‘More pixels only mean I’m going to need more storage space! I’ll have to buy another 6TB hard drive just to get through the rest of the year!’
You see comments like this all the time when a new camera with a higher resolution is launched. Yes, it’s true that high-resolution sensors will obviously create larger files that are going to require more storage space, but my question would be ‘How many images of that sunset do you need?’
The reality is that the vast majority of us take hundreds, probably thousands, of images that we will never edit or show another person. They’ll remain unloved in the purgatory of F:/photos for the rest of our lives or until the hard drive fails (back up your images, people). They deserve to be put out of their misery.
Having recently looked through my last five years of landscape photos searching for entries for Landscape Photographer of the Year, I realised just how much all of the above applied to me. Out of a few thousand photos that I have taken, there were only a handful that I decided to enter. Don’t get me wrong, there were dozens that I was proud of, many more I enjoyed taking, and a couple I’ve been meaning to edit, but there are hundreds of ‘slight variations’ that just weren’t quite right. There are times I have gone out shooting in dull, flat light, purely because I wanted to go out and take some photos.
Time for a cull
For me photography is as much about the experience. I enjoyed getting out taking those images, even the terrible ones, but I have had the practice and the fresh air, and now feel happy to let hundreds of these photos go. I’m going to hit delete on hundreds, maybe thousands of images over the next month or so. I’m not talking about holiday or family photos, or shots of special occasions. They are memories for me, and hopefully interesting for future generations, unlike the hundreds of dull images from the top of Mam Tor I must have taken. While professional photographers need to keep complete archives, the vast majority of us could benefit from being more selective in what we keep.
I’m approaching the limit of my storage space – my intention is to make room for new images instead of upgrading. I do have a slight worry about those images I’ll rediscover but by deleting older images first, I’ll have time to find any that really warrant a second glance.
I think it will make me a better photographer as I’ll think before I fire the shutter, and I’ll become a better editor by being a harsher critic as to what passes from card to hard drive. It sounds a lot more like shooting on medium-format film, doesn’t it? Now, there’s an idea.
Richard Sibley was formerly Deputy Editor of Amateur Photographer. He now writes about cameras and photography as well as runs the Photo Gear News YouTube channel. Find him on Instagram at @richsibley.