Workflow (4a) – to keep or not to keep?

OK, so at the end of the last episode (yes, this blog is starting to look like a saga…), we ended up having our RAW files converted to JPEG so we have only one type of file to deal with for standard processing. Now we have lots of files to go through and check whether they are keepers or not. For this we need an image viewer and organization.

Hard drive organization…

There is nothing that I hate more than seeing a dialog like:

l will now import your photos to ~/myimages/2007/08/13

The first thing I do in this case is to click “No” and try to disable it. If I can’t, I remove the software. I have a hard drive dedicated to saving my datas and I want to have control of what is saved where. I don’t like virtual collections and that stuff, I want to know where my files are stored, work on the file themselves and organize the storage the way I like. No software should act as an intermediary between me and my image files. Period. That probably gives out the fact that I am an old school guy…

So I have one directory per month in which I upload my pictures from the camera. I create a subdirectory for the theme of today’s shots (say “Geneva Automn”) and for each month, I also have a subdirectory “_keepers” – the underscore makes it is the first directory to be listed. So I process my RAW files in “Geneva Automn” and then simply copy the pictures I want to keep in the _keepers directory (with their RAW files if I have one).

At the end of the month (or 2-3 months later…), I create index images of my keepers which I print (so I can easily find back where which images are without even starting the computer), I delete the theme directories (Geneva Automn) and simply move the keepers in this months directory (maybe with a subdirectory if there was a special event such as a trip somewhere).

I think this system allows me to efficiently process my images and chose the ones I want to keep. It doesn’t clutter my hard drive with old missed snapshots and having index printouts of each month images helps me find where my images are, I have found that to be a good way to manage my picture files and since this is my blog, I share it with you as information – don’t hesitate to let me know if you have a better way, I’d be interested to know.

… and an image viewer.

In order to chose the keepers, we need an image viewer, An image viewer is one of these programs that don’t look very complicated but it is very hard to find a good one. If you enter “image viewer” in sourceforge, you have 2741 results, So there is choice 🙂

My requirements are:

  • possibility to deal directly with the images in the filesystem, no import / copy / buffer / virtual collection anywhere.
  • left column with thumnails and lots of room to view the image
  • an easy and non destructive way to rotate multiple JPEG files by 90 degrees (my camera doesn’t have a portrait / landscape sensor, so I have to do the rotation myself)
  • copy multiple files to another folder (to the keeper’s folder)
  • a way to automatically create index images
  • no need to support RAW files
  • no need for color management (at that stage)

Now because I am a Gnome person, my viewer of choice is gThumb – it fits all my bullet points. gQview is my second choice (I have it on my laptop with xubuntu, but it is single click navigation, contrary to Gnome…). I have never been able to get used to F-Spot (too many gagets that get in my way…). In KDE, the main choices are Digikam and Gwenview; I don’t have much experience with these. Anyway, there are hundreds of image viewers, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find a good one (or should it?)

Now what to keep?

Yves mentionned in a comment the other day the necessity to be critical with our work, and boy, he is right. Now that a shutter click doesn’t imply costly film processing, it is easy to multiply the shots (which isn’t a bad thing per se) and to end up with hundreds of bad shots in which the good ones are hidden (that is a bad thing). So sorting and trashing bad shots improves our photography. I keep the great portfolio shots, for sure, but not only. Here are a few bullet points of what I look for in keepers:

  • a good composition or graphism idea (even if the shot is not perfect, there is definitely an idea to reuse another time)
  • an interesting light or athmosphere (again even if the shot is no perfect otherwise)
  • a subject that interests me (street photography)
  • a picture that strikes my heart (holiday pictures that remind a good time)
  • I don’t mind keeping several version of the same shot (vertical, horizontal, variation on composition)

I don’t keep:

  • technically flawed pictures (accidentally blurred, over or underexposed)
  • 15 variations of the same image
  • all the pictures badly composed (background too present, no clear subject, too many parasit elements)
  • all the pictures which make me wonder “what on earth was I smoking when I took that shot?!” (there are more than you think)

Final word: you never throw away too much…

You may have heard the joke:

What is the difference between Heaven and Hell?

Heaven is when everyone tells their holiday stories. Hell is when everyone tells their holiday stories… but are also showing their photos.

There is nothing more discouraging than checking hundreds of photos to find 10 good ones. Don’t hesitate to press the delete button. And don’t worry about missing a masterpiece: if it doesn’t stikes you now, it never will. The opposite is more likely to happen: “why did I keep all these average pictures?” But that’s a good sign: it means progress 🙂


2 Responses to Workflow (4a) – to keep or not to keep?

  1. […] your images for easier retrieval Although I delete most of the images I shoot, although I put each month’s keepers in a directory, although I have taken the habit of […]

  2. Ludie says:

    It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button!
    I’d most certainly donate to this outstanding blog!
    I guess for now i’ll settle for book-marking and adding your RSS feed to my Google
    account. I look forward to brand new updates and will share this site with
    my Facebook group. Talk soon!

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