Six things I learned looking at 52,000 of my own images!

It’s like having to clean the attic.  Or the garage.  My photo library (actually libraries) had become cluttered, chaotic and untidy.  I knew I had duplicates in there, broken files, and a lot of images that deserved to be introduced to the delete button.  Furthermore, my Apple Photos library, which is synched via iCloud, became a repository of images from every photo management program I’ve used since 2002.  More recently, I have maintained a completely separate and separately synched database in Lightroom CC.  And the two libraries don’t talk.

I’ll get to this someday, I always thought.

Well, someday happened.  And it took almost two weeks to clean up that attic.

52,000 images altogether.  I did it.  But I needed a spark.

And that spark was…

I joined a Camera Club.  It’s something I have wanted to do for decades but finally, I did it.  I want to have a chance to ‘talk shop’ with new friends, see amazing and inspiring art, learn techniques and… dare I say… start entering competitions.  This is all to improve my pursuit.

As part of the club start-up process, all new members were asked for give a five minute presentation of a representative sample of our work.  Five minutes.  We could do with that what we chose and I chose to present a five minute video, which is included in this post.

From 52,000 images across two databases to the 60 included above.  In the process, I learned six lessons:

Lesson One: Spring cleaning is important.  And the more you put it off the harder it gets. Reviewing 52,000 was very time consuming, occasionally frustrating and even heart wrenching.  I saw photos of loved ones who are no longer with us, watched short video clips of long ago memories and remembered.  And the process was difficult.  I found duplicates, terrible photos and remnants of my HDR phase when I spent 18 months taking up to 7 bracketed shots of the same lousy scene.  Because of cloud synching issues, some of those lousy scenes were repeated up to 21 times on my hard drive.  I found images that weren’t synching and ones that were simply broken. In the end, I freed up a much needed 250mb on my hard drive and in the cloud.

Lesson Two: It’s important to curate as you go.  I saw multiples of the same subject where only one or two of the photos in a series were worth keeping.  The terrible HDR brackets is another example.  From this point forward, I’m going to curate as I go.  I’ll put the good ones in the proper galleries, keep my website up-to-date, organize the ones I need to work on and then delete the ones I must.  No more stockpiling.

Lesson Three: Less is more.  I have several beautiful parks and hiking areas nearby to my home.  I frequent them as often as I can and always bring a camera.  The camera adds to the experience as it helps me to live in the moment and to be aware.  But the result is that I have a lot (repeat: a lot) of duplicate scenes.  There are scenic trails that always call for capture.  But if I’ve done so 15 times before and nothing’s really changed, I’m going to keep the camera in the case in the future.  Having gone through 52,000 images, I know exactly which scenes can be photographically left alone from this point forward.

Lesson Four: Less is definitely more.  When it comes right down to it, the vast majority of my favorite shots were taken with just a few lenses and at certain focal lengths (21mm, 28mm, 35mm).  All the other lenses, all the zoom flexibility, all the buying and selling… for what I do, it’s going to be a lighter load going forward.  Sure, there are the exceptions and I’m not stripping down to the barest minimum, but those exceptions (e.g., cheetah feeding, Virgin Narrows hiking) can be handled through rentals.

Lesson Five: Composition is king.  Special treatments (yup, HDR), framing, digital processing effects, and the like are all just gimmicks if the composition doesn’t work.  There are some very simple rules (thirds, balance, movement) which, if followed, will results in more keepers than any gimmick ever could.

Lesson Six: Pressure can be good.  Having to show the work was helpful.  It created motivation and knowing that I would have to stand up and present these images in front of a large auditorium filled with other photographers helped me to focus on what’s important.  What’s important?  The art, the emotion, the memory, the story.  All the rest is just blah, blah, blah.

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