The other day I brought up my Lightroom catalog and saw that I had 49000+ images in it. So I started cursorily scanning though it and came to the sad realization that many of them were...well, garbage! So I set my self a task for this year of getting to at least 50% of that number, preferably around 20,000. Before I begin, I should note that it is not my intent to dictate a methodology but rather to share my experiences in the hopes that it will be useful for others.
The immediate realization was that I really, really needed to change my approach to loading images into the catalog. Generally, because I get lazy, I put the card in the card reader and import into LR. Of course, my idea was that I would go though them and delete what was bad. Well, that isn't a good idea for me because A: I procrastinate and B: when the images get into the catalog, they become the second coming of great images! I will admit I'm a packrat. I also discovered that there were duplicates in the catalog.
Some background, I believe, is necessary to give context to this discussion. My catalogue is composed of many folders that are generally oriented by place, event or time. There is probably about a 100 or some folders. Most images have keywords and there is the metadata that can be used to search. I need to rethink about how I arrange things but that is a topic for a different day. I really didn't want to get rid of all that work and create another catalog which certainly is another option. I should also note that generally my images fall into three generic categories:
A. Fine Art/Client projects
B. Memories: i.e. family photos/snapshots and images that are essentially private
C. Documentary Images: I happen to be a train buff so i have a ton of images that are not great images but serve to document a place, a train, or other things that I simply took an image of because it was "interesting" and I wanted a record.
These sets of images represent literally decades of photographic endeavors. This blog is really about this journey through time and culling this journey into something presentable. I'm not getting any younger and I really would like to have my legacy be something presentable and not include garbage. The other thing is, having attended Photo school, my eye for what is good image has been significantly refined. Many thanks to my professors and constant critiques for that, it is surely worth the time to invest in critiques!
So onward! My first step was really pretty simple:- use the reject flag to go though each folder and identify at first blush what was obviously really bad: simple criteria like Out of focus, under/over exposed, and blank shots. That's when I started noticing duplicates especially in some folders where I had imported images into LR in two different places. But I left the duplicates alone and more about that shortly. So I simply deleted those images that fit this initial criteria. That actually got rid of some 2500+ images. Yeah! However, the downside was to reinforce just how many images were just not good! Bah! Then I started on the "reject flag" idea and quickly came to realize that that was going to be an iterative process. So I took a break and thought lets get rid of the duplicates. That seems to be a reasonable way to achieve some level of gratification.
Ok, now it turns out that Lightroom does not have a duplicate image process or tool. Adobe, it would be useful if such a tool was in LR and Bridge. Some research was in order. It turns out there is a plug-in that will compare the metadata and load all the duplicate images into a collection. That wasn't quite what I had in mind! I did some searching on the net and found a piece of software called Visipics. This seemed to fit the bill so I downloaded it and did a quick trial. Voila, it seemed to be just the thing. So I started in on finding duplicates. Visipics allows you, after it has completed its comparison purposes, to look at and delete images that are clearly identical. It allows a you to set the criteria for comparison from loose to rigid. I just used basic which was a middle setting. Away I went and inside of several hours I'd gotten rid of some 700+ duplicates. But says he, all these duplicates were deleted outside of LR. So now back to LR and use the "find all missing photos" under the library tab. Then delete all those that it finds. There is a message that shows up when you do this but in my case I simply accepted that and got them out of the catalog.
So now I have gone from about 49000 to a little less than 45000. Progress one day at a time! Let me conclude this first installment with a summary of what I have learned:
1. In the future I will copy my images to a separate hard drive from the card. They will be arranged by Project, general category(see the three items above) and date. This will allow me to also make sure I keep copies of the Raw images which I mostly shoot. It also allows the use of a different software package to review and delete as necessary without having to import into a catalog. Adobe Bridge if you like Adobe products is useful here. I'm not really fond of catalogs but I do like a lot of the other functions of LR.
2. Be Ruthless...again Ruthless, can't say it enough. Getting rid of the packrat syndrome is not easy and I think I need to re-wicker my brain
3. Now I think I'm ready to do the import and add keywords etc.
Anyway, that's about it for now! This will be journey and I'm sure I'll learn more