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Tag: editing family photos

Two Reasons Why You’re Failing as the Family Photographer

It’s not difficult to snap a picture. In fact, it’s never been easier. But if you don’t follow a photo library management plan, you’ll quickly be in a world of hurt. I’ve got seven steps that should help make your day…

No matter how hard I try, I feel like I’m fighting a losing battle as the family photographer. Sound familiar? The good news is you’re probably doing just fine taking the pictures.
(I snap a few winners here and there.)

The problem is what comes after…

Sure, you can quickly flip a photo or two out to your world from your smartphone, but if you’re like me, I like to bring my photos home for review, grading and improvements.

I have a five-point numbering system when I go through my pictures in
Adobe Lightroom:

5 = Great
4 = Good
3 = Okay
2 = Not very good
1 = Terrible

I immediately throw the 1’s and 2’s into the trash, because they’re the stinkers. But then I hold onto everything else. But after years of following this practice, I’ve discovered a severe flaw.

Only Keep Your Best Photos
My plan has allowed me to retain pictures that I just don’t need. More importantly, the sheer mass of accumulating photos clogs up my computer’s hard drive, and they simply take too long to catalog.

The 5’s are the only ones I should be focusing on.
(Sometimes, I also highlight a few of the 5’s as ‘extra special’ by making them a ‘pick.’)

If I’ve nailed the shot as a 5, why would I need to save a version of it as a 3 or 4?

New rule:
When you’re done cataloging all of your 5’s, go through everything else with the intent of deleting them. All of them!

Question why you need to save your 3’s and 4’s.

There are No Shortcuts
For me, the underlying problem in my faulty photo management process is committing enough time to do the job right.

That means taking the time to correctly ID your 5’s on the first round of review.

And at the back end, you’ve got to do the ‘clean up’ phase and not leave around a lot of useless 3’s and 4’s you’ll never use again.

Because years will go by, and you’ll realize you’re holding onto way too many pictures.
(Like thousands of them)

Sure, I know I’m a big supporter of taking ‘multiple’ shots of a particular moment to ensure you actually get what you want. But that means you need to choose the best one and then delete everything else!

You Must Find the Time
Second new rule:
This all takes discipline and a daily commitment of thirty minutes of digital photo management.

I know that can be hard to fit in to a busy schedule. So I try to carve out the time first thing after I wake up in the morning with my cup of Joe.
(Yes, you probably need to set your alarm earlier to generate these precious minutes. I do.)

Without this regimen, your system will break down in a number of ways:

  • If you don’t share your photos quickly, their value drops off over time.
    (Who wants to see last year’s photos? Your family and friends want yesterday’s pictures!)
  • Your computer’s hard drive will fill up. Or you’ll have to shell out for cloud storage.
  • You’re never going to create those photo books, as that’s usually the last step in a photo organization plan.

Keep It Simple
I just finished up a few days of ‘staycation’ expecting I would be able to catch up on all of this. Guess what?
Not possible.

If you’re months behind, the only solution is to chip away it.

Thirty minutes.
Every day.

Delete all of your 3’s and most of your 4’s.

Remember, you only need a handful of pictures to tell a story.
Less is more.

You’ve just got to take the time to figure out which ones they are…


Seven Steps to Success
So let’s review my updated rules for effective digital photo library management:

  1. Don’t let your pictures languish on your camera’s memory card or computer.
  2. Stop grading a group of photos on a five-point scale. Find your 5’s. And that’s it. Really everything else should be deleted.
  3. Proceed with the ‘tweaking phase’ to improve your remaining ‘best photos.’
    (Cropping, color balance, exposure)
  4. Then, go find the four or five best 5’s. Those are your ‘uber 5’s.’ Share those. Family and friends rarely want to see more.
  5. Email your photos to your family and friends within the week!
  6. Don’t forget to copy your 5’s into the appropriate ‘theme’ albums or collections you’ve set up.
  7. Commit half an hour every day to your life-long photo management project as the family photographer.

Thirty minutes.
Every day.
Promise me.

Now, promise yourself.

It’s not a snap, but it’s the answer.

Six Tips to Help You Find Your Best Photos Faster

What are you supposed to do with all those birthday party photos you shot once you download them? A good start is to pick a few and simply share them. But that can be harder than it sounds when you’ve got hundreds. So you’re going to need a few shortcuts…

What are you supposed to do with all those birthday party photos you shot once you download them? A good start is to pick a few and simply share them. But that can be harder than it sounds when you’ve got hundreds. So you’re going to need a few shortcuts…

I took my family to New York City recently to visit my father for lunch. My six-year-old son doesn’t get to spend a lot of time with Grandpa… so I always view these get-togethers as something of an ‘event.’ And as with any family gathering I attend, I typically bring a camera along to snap a few photos.

I should stop right here and admit that my definition of a ‘few photos’ is likely to differ with that of most members of my family… including my dad.

My 83-year-old father is always one to tell it like it is, and as we were wrapping up our visit, he turned to me and whispered with a touch of sarcasm, “Are you sure you took enough pictures?”

He chuckled.
(I smiled.)

