Cut the Clutter: 3 Get-Tough Tips For Culling Digital Photos

updated Feb 24, 2019
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(Image credit: Sarah Dobbins)

No matter what you do or wish to do with your photos — keep them digital exclusively, share them online, store them in the cloud, print them, organize them for yearly photo books, display them — the question of what photos to keep and what to delete comes into play, most likely first and foremost. Here are the three “rules” I try to implement when deciding what to keep and what needs to go.

1) It sounds simple, but we don’t always actually DO it: start by getting rid of the bad ones. In the days of film, I think we took much more care with capturing the shot we wanted and capturing it well (rather than taking multiple pictures of our food in bad light from different angles). Keeping this in mind should help us get rid of all the very unnecessary extra pictures. Blurry, eyes closed, crooked version of a picture you have twenty more of? Cutting room floor. (Exception is if it’s a “bad picture” that meets the criterion in the point below.)

2) Does it “tug your heart?” You know it when you see it — a picture that moves you. Have ten others kind of like it? Delete them. Okay, a little ruthless, and I have a hard time doing this because I don’t want to get rid of the other little moments that are captured. But the next point keeps me on track.

3) Does it add or detract? Especially when it’s a special event or memory, it’s so hard to erase any small capture, but consider this: if you keep too many versions of essentially the same picture, you’re diluting the impact of your very favorite. At the risk of a little melodrama, think Michelangelo and carving away the marble that doesn’t belong to reveal the statue hidden inside it. In his own words: “The more the marble wastes, the more the statue grows.” Say goodbye to the pictures that aren’t great so the truly meaningful and beautiful ones show.

How do you cut through the digital photo clutter?