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.
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?
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.
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
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!
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
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?!"
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: