The Problems With (Nearly) Unlimited Photos

The Problems With (Nearly) Unlimited Photos

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Let me start by stating I do not hate the fact that digital photography has made nearly limitless photo taking possible. There are many positive aspect of digital photography, as compared to film photography, not the least of which is the ability to quickly see results and thus learn from our own mistakes while experimenting with the medium.

What I want to warn new and old photographers about today is the pitfalls that come with seemingly cheap, nearly limitless storage that digital photography affords. What is often looked at as a boon for the medium has a downside not often discussed or appreciated.

Storage

The first problem is storage. Those 250 shots you took while trying to catch the dolphins jumping, just right, off the coast of Hawaii last summer? Yeah, they’re still sitting there on your harddrive(s) a year later, aren’t they? You might even have bought more drives to store all those extra photos you said you “…will go through when I get home.”

The fact is storage is cheap, monetarily speaking. One terabyte for $100US? That’s cheap compared to just a year ago. So we tend to fill and fill and fill, thus requiring a few more drives. Oh yeah, don’t forget the need to backup all those photos, preferably to a spot off-site. You’ll need double the drives, by the way.

Storage also becomes and issue as drives become more fragmented (although this can be avoided with certain techniques) and file access times slow. You also need to consider storage while traveling. All those little costs, from one extra harddrive, to needing a large backup device, to needing three extra memory cards for a month long trip, start to add up but because they are all small and incremental while they occur, they seem innocuous.

Time

This is really the big sink for ‘endless’ shooting. Time. Most of us complain about not having enough of it and then we go and drink it all up by shooting more than we need to. Time plays into many parts of endless shooting.

First, there is simply the added time it takes to review all those photos. I have 900 images from a rodeo I shot last week that I need to review. With being a bit more gentle on the shutter release, and anticipating the action better (it was my first rodeo, so to speak), I could cut that in half. If it takes me 3 seconds to review a shot and decide if it stays or goes, 900 images will be 2,700 seconds or 45 minutes of review. I could knock out 20 minutes of that by not using the ‘endless’ feature on my camera.

Second, time comes into play while transferring images to a home computer. Most of us can think of other things to do while transfers are happening but for a lot of people, they slow down computer speed as the harddrive is constantly being accessed.

Lastly, there’s that backup issue again. Extra photos means extra time backing up. Compound my extra rodeo photo issue by 30-40 such events over the course of a year and I’ve added hours to my backup schedule (and additional cost if those backups are sent to a remote service online).

Lack Of Learning

This final subject is a bit harder to quantify. I started learning photography on film and I’m not saying it is the end all, be all. Film did have one big advantage over digital; I either started learning to take better photos or I stopped shooting because of the cost of film and developing. That’s not the case today.

Consumers can now take thousands of really bad photos because there is no cost barrier once the camera and cards are purchased. If a consumer doesn’t have a desire to learn to improve, they are more likely to continue shooting than in the days of film. Maybe the proliferation is what is more visible, so I may be totally wrong on this one. I’ve been wrong before.

On the whole there are more positive benefits to nearly limitless shooting in digital photography than there are negative. Can you think of any other aspects new shooters should be aware of when they are just starting out?

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Peter West Carey leads photo tours and workshops in Nepal, Bhutan, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and beyond. He is also the creator of Photography Basics - A 43 Day Adventure & 40 Photography Experiments, web-based tutorials taking curious photographers on a fun ride through the basics of learning photography.

Some Older Comments

  • CJ January 17, 2012 02:15 am

    I end up keeping too many photos on my computer because I think I will use them in the future. Deep down I know I will probably never go back and edit them. I have been been recently going back through my photos and deleting some because I have too many.

  • subodh July 28, 2011 09:54 pm

    i got canon 500 D,out of 100 photo 20 to25 photos are blur (not in focouse). I used TV, P,Landscape,auto mode.Sir,I wants very sharp photos.Can you help me by solving this problem.camera-CANON EOS 500 D LENS-CANON EF-S 18 -135MM 1:3.5-5.6 IS

  • Lisa July 24, 2011 06:15 am

    This is so true. I am a beginner and thus far have been so pleased with all of my shots that I'm acquiring quite a few. I've noticed that some shots I took six months ago would not cut it today. I need to get more critical. I can replace the mediocre shots easily and there is no need to keep them. I am going to strive to keep only the "best of" shots. We'll see how I do.

  • Jillenium July 23, 2011 02:42 am

    I don't advise deleting in camera. Some shots that may look "not super keepers" on a tiny camera back in bad or bright light, may look very good enlarged on computer screen. I try not to Chimp much, edit at home even though that can be a month later. And yes, I own 2 TB external drives to store 11 years of digital photography. The bigger problem is dozens of photos with identical numbers. Number 1,2,3, etc.

  • Kenny E. July 23, 2011 02:38 am

    I recall reading an article many moons ago that talked about the deline in photos for archive purposes b/c of the proliferation of cheap, digital media/storage. Photoarchivists are losing access to a lot of photos that tell a story. The photos before and after the "Perfect Shot" have as much to say about a subject or incident as the perfect shot. Sadly these photos never see the light of day. Now the only shots to get printed are the "perfect" shots. The rest languish on a drive or disk or are just deleted. As an amateur photographer these are the photos that have more to teach me than a perfect shot. We learn more from what we do wrong that what we get right.

  • Bill July 23, 2011 02:16 am

    What's the best way to store photos for posterity? CD, DVD, flash drive, backup drive, flash drive?
    Only the good ones would be saved.

  • Hagen July 23, 2011 12:53 am

    Taking bazillions of images is not a roadblock to learning. You can still learn if you take 1 image or 30 images: critical thought afterwards is just as important as critical thought before.

    Go ahead, take thousands of photos, but do spend the time to review them, see what works and what doesn't work. The next time you go out, you'll take fewer photos. Rinse, repeat. After awhile, you'll be down to taking only a few.

    As for those loads of images you may still have? See the Delete Ruthlessly entry. Go back a month later, a year later, etc. Even if you don't have more than a few minutes, you will eventually chew through the old images you originally liked or couldn't get rid of as you felt 'attached' to them. I've inly got 15 pictures from 2002 for example. Some I like, and some are a record of where we were.

  • Rodney Davis July 22, 2011 10:50 pm

    This article is right on the money. I started my photography hobby 30 years ago with a Pentax that only did manual. Living in a developing country meant that a roll of 24 exposures was all I could afford per month. I eventually had to give it up as a hobby because it got frustrating not being able to afford a dark room. But I did get to learn a lot. Problem is, by the time digital became possible, I was out of practice as a manual shooter. After reading this post, I think I'm going to put myself a little more in my early 1980's mindset... actually applying what I know from the technical side instead of behaving as if I was using a point & shoot and compensating for it by shooting a lot. I'm also going to look further into Scrapbooking. The little I've garnered so far tells me it should help with the aesthetic aspects of the storage and retrieval problem.

  • Pashminu Mansukhani July 22, 2011 01:26 pm

    I sort out my images in a very systematic manner. Delete over 605 of the images in the camera itself and limit the usage, so that only 'keepers' are in the local and back drives.

  • Madison Raine July 22, 2011 10:00 am

    I already posted on here but I've been reading the post and it made me think of my mom. We recently moved and I found a box full of film cameras, like chap dispossible kinds from years ago.
    I wonder if there's pics of me from when I was younger. Few places develop photos for cheap.
    At walmart if you print 100+ photos it's only 13 cents each. Great deal!!

  • Shannon July 22, 2011 07:32 am

    I can relate to this, as I take hundreds of photos every time I go out with my camera, and I nearly lost all my pictures when my computer died last year. Now with a new laptop, I asked my mom for a flash drive to store all my music and pictures. I now have a 16 GB flash drive that is full of pictures (no space for my 4 gigs of music and video), and there are still more my computer that wouldn't fit on the flash drive.
    Yeah, next time, I'll definitely invest in an external hard drive...and perhaps lay off the shutter button.

    Luckily I'll be learning film soon, so maybe I'll learn to restrain myself from just clicking away.

  • John July 22, 2011 06:37 am

    I still haven't developed some of the negatives I shot 10 years ago much less gone through even 10% of the digital images I now have.

    I always thought that shooting film was a great way to learn, but even better is getting a dark room and developing the print yourself. You'll really get to know your images.

    There are many great things about the digital world we live in, but i am thankful that I came to know many things, especially photography, when it was all analogue.

  • Tony July 22, 2011 01:58 am

    Ever since switching back to 35mm a couple of years ago, my Keeper Shot ratio has gone WAAAAAY up. Every time I'm about to pull the trigger, I ask myself "Is this shot really worth expending one of my 36 frames on? Is this worth the resources?" - and many a time I find myself backing away from a mediocre picture.

    So even if I go back to digital, I'm going to shoot like I only have a limited number of exposures on the memory card. 36 and done, baby!

  • Bonnie July 22, 2011 01:08 am

    Don't forget about how difficult it is to find a specific photo when the files are so full!

  • Robert T Wilson July 20, 2011 07:48 am

    I started off using a rebel xt and took tons of shots. Then I discovered vintage manual lenses and subsequently bought a pentax kx and a beautiful Takumar 50/1.4. This slowed me down a lot , unfortunately my life took a turn for the worst and I had a nervous breakdown ( got to love air traffic control! ). So my next purchase was a used Leica m8u and a summicron 50/2 from 1964. Talk a out slowing down!! It feels like a film camera And it Shultz a whopping 2 fps. And you have to do everything. It's ab solutely fantastic to rediscover the joy of photography this way While all my pals are going 11 fps and 18 mp. I went the other way , and I love it. If you want to see some of my feeble attempts check out my blog. It has shots with lenses from 1953 up to my new 2004 fa 50/1.4. Cheers. RTW

  • Fergus July 18, 2011 12:55 pm

    I'm going out on a limb here and saying that deleting images is a bad idea. I'm well aware of the time constraints but that comes down to you and your workflow. Deleting images that you don't like is like removing pages from a book that you don't like.

    Who's to say that in 30 years you won't look back, see an image that you previously hated and suddenly it appeals to you? This has happened to me on more than one occasion. Deleting images (unless they're literally unviewable due to focus issues etc...) is deleting a part of your history.

    It shows where you have come from. Deleting bad images removes them as a reference to WHY they were bad. If you remove these images, they are no longer available to compare with your current body of work and you run the risk of repeating the same mistakes, thus making more bad images.

  • Andre Langenus July 17, 2011 02:07 am

    I think we can add a 4th item. We forget to think how to take a picture. One of the ten will be the good one? We don't control anymore the exposure, we work on (semi)automatic. Since a few months I again am using manual exposure. Results: less photo's taken, better exposure results. Negative drawback: if you Travel in company (with partner or Group), you will take more time to take the photo, thus slowing down your company.

  • scottc July 16, 2011 10:23 pm

    Storage and time eventually become "lessons learned". A full hard drive and repeated "spraying and praying" and still not getting the shot should create second thoughts.

    When it comes to learning, some will and some won't, kind of depends on why someone shoots in the first place.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/5897831890/

  • Neil Hargreaves July 16, 2011 04:33 pm

    A great article and I wholeheartedly agree with the issue of shooting hundreds of shots just because you can and digital is "free".

    The storage side doesn't worry me as much as the lack of learning. Storage is cheap, it's the time needed to sort through the images that isn't!

    I wonder how many photographers who just keep shooting so that they know that they might have a good one amongst them actually know why the good image worked?

    I'm all for going back to basics, and taking my time to get the shot that I imagined captured in camera first time. Personally, I've pulled out my old Bronica S2 and have got back into film - 12 shots and having to wait until the negs are developed before I know exactly what I shot.

    A tripod, careful composition and my trusty light meter has be back loving film that's providing me with amazing scans to work with in PS (so not quite back to the old times ;-)).

    Film can be expensive, and you have to wait to to see the results, but why not stick a piece of tape over your dSLR screen and go back to basics, shooting manual and using your camera's light meter. If you limit yourself to 12 exposures (or 36 if you're used to 35mm) and you have all the suspense of film, but with (most) of the convenience of digital!

  • B Jay July 16, 2011 03:41 pm

    Hm...But what is wrong in taking too much photos?

  • Paul vS July 16, 2011 11:36 am

    Reading this article reminds me of one of the things I hate about my Nikon D7000: Deleting files in camera is kind of useless when you use the backup-mode.

    (The D7000 has 2 SD card slots and one of the strengths of this camera is the backup mode, so every image file is written on both SD cards at the same time. Great for data security in case one card fails, but unfortunately the camera deletes the files only on card#1 but not on card#2).

  • Evelyn in Oregon July 16, 2011 06:57 am

    After reading your article, I went to my photo files and started culling. It actually feels pretty good to delete them!

  • Cameron July 16, 2011 06:54 am

    I agree on these points however there is a benefit to the endlessness. Creativity and Exploration! Being able to take many shots allows me to play with focusing on different areas, explore the subject in different ways and also increase chances something will be in focus (I usually take 2-3 to be sure as I HATE losing out on an image from a silly mistake and lets face it, everyone makes them from time to time:P). I have a few hundred from macro with a frog and whilst many are simply bin material, a few really stood out and it was the ability to take so many that I could experiment to find one I like. And for photographing my dog the endless/500 shots is a damn near must simply to get all the action.

    It's amazing to finally go though the endless amount and find some real keepers that you had no clue if it would work or not. Experiment away people!

  • Madison Raine July 16, 2011 05:37 am

    @Momen,
    I sort mine by things and dates. Like some of my folders are: animals, sky, lightning, 4th of July, beach.
    Things like that. I think if you can't think of the picture as a date or holiday that it should be put into an object/thing folder. I also have a folder called random, for the ones I haven't sorted yet or don't know where to put. Also a faves folder for the ones I would die if got deleted.
    But that's just what I do.

  • Jenidolan July 16, 2011 03:41 am

    How long do u keep digital photos you have taken for others? I am always afraid to delete...just in case

  • Joel July 16, 2011 03:24 am

    Awww come on, why else get a camera that can do 11fps? ;-)

    Oh wait, my 1TB hdd is getting full of RAW and JPG files... and Picasa says I have lots of dupes...

    My wife and I fully agree. We're proficient enough that we want to slow down and take more considerate and artful photos where we've set up the shot. So what if the lighting isn't right -- setup the lighting instead of just trying it out!

  • Donald July 16, 2011 02:40 am

    Very good article, Recently I've been trying to cut back on my amount of shots taken, what i do is limit myself to 1 -4gb card per trip, and have my camera set to Large and fine, average file size about 10mb. I have a preset function button on my D90 set to RAW+Fine, so the odd shot i do want to take in better quality i shoot in raw. What this has done for me is reduce the amount of space required.

    Also asking myself, before shooting- will I want to print this shot ?

  • Ken July 16, 2011 01:48 am

    Paul, your comments are right on. The same thing happened in computer programing when computer memories grew. I expect a 1980's version of "WordPerfect" would do the job for more than 90% of normal word processing today. I used to travel with a 5 1/4 inch floppy disk which carried the DOS operating system, the software, and my files. Programming got sloppy as available memory grew. image count is the same thing.

  • Stacy July 16, 2011 12:11 am

    I've found that the better and more experienced I've gotten, the fewer shots I take. I've become much more deliberate in my preparation and composition BEFORE I press the shutter. So, I'm not taking every shot possible. I'm taking only the best shots. The rest just becomes clutter that just takes time away from post-production and will ultimately cost me shooting time.

  • Steve M July 15, 2011 11:56 pm

    Many of the comments I see here are from people who have come to digital from serious film work relating their own experience. When you have had a chance to make picks from a contact sheet and take one or two negatives from a shoot into the darkroom you tend to approach your work with a more conservative attitude.

    The problem I see on many image sharing sites, I believe comes from those who came to digital from Instamatic. They developed a habit of taking their rolls of film to the drugstore and getting back a stack of prints. When they shared them with you they showed you every one in the stack, rather than selecting the best from the shoot. So now we get to see all sixteen pictures they took of the polar bear at the zoo, rather than the single one that was well composed, in focus and well lighted.

    I will make an admission here that I do have prints made at Sams Club because I think their results are better with less hassle than I get from an inkjet printer. Anyway, I am continually amazed while waiting for my turn at the kiosk when I watch people ahead of me who are dumping entire cards. They never take advantage of the opportunity to enhance or crop anything, they are simply looking for their Instamatic print stack.

  • Fuzzypiggy July 15, 2011 10:13 pm

    I must admit to being a bit of a snap junky, especially when I have 16GB cards loaded into my camera. When I was shooting on 4GB I spent a little more time on getting the shots right. Despite taking too many shots, I do tend to be very ruthless with them. On average a days shooting will yield about 250-300 shots and I will keep maybe a half-dozen if they are any good. I will keep all my shots for about 2 weeks to be sure I don't need them, then finally delete them all.

    The real problem I find with taking dozens of shots is that you don't think enough about composition and light, you simply snap away hoping that one of the shots will come out OK. All that time spent snapping could be better used to get the scene snapped correctly in a couple of shots you know for sure are correct. It's something I try hard to do more now than I used to a year or two back. I will spend longer looking at the scene, checking the view-finder, looking before comitting to one or two good shots.

  • Fuzzypiggy July 15, 2011 10:04 pm

    I must admit to being a bit of a snap junky, especially when I have 16GB cards loaded into my camera. When I was shooting on 4GB I spent a little more time on getting the shots right. Despite taking too many shots, I do tend to be very ruthless with them. On average a days shooting will yield about 250-300 shots and I will keep maybe a half-dozen if they are any good. I will keep all my shots for about 2 weeks to be sure I don't need them, then finally delete them all.