I couldn’t really succinctly respond to his comment.
So I let it go…

Why So Many Pictures?
The truth is I do take a lot of photos.

And why is that?

I think the simple answer is I find it difficult to get the shots I’m looking for. So I take multiple versions, hoping to capture ‘that moment.’

Now, this may be because I’m just not that good a photographer, and I can’t get what I want on the first try. Or perhaps the cameras or lenses I’m using aren’t up to snuff.

Sure, someone else with better gear and experience is going to have leg up on me.
But perhaps I shouldn’t be so hard on myself…

In Search of the Perfect Photo
I think I’m looking for specific shots that are actually tough for anyone to get.
Having to deal with low light and trying to freeze the action with a six year old running about… That’s ambitious!

Plus, I often turn off the camera’s flash, because of the harsh look that can create. And of course, many of the resulting shots have too much blur. Then, I get so frustrated when I take a look at my camera’s playback screen, and I realize I missed ‘the shot!’

So taking multiple consecutive shots in the hopes of successfully freezing the action is something of a necessity… Isn’t it?
(And it doesn’t cost anymore… other than to fill up your camera’s media card faster.)

Even if you’re taking an easy-peasy, everyone “say cheese’” shot, if there’s more than one person in it… chances are someone’s blinking.

So again, you’ve got to try several times to nail the one with everyone looking at the camera.

Overwhelmed with Too Many Pictures
Let’s agree for the moment that it’s okay to take lots of shots.

What exactly are you supposed to do with all of them?

Well, there’s the problem of having to spend all that extra time to review all of the pictures to figure out which are the best.

And believe me… I can tell you from personal experience that snapping lots of photos and then going through all of them can really delay sharing your favorite photos with family and friends.

So I’ve found you need to employ some brutal selection practices to find your top photos.

Time to Walk the Walk
Recently, I had to go through over 300 photos I took during my son’s sixth birthday weekend. To be fair, there were multiple events that contributed to such a high photo count.

But when my wife asked if I could get her four or five pictures to share around online, I realized I had my work cut out for me to figure out the essence of all those wonderful moments in five images.

To get the job done, I created a workflow that follows six steps…

The Six Tips

Here are my six tips to help you get hundreds of photos down to a handful:

First, review all of your photos and assign a number to them.
(Both Lightroom and the old Aperture let you do that.)

  • 5 = Great
  • 4 = Good
  • 3 = Okay
  • 2 = Not good
  • 1 = Useless

You should delete your 1’s and 2’s immediately. If you have some backbone, you should consider getting rid of the 3’s too.
(I usually can’t do that.)

Go through your 5’s again and eliminate the multiples.

What I mean by that is if you took a particular shot three or four times, there should be only one best version. Sometimes this can be hard to figure out, but you need to spend the time here to choose your champion.

Once you’ve selected the winner, change all the others to 4’s.

Edit, color balance and tweak all of your 5’s as needed.
This step is really a time suck. So the fewer fives you have at this point the better.

I bet you probably still have too many 5’s than you know what to do with.

Review all of your 5’s again and pick out the best of the best. You’re going to have to deal with the fact that certain strong shots just aren’t going to make it to the finish line.
(Lightroom lets you ‘flag’ your picks, which is essentially giving them a ‘6’ rating. Alternately, you can create a separate folder of the best of the best.)

So out of my 300 shots, I came away with about twenty 6’s.
How are you supposed to get that down further?

This is the stage where you’ve got figure out the ‘visual story’ you want to share. Do you want to forward on just the posed shots? The action shots? A combination?

I don’t think there’s only one answer here. You’ve just got to pick five to get to the essence of what happened. So just do it.

The good news is you’ve still got your twenty best pics. You can still use them in a photo album/book… or digital photo frame… or on your smartphone to swipe through.

You’re not done yet…
Remember all those 3’s and 4’s? Go through them again.

That’s right.
I’ve found that going through your losers one last time can occasionally unearth a winner.

Sometimes it’s just a matter of perspective what constitutes a great photo. An unconventional ‘miss’ may actually be something of great value if you look at it the right way. And honestly, when you’re zooming through hundreds of family photos to eliminate as many as you can, you can easily miss something that’s priceless, especially if it doesn’t fit your predetermined criteria of what you’re looking for.

If this final step unearths one or two more photos, add them to your 5’s or 6’s and thank the photo gods for your good fortune.
(It’s also a good reason not to get rid of your 3’s until you’ve gone through them this second time.)

When I was a Kid…
Of course, another way to get to your five photos is to only take five pictures.

That’s what my parents did at my birthday parties when I was growing up.
(All right… maybe six.)

And those few pictures from my own sixth birthday did a perfectly fine job capturing the moment.
(…It certainly took a lot less effort.)

The Need for Speed
I think another reality is any photo you share from your child’s sixth birthday party is a winning shot. As long as the picture is in focus, everyone is going to love it.

If you wait until his seventh birthday to figure out which is the best photo to share from his sixth birthday… it’s obviously too late.
(Delaying to find and share your 6’s clearly has its drawbacks.)

So move quickly. Be brutal. Find those best few birthday shots. Then enjoy them with others.

And don’t forget to eat some birthday cake…

6th Birthday Candle

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