Thursday, September 16, 2010

Deleting Images Forever / Screen Saver for Photographers

Dear Gary,
I am very much enjoying your posts, and as always, they inspire me to pick up my camera (aging but still wholly capable KM-7D) and get snapping.

Now, then ... given the deluge of shots the digital age imposes on us, a blog post on post-processing workflow to get things down to a manageable number would be VERY much appreciated!!!  I know, I know ... start with a glasses off, thumbnail view and take it from there.   But WHERE to take it?  Thumbnail view gives a good starting point with respect to composition & lighting, etc., but so much can be done in post production (especially with RAW files) that I wonder sometimes how to select between a half-dozen very similar shots.  What should a basic keep/discard-rank decision heirarchy look like to make this efficient and unplug the front end of the post processing workflow ... and unclutter my folders?  I've heard that stacks are useful, but then aren't you simply keeping second rate photos that should simply be discarded?  I haven't managed to develop an effective, cut-throat process to help me let go of the also-rans.  I'm sure that other readers face this same hurdle, where you probably do this in your sleep. 

All the best,
   - Brian

Hi, Brian!

You ask a big question.  It's tough to select one best shot out of a dozen that are similar... but you must choose one.  Don't make the mistake I see others do and post all 12 to your online gallery... all you do is bore the viewer.  Make every image stand out as unique.  Can't decide?  Throw a dart.  Nobody else will know that you had others.  Nobody else needs to.

At the end of Day 2 of my seminar I do talk about post-processing (tweaking / editing) images to take them from good to really good, but I do not discuss workflow.  Mainly because I haven't mastered it myself.  Usually I just select my winners, tweak them a little if I need to, post them to the website, and then move on.  I generally don't delete my "non-winners", for a number of reasons:

1) Storage is now insanely cheap.  $120 can now buy you a 2TB drive!

2) Many times my wife prefers shots that I don't.  Doesn't make sense to limit one's options.

3) Over time, even my one-offs (what you call "also-rans") increase in value, especially if they are of family members, or of places whose appearance changed over time.  (See my blog post over statues of Lenin in the former Soviet Union.)  I run a screen saver on my computer that displays random pictures on my hard drive, and even my old rejects trigger a positive memory (and often I find I like images that I had previously rejected).  (It's a screensaver for photographers... more on that below).

4) No deletions, no anguish! :-)

Not deleting images also makes a great deal of business sense.  It just takes too much bandwidth to go through and decide that an image I've captured will never be valuable to anybody in the future.  I actually tried it once... I took an entire day to go through and weed out / delete images.  Saved maybe 5 GB of disk space... BUT KILLED A DAY THAT I COULD HAVE USED TO BE PRODUCTIVE AND EARN MONEY.  It's no longer an issue with me.  Unless it's out of focus or insanely bad, it gets kept.

I hope this helps (even a little!)


Screen Saver for Photographers (and it's FREE!)

We all know that screensavers are obsolete - modern LCD screens don't face the "burn-in" problems that the old CRTs once had, but yet people still use screen savers.  (No harm in that - actually, some people have found a way to put those idle CPU cycles to good use for humanity!  One of my favorites is

Anyway, as you may have gathered from the above, there's a lot of good material on my hard drive that I just don't have time to pour through on a regular basis.  I used to love screen savers that just showed you random pictures on your hard drive, but they've always come with a host of problems:

1) The vast majority of them ignore the "Rotate" EXIF flag in your .jpg, meaning pictures taken in Portrait mode (i.e., vertical) show up as landscape (holrizontal).  What's so hard?

2) If you saw a picture you liked but had forgotten about, and want to know where it is so you can caption, tweak, email, or otherwise do something useful with it, the screen saver will not tell you where that image resides.

3) Few programmers who do screen savers aren't well studied in the art of generating pseudo-random numbers in software.  (This is especially true of Microsoft's screen savers.  You'd figure the world's largest software company would have programmers with a computer science degree...)  The upshot is, if you have a terabyte full of images, then you shouldn't be seeing the same ones over and over within the first week.

Anyway, this week I found a real gem of a FREE photo screen saver program that is written especially for photographers.  Why do I like it?

1) It pays attention to EXIF orientation flag, so vertical images show up as vertical.

2) It can show you the name and directory the image resides in.

3) You can delete the image by pressing a key.  (Weed out those bad pictures in your idle time!)

4) You can also rotate an image left or right in case it was taken with an older camera with no orientation senor.

5) You can stop the progression of slides, and add captions / notes to the images - all while the screen saver is still running.

6) You can configure it so that if you hit a function key, it will either copy the picture to a preset directory (so you can work on it later), or compile a list of images and locations which you can work on later.

7) Oh, yeah, it's FREE (but the author does accept donations for his work :-)  ).

(Of course this is for Windows only.  I'm sure Mac users already have something just as equally awesome already part of OSX. :-) ) 

So at least now my idle time can be spent tidying up my archives (albeit very, very slowly...)

Until next time,
-Gary Friedman

======================= Learn the secrets of the Kodachrome shooters (who got great images without using RAW or Photoshop) at


  1. Hi Gary,

    the screen saver for photographers is a nice hint, but who is sitting idle in front of his screen watching the screen saver and delete pictures when they show up?

    Having the screen saver saving the screen means that the person in front of the screen is either not in front of the screen or doing something else. Am I right or am I right? :-)

    Joerg, Cologne, Germany

  2. Dear Joerg,

    You're right; but the part I forgot to mention is that I have two computers on my desk (a desktop and a laptop), and very often I'm doing email on my laptop while the parade of pictures goes by on my desktop. Or sometimes I'm reading at my desk, or filling out paperwork, or...

    I don't think I could ever sit idly by and just watch the screen saver all day. (My Mom does, though... :-) )


  3. Hi Gary

    I totally agree with not deleting the images that for whatever reason didn't make it for the simple reason that imaging software technology is improving all the time and any of the "also rans" could one day make the best photo ever taken!

    I have gone back and used old rejected images with both new software technology and recently learned new skills to produce winning images out of what were rejects just five or more years ago.

    Best wishes

    David Simmonds, Romsey, U.K.

  4. I've been using the Windows Screensaver for years. I recently heard the next update to the OS will drop this feature. It's timely to have run across the info. Thanks