    The real problem I find with taking dozens of shots is that you don't think enough about composition and light, you simply snap away hoping that one of the shots will come out OK. All that time spent snapping could be better used to get the scene snapped correctly in a couple of shots you know for sure are correct. It's something I try hard to do more now than I used to a year or two back. I will spend longer looking at the scene, checking the view-finder, looking before comitting to one or two good shots.

  • bycostello July 15, 2011 09:33 pm

    you gotta ruthlessly delete....

  • jennifer July 15, 2011 06:24 pm

    On the contrary, I think having unlimited, instantly developed photos can help people learn at a much faster rate. You don't have depend on time or money to learn. Development time slows things down and so does lack of funds. I am learning so much more about lighting and photography now that I have a DSLR, much more than when I had an SLR.

    I shoot everything in manual on my DSLR.

  • jennifer July 15, 2011 06:24 pm

    On the contrary, I think having unlimited, instantly developed photos can help people learn at a much faster rate. You don't have depend on time or money to learn. Development time slows things down and so does lack of funds. I am learning so much more about lighting and photography now that I have a DSLR, much more than when I had an SLR.

    I shoot everything in manual on my DSLR.

  • MJD July 15, 2011 05:22 pm

    One thing I would also mention is the joy of photography. I find when shooting film you take your time over each shot, contemplating perspective and composition, trying to visualise the shot which will appear on the negative. There is nothing better than going to an interesting place and just taking your time shooting. Digital seems to have sped up the process so you take less time over each shot and take so many of them. I personally find little joy in this. Don't get me wrong, I own a 5D and various Canon lenses and I love the results I can get, especially for some of the semi-pro work I do. Without digital I doubt I would have ever got into photography in the first place and I definately would have given up a long time ago had I started. However, to me there is nothing better than picking up my Voigtlander Bessa R and 35mm 1.7 lens and just strolling around taking QUALITY shots. I actually get excited about developing and scanning them. Somehow waiting to see the results makes the whole process so much more worthwhile. What's more i'm sick of having thousands of raw files on my hard drive which I never, ever look at. Sometimes less is more.
    www.flickr.com/mjdmjd

  • MJD July 15, 2011 05:20 pm

    One thing I would also mention is the joy of photography. I find when shooting film you take your time over each shot, contemplating perspective and composition, trying to visualise the shot which will appear on the negative. There is nothing better than going to an interesting place and just taking your time shooting. Digital seems to have sped up the process so you take less time over each shot and take so many of them. I personally find little joy in this. Don't get me wrong, I own a 5D and various Canon lenses and I love the results I can get, especially for some of the semi-pro work I do. Without digital I doubt I would have ever got into photography in the first place and I definately would have given up a long time ago had I started. However, to me there is nothing better than picking up my Voigtlander Bessa R and 35mm 1.7 lens and just strolling around taking QUALITY shots. I actually get excited about developing and scanning them. Somehow waiting to see the results makes the whole process so much more worthwhile.

  • Phil July 15, 2011 05:14 pm

    Great article. I'm new to photography and with the arrival of my first child I have turned into one of those fathers who has to shoot everything she does. Needless to say the first year of my daughters life is visually well documented.

    I learnt very quickly on that I was going to encounter storage problems. For me the solution is simple. Only keep the photos you LOVE. if it's a bit 'meh' or 'whatever' delete. I say you'll know a good photo when you see it, it will jump out at you making your edit decision easy. I find I can skim through 4-500 photos very quickly only keeping around maybe a dozen or so. Mark/favourite/star/rate/tag/colour the ones you like. DELETE THE REST. If you didn't like them first time around you won't second time.

  • andy haag July 15, 2011 04:18 pm

    I found a great solution for myself: on any photo trip when travelling I protect only the shots which attract me. From time to time I press CLEAR ALL (important: NOT format card). So I get rid of all not so good shots without the pain of having to trash them. Like that I'm coming home from trips where I shot thousands of flying bird or butterfly pictures or candid shots with only 400 raw shots. It takes long enough to develope them in Lightroom.
    Try out - it's so nice to concentrate on good shots! It's that much easier to forget the not so good ones :-)
    Andy

  • Dr. Bob July 15, 2011 03:51 pm

    @Momen Khaiti:

    They have specialized software for that nowadays. It also eliminates the need to save a JPEG, as only adjustments are saved. If you're on a Mac take a look at Aperture, on a PC take a look at Lightroom. There are though many more programs.

