be good for the most part.

Mark your favorites – depending on the software you use iPhoto, Lightroom or something else you'll probably either have an option to mark your favorite with a Flag, Star Rating or Color. If your software doesn't have these options then create a new Album and simply drag your favorites into it.

Lightroom  iPhoto

Edit them down – Now the real test of a photographer is to edit your shots down to just the best ones. It's not as hard as you think. You could try by giving yourself a maximum number. For example, when I do a studio shoot it's not uncommon for me to walk out with 500-700 shots. When I get home I give myself a limit of no more than 300 for the client to proof. Depending on the client, number of different looks, wardrobe changes, etc., I may set that number at 100. So with a number in mind I go through and DELETE the ones that just aren't good enough to be in that final batch of proofs. So whatever number you set for yourself, force yourself to stay within that number to give your client, friends, etc. When it's a personal shoot, meaning the shots are for me, I don't set a number as much as I try to have as few as possible. By the way, I've never had a client come back and say "Thanks for all those great shots. Can I please have that one that was just OK, blurry or with my eyes closed?"


Only show your best work

Coit Tower and the Moon

As a photographer you're judged by your portfolio. I realize that the vast majority of people here are NOT professional photographers. That's OK, but I want you to think like one anyway. Think about your favorite photographer and ask yourself what it is about his/her work that you like? Now ask yourself, how many shots in their portfolio do you hate or think are just "OK". Chances are there won't be that many that fall into this category. It's not because your favorite photographer is perfect and never takes a bad shot, it's because your favorite photographer has learned the secret of only showing his/her best work! 

Horseshoe Bend

Let's say you're on a site that allows you to upload and create an online portfolio. Usually these kinds of sites have a limit of the number of shots you can put in a portfolio or album. So let's say the limit is 20. Wow! Only 20? That's not very many! I know it sounds soooo limiting when you have hundreds of shots right? The reason the limit is so low is that within 20 shots people can usually tell if you're any good or not?! Also by limiting you to 20, you're likely to only put up your 20 best. It forces you to have a more critical eye! The only way a new shot can go up is if one of the old ones comes down. This means that your portfolio will continue to get better. So even if you're on a site that doesn't impose such a limit, you might think of creating your own. Say the limit is what ever number of shots will fit on one page on the site. In other words, if they have to click a next page link to get to more shots you've exceeded the limit. After all what's on page 2? Shots that weren't good enough to be on page 1!


The Bottom Line

Saints Peter and Paul Church

If you do more eliminating as you go, it will take you a lot longer to reach that 250,000 or whatever limit your software imposes. You'll also only have shots that you really enjoy looking at instead of "good shot, good shot, great shot, OK shot, good shot, bad shot". You won't have 5 shots of the exact same thing/person in the exact same setting/pose. We only need to see it once! 🙂 Leave your audience wanting more and not saying "when will this slideshow end?!"

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Bonus Tip

Because I am a Lightroom user, this means that I only use iPhoto as a means to get "my favorite" photos to my iPhone, iPod, Apple TV, MobileMe, FaceBook and Flickr. iPhoto '09 has great integration with these devices and services. So here's a video I recorded a while back on how to automatically export images from Lightroom (although I did this back in Lightroom 1.4, the same procedure works through the current version today) directly into iPhoto:



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4 Responses to Take control of your Digital Photo Library

  1. Steven Klein says:

    Terry, thanks for this article, and for sharing those beautiful photos.

    Could you add some captions to the photos? Obviously some I recognize (the Hart plaza fountain, and is that Coit Tower?), but most are unknown to me.

  2. Cody says:

    Hi Terry,

    Not sure where to submit this elsewhere, so here-goes. On the topic of Lightroom and iPhoto, I find some challenges with how I’ve got things working and I’m hoping for some help.

    Here’s my problem:

    1) Photos from my D300 go immediately into LR (no problems there).
    2) Photos from my iPhone seem to want to go into iPhoto. Not such a bad deal, but it’d be nice to put them direct into LR and then have them auto-removed from the phone like iPhoto does.
    3) My point-and-shoot can download into LR, but the camera also takes video. Video does not get pulled from the device when in LR, so when in iPhoto, both photos and videos are downloaded. Bleh. Now I’ve got additional copies of my images.
    4) I like the idea of only having the favs in iPhoto so that I can create cool calendars/books/etc, but I’m finding that I now have duplication in LR and iPhoto, and frankly, the iPhoto library management is confusing as all get-out, and I’m having troubles getting back to a manageable place. (I can’t just delete and start over with the iPhoto library as I have videos mixed in with the pictures that are duplicated!)

    This might not be something to be replied to via another comment, but it’d be great to know how to straighten out my conundrum.

    Thanks for anything you might have for me,

    • Terry White says:

      Your best bet is to set your default photo downloader to either None or LR. This way each time you plug in your card/camera, you’ll be able to decide and launch the appropriate app for what you’re importing. To set your default app, launch iPhoto, go to the General Preferences and choose “No Application” from the “Connecting Camera Opens” popup. You can also use Image Capture and set this to Open LR. Like I said, I prefer the “No Application” option so that I can decide what I want. Since LR can’t import the movies, you would have time to drag them off where you want and then import using LR.

  3. Terry in reference to the auto export to iPhoto video, is there a way to have LR delete the pics in the temp folder automatically?