In the “good old days” aka before digital aka film, if you were a professional, you would take your photos, process the film, make a contact sheet of the film and file the negatives in a PVC free plastic sheet. Finally, we would print a few of the photos.

Now we have to import everything into Lightroom before reviewing the photos. This photos are automatically placed in the Previous Import collection and in the All Photographs collection at the same time. They will stay in the Previous Import until the next import.

My steps

  1. I go through each one and mark the “wrong” ones with an X, marking them as Rejected photos.
  2. Photo menu → Delete Rejected Photos
  3. Select Delete from Disk

I never remove one photo at a time by using the delete key, it’s too painful.

Which photos do I delete?

  1. Out of focus
  2. Blurry because of subject move unless it’s an “on purpose” blur like panning…
  3. In focus but obviously wrong like a tree or a pole growing for the nose, the head, the shoulder…
  4. Multiple exposure of a static subject/landscape due to the drive being in hi-speed instead of single shot.
  5. Any photo that I would not personally show to the client or to the mother-in-law.
  6. Any photo that I would not put on a website, be my own or Flickr.

Which photos do I keep?

  1. A good expression but a bad processing, like noise… Why? Because maybe the next version of the software will do a better job of processing the photos. Lightroom 3 has a very good noise processing, Lightroom 2 didn’t have any…
  2. A bad photo that has an emotional attachment/representation.
  3. A bad photo that is unique or has historical value.

In the last month, I have deleted 26,000 photos. Do you know how painful it is? It’s like pulling hair one at a time instead of shaving. I’m not deleting the second best, I’m delete the tenth best… But my photos do look so much better.

Even photographers like Yousuf Karsh that took photos with an 8 by 10 camera and would need to change the film one photo at a time, didn’t print most of the photos he took. For most of his assignments, he would take between a dozen to eighteen photos and only print two or three of them.

Most sports photographers do not delete any of their photos as long as they are in focus. Why? Because of the historical value of the archive.