    It allows you to sort and search in various matters, without changing the physical sort on the drive.

  • Andy Haag July 15, 2011 03:22 pm

    I found a great solution for myself: on any phototrip when travelling I protect only the shots which attract me. From time to time I press CLEAR ALL (important: NOT format card). So I get rid of all not so good shots without the pain of having to trash them. Like that I'm coming from trips where I shot thousands of flying bird or butterfly pictures or candid shots with only 400 raw shots. It takes long enough to develope them in Lightroom.
    Try out - it's so nice to concentrate on good shots!
    Andy

  • Momen Khaiti July 15, 2011 03:20 pm

    Thank you for the article. One thing I would love to see one day is an expert's advice on how to sort, store and backup your RAW files, versus your final JPEG's. For example, the way I do it is that I download all of my RAW files to my computer, process them, save them with the changes, and then convert into JPEG's. Every once in a while, I backup my RAW's. Other photographers tend to convert all their RAW's into TIFF and then play around with those, without touching the RAW, this to me takes up a lot of space.

    The other side to this is how to sort them? By date? By topic? What's the easiest way so that you can always go back to any photo fast and easy, without having to browse through hundreds of folders??

    Is there a "best practice" here? Any advices?

  • Luke P July 15, 2011 02:24 pm

    I definitely agree with you, despite digital having many advantages over film, it still isn't perfect. I originally found that the fact that the files sit on your computer was nice because I wasn't paying to have those unneeded photos printed. The more you have though, the harder it is to sort through them to find your favorites. It really shows the necessity to organize your files so that you can find them when you need them.

  • Pete July 15, 2011 01:41 pm

    Good article.

    I have to agree that it is good to learn from your mistakes pretty quickly as long as you delete the mistakes. I was away at the Le Mans 24HR Grand Prix this year and reviewed a lot of files in the Grandstand and deleted the ones I didn't like at the time. It was my first time practicing panning techniques which was interesting considering the speed of the cars that I was following. By deleting the ones I didn't like cut down the transfer time to my Laptop (When power was limited in the campsite) and enabled me to take more 'keeper' shots as my technique developed. It got to the stage where I was ready to grab a shot and instead of taking a burst of 10-15 shots I could drop this down to 3-4 shot bursts and delete the 1-2 I didnt like.

  • Edie Howe July 15, 2011 01:37 pm

    Peter--

    Dude. WORD. You have NAILED it. I'm taking a break from culling 3/4 of my 2TB drive full of 6 years of images. I figure I'll be done in 2017.

  • Charles van Dijk July 15, 2011 11:45 am

    Be critical. Why do I shoot? What is my project? Keep only the photos we are proud of. Birthdays, parties, I start shooting them in jpeg, burn them on disk and give them away. Serious photo shoots go in a folder called in box, examine the photos in full screen and 95% get deleted.

  • Erik Hansen July 15, 2011 11:18 am

    Good article, I am one who still have film camera's and use them on occasions when I want to remind myself of what film photography was about. as far as digital, yes I do often shoot extra when doing functions and weddings because I am only limited by the number and size of my memory cards.

    I do not delete images in camera, I download to the computer first, catalog and categories all for reference purposes, then update with relevant exif info. separate into sub-directories by the category.
    Then when all backup to three external drives has been done, then I delete the images which are of no use, from the main storage drive, and mark the backed up versions accordingly to avoid later syncronisation problems. This do take a lot of time and the method could perhaps be improved greatly.

  • Johnp July 15, 2011 10:59 am

    I tend now to review shots in camera at the end of each day and delete in camera any that don't immediately grab me as good shots. This frees up storage and decreases download and computer times. There are risks of course in doing this - you have to be careful to not delete shots you want to save and you have to be aware (because you are reviewing at reduced size) that there may be shots that would be good cropped or otherwise improved. If then unable to download immediately to computer I'll "protect" the shots retained in camera.

    I wouldn't do this for paid assignments or other important shoots. In that case I would download and backup all shots taken as soon as possible.

  • Max Power July 15, 2011 10:37 am

    I agree 100%. One learns to become a better photographer with film because of cost and no instant gratification. Since buying a DSLR, I shoot about the same number of shots as I did with film- maybe a few more. I can't imagine having to post process hundreds of pictures at a time. When I read huge numbers like your 900 pictures of a rodeo, I wonder, "Why doesn't he learn how to take a picture first." The beauty of film is that it's always the same; there are no adjustments.

  • Madison Raine July 15, 2011 10:26 am

    @ Richard Gunther,
    I agree with you completely. When I was in a photography class, most of the kids were just in there to get an easy A. When ever we would go explore campus to get a few shots, bearly any if them were serious, they just wanted to learn how to make their self pictures for facebook look cooler by using Photoshop. I litterly died a bit inside. Luckily when I take my next class I'll be put in AP photography, with other serious people.
    It's sad that they don't care what their shot is of :( taking a photography class should not be an easy A.

  • Richard Gunther July 15, 2011 09:24 am

    Digital photography has led to a lot of really bad photography.Check out the majority of photographs that are posted to facebook. I shudder to think that the ones posted are actually the keepers.

  • UA July 15, 2011 09:03 am

    If shot counts go overboard, there's a trick to that: buy very small memory cards. For example my D700 makes something like 16MB RAW files (compressed I guess). WIth 256MB card you can have 16 shots and with 512MB card 32 shots. If I recall correctly that's about one 35mm film roll (I was very young when I shot film.. got bored waiting the results and left photography for years until came back on digital era), so you are in the same situation as "back in the days", except that you can see immediately the results and remove the bad ones to make room for keepers.

    Of course it would be stupid to use such a small card on a wedding shoot, but try it to those "for fun" occasions. You will definetly learn more about thinking the photo before pressing the shutter.

    First, see the photo, then press the shutter, check your result and iterate if necessary (I think this is Jared Polin's words). First pressing shutter, then seeing results to see the photo, and then iterating will result for more shots. The worst would be just going nuts with pressing the shutter and go home and then see if there happens to be any keeper photos.

    And remember, DSLRs have a limited shutter life-time. Shooting less will make your hardware last longer. So there's a good point to learn to shoot only those keepers. You will very rarely publish those 1000 photos you took from one event. I guess for a wedding or other similar events 100 photos is already quite a extreme amount to publish.

    After all, I personally think that digital photography should not increase shot counts (from one event/occasion! Of course it's good if "free" photos make you shoot more events/occasions). Its benefits are more on the "shoot and see" for assuring the image quality on the set and possibility to reshoot, if something went wrong. So yeah, if one keeps filling hard drives with boring, repetative shots and never improves, it's a bit bad thing. But it does not need to be this way. Otherwise, I do not miss film at all, because I'm unpatient.

  • John Newton July 15, 2011 08:45 am

    I made the transition from film to digital a number of years ago. Oh the joy of being able to shoot unlimited images. Yup, you shoot more and seem to create more trashed images and less keepers, and some how you never seem to throw anything out. Yup, cheap storage can be blamed, but we as photographers need to take responsible for what we produce, both good and bad, trash and keepers.

    I've backed off of just shooting to be shooting. Yes, you constantly need to be shooting to improve, but you need a plan, a goal, not random continuously shooting. All too often you hear "Oh I can fix that in Photoshop" but it never happens, or if it does, very rarely. I've gone back to what I learned while working with film. Back when film, processing, and printing cost could add up to a substantial amount in a short amount of time. I work at doing as much work in the camera and as little as possible out of the camera. Oh, and I do print out my work, not all of, but then I never printed all of my film images either. Just the keepers. I'm also weeding my files. It is painful and time consuming, but healing in a manner of speaking.

  • mouring July 15, 2011 08:26 am

    On the learning bit.. I agree and disagree. There is an advantage to digital in terms of learning called "instance feedback." I'm doing a lot more low light and long exposure photography because I can do a simple "plate shot" to verify my gut feeling of the lighting is right then dial in the the right settings on a per-shot basis depending on how the lights change (e.g. rave/dance). I have a higher hit rate with digital than I ever did
    with film, because I could explore the scene more. I could push the camera, lens, and my limits.

    With this stated, I grew up in film.. I've developed my own black and white and color film. I've done hours of darkroom development. And it had a major impact on me compared to others around me that have shot only digital. The simple concepts of "crop and composition in camera for the 90% case" because our only tool in post-processing most the time was the enlarger so it was a very simple flow (unless you were doing touch up via paints.. Dang impressive group that can do that).

    However, there is an advantage taking a new person shooting on digital with the instance feedback concept. We can walk a zoo and talk about what is going through their head. What they are seeing on the preview and their failing to understand how their camera works. Things like: why things are blurred, why is it dark, why high ISO may not be a good thing even if you can get a fast enough shutter to stop motion. And later let them go home, pull a few good pictures, a few bad pictures, and pass them around with the meta data and ask what happened. And since they are time/date stamped you can grab your shots from that same period and compare cameras, lenses, and settings and determine if the shot was a failure to set the camera up right, a failure due to substandard glass, or just outright pushing the camera (or photographer) beyond the limits.

    It's more of an interactive learning style. Which is very different from the old school film days which was more memorization of "Sunny 16" rule, and sliding charts with DoF calculators. Some of those are still good things to know, but I find it easier to teach them via an interactive photo shoot than via boring dead paper or slide show method. Since it engages the student more and they have a better chance of remembering it.

    However, like with all learning it takes effort. And the same people pumping out thousands of bad pictures on their Point & Shoot digital camera are the same folks that did hundreds on their Point & Shoot film cameras because they feel they are "good enough." And thus not caring to improve their skills.

    And in that case.. There ain't no hope for them. =)

    - Ben

  • Beve July 15, 2011 07:58 am

    Hard drives shelf life is normal five years under normal access-use! Hard drives have a life cycle ...you may use it up in three....maybe six...but most give out around five years +/-. Also drives that aren't access that much, like your back up drive that you remember to back to once or twice a year...well they can go even quick from lack of use...online storage if you can afford it is a great option!

  • Sean July 15, 2011 07:58 am

    I first learned to shoot with wet film for forensics work. The instructor was famous for his line "it's just film", I guess trying to encourage us to document a moment that would never happen again. I've never forgotten it but now I find myself with folder after folder full of images in my "needs reviewing" folder. Amongst all the trash I sometimes wonder how many real "keepers" I'm missing just because of the sheer volume of images to sort through :). At least two I'm guessing ;-)

  • Madison Raine July 15, 2011 07:26 am

    I recently just went threw my external harddrive, it took a few days to sort all the photos, I still need to go back and delete some. Taking photos digitally does take up a bunch of space, but at least then you can take hundreds of the same shot and you'll be sure to have one perfect photo. Having so many photos does use up a lot of time. It takes hours to review photos, it's tiring. I normally just do a little everyday or so. I started out learning on digital mainly because I'm young. But I do enjoy going into a dark room and developing the photos.

    I think to new photographers, I would say don't buy a super expensive camera when you first get started, buy a cheap digital camera and see if you really like photography, and after a while get an SLR or something better.

    Also, you don't have to print all your favorites. I know it's hard, I always want to print them all. But now I'm going to wait until I have 100+ to print because walmart will print each one for 13 cents if you have a 100. Good deal, right?!?

    Also;
    be calm when photographing. Don't get overly excited. Your hands may shake that way and cause the picture to be blurry. ( I learned that cuz I don't always use flash)
    and if you take pictures of animals, they WILL move. They won't stat still forever. And some bite.

    And also when you are looking for your first SLR look for a good deal, yes that takes more than a week. Take your time looking and you'll find an amazing deal.

    I say so much to share what I've learned and what I wished someone would of told me.

    Good article :)

  • Tiffany in Topeka July 15, 2011 07:26 am

    I'm far from a pro, but I have been shooting much more since going digital. I agree with much of your article here. The reason I went digital in the first place was because the cost of film and especially film developing. Since I can now shoot as much as I want and just delete the photos that don't turn out, I have noticed two outcomes.

    1 - like you mentioned above, I take lots of shots and they sit in my computer. Those that don't turn out, I think, "I'll delete those." but I never do!

    2 - I'm not as careful!! I used to be much more careful about setting up my shots. I would examine the background, think about composition, etc. Now there are occasions that I find myself just shooting away and it isn't until I look at the display before I think, "Ooops! Do over!"

    One other thing - I have discovered that I don't print out the keepers anymore. I need to send photos to grandma and grandpa. I want to frame shots of my kids! But, instead, I have them as a scrolling screen-saver (which I don't see because I'm not at my computer!) hrrmmmm....

    Thanks for the article!

  • Heather July 15, 2011 07:10 am

    Thanks for the post. I sometimes wonder about this issue. I started out learning on film too. Then I stopped taking pictures for a very long time. A couple years ago I bought a DSLR and I take tons of pictures. Storage isn't a huge problem for me because I delete tons of pictures too, but it does take up a lot of time. I find that I'm not as careful a photographer as I once was. Sometimes I just lazily take a lot of pictures hoping to get it right and that's the danger with unlimited storage. I've recently decided to limit the amount of pictures I take.