When to Delete

I’ve been quiet on the blogging scene for the last few days – making last-minute revisions to my talk ‘The Seeing Eye: Getting the Picture, Developing the Image’ which was delivered last night to Oxford Photographic Society. It was a pleasure to speak to a very obviously enthusiastic club with about a hundred present. Not many clubs I’ve been to recently can boast so many members.

A question was posed last night: when do you delete images? It’s a topic that’s been aired before in our community and to which I have contributed.

It was a timely topic because having recently come back from the Lake District with three hundred images I have been pruning that number down in the last week. Half have now been trashed. Those are the ones that are either duplicates, very obviously out of focus or very clearly ‘tests’ before the camera is set for the ‘proper’ image. It’s always a difficult task, and the commonly accepted advice is not to delete images about which there is merely uncertainty until a period of time has elapsed – because processing ideas occur later rather than sooner. Having sent a bunch of images to the Recycle Bin on my Mac I always have that moment of doubt: have I just trashed something I shouldn’t have? Decisions, decisions!

DSC_0942_wpIt’s made all the more relevant because a week ago I was going through some old stuff and found this image. My first reaction to seeing this was: why didn’t I junk this years ago? It’s an image of a slatted vertical curtain of alternating red and blue plastic. I found this in the main turbine hall at Tate Modern in 2008.

And then I thought, let’s have a bit of fun and see what we can do with this. And here’s the result.


Click on this image to see a higher quality enlargement

The steps involved to get this result are:

  1. Use the rectangular marquee tool to select a thin slice (in this case across the image).
  2. Go to Transform, Distort, and grab the handles on the edges of the rectangular slice and drag these to the top and bottom edges of the original image. You should now have a totally blurred image of vertically striped colour. Crop this if you wish to improve the overall ‘composition’.
  3. Save the result and also save a copy.
  4. Flip the copy (in this case horizontally).
  5. Expand the horizontal canvas of one of those two images by adding an image-width to one or other side.
  6. Drag in the other image into the expanded canvas, align carefully and flatten the image.
  7. You should now have an image of vertical stripes that is precisely symmetrical in all respects around its central vertical line.
  8. In Photoshop, go to Filter, Distort, Polar Coordinates, check the Rectangular to Polar box and click OK.

This process occasionally needs a little refinement with some images and I will come to that in another post.

Meanwhile it creates a problem: if I can do this with a totally rubbish image, is it wise to chuck anything away? I’ve just given myself another headache.


About LensScaper

Hi - I'm a UK-based photographer who started out 45+ years ago as a lover of landscapes, inspired by my love of outdoor pursuits: skiing, walking and climbing. Now retired, I seldom leave home without a camera and I find images in unexpected places and from different genres. I work on the premise that Photography is Art and that creativity is dependent on the cultivation of 'A Seeing Eye'. I'm not averse to manipulating images to produce derivatives that may sometimes be far removed from the original.
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17 Responses to When to Delete

  1. Fantastic result Andy. Now you’ve made me doubt the images that I’ve trashed.

  2. athyfoto says:

    Hmmmm . . . . it’s a question that plagues me all the time. My instinct is not to delete ANY original images. I am a hoarder by nature and find it hard to bin anything that “I may find a use for”.

    One thing that I now find in Photoshop CC is the “Shake Reduction” filter, this improves pictures affected by camera shake! So anything not TACK sharp that I may have binned could well have been rescued now. So unless it is an image that it is not practical to re-shoot I keep it.

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks for that, Frank. Interesting information about PhotoshopCC – is that the version you can’t buy outright?

      • athyfoto says:

        It is, but I was surprised to see that the CC version has 3D capability too amongst other functions, like the old ‘extended’ versions. I still have a perpetual license for CS6 but the special deal on PS CC + LR5 was too good to pass up.

  3. oneowner says:

    I love the image and I’m definitely going to give this technique a try. I have no difficulty in dong a first cut in photos and so far I think my decision making is good in that respect. When you start second guessing yourself you can get into real trouble.

  4. Len says:

    I used to trash a lot of photos but don’t do as much. I have learned that, as you have so brilliantly shown, editing skills improve as well as creative making yesterday’s trash, tomorrow’s riches. Very creative Andy. I love this.

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks Len. I’ve just spent a couple of hours on a very wet day playing around with another image. I find that experimenting creatively with an image often incidentally leads to me learning new processing skills which I can put to good use in my standard every day work. Glad you liked this shot.

  5. I almost never delete anything, which means I need a TON of storage. But I find as my Photoshop skills improve, some of the stuff that was not usable initially can be used; any time there’s an older photo on my blog, it’ll be one that I’ve just recently figured out how to salvage and use. Another reason I keep everything is that often the shots that don’t work for the blog will have information – street names, or some other details – that may not work in the image itself, but are useful when I write my posts, or in locating where I took the photo, or in jogging my memory about the location.

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks Melinda. Recently in preparing some images from 3-4 years ago, I’ve re-processed them, and in doing that realized how much my skills have improved just like you have. I’ve also deployed the skill of taking a shot to identify where I am – street sign sometimes or some other identifying feature – so that I can ‘locate’ work. Sounds like we’re both singing from the same hymn sheet here!

  6. Wow, always a question on whether to trash or not! What an awesome image that turned to be Andy! Lots of work involved, but sure makes me wonder about images I might have thrown. Thankfully, I don’t throw out much. I’m one of those, ” ya never know when you might need it” kind of person! Great post and image! :))

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks Rachel. This post has resulted in quite a few comments along the same lines as yours. Clearly it’s an issue that we all struggle with – we’re all worried about throwing out that one image that in the future might serve a purpose in story telling, or can be processed due to an increase in our skill base, or where the imagination sees the possibility of a slightly ‘wacky’ endpoint. Thanks for adding to the debate.

  7. Chillbrook says:

    I struggle to delete any images Andy and during the processing phase, I create many more. I always keep my RAW images, filed away by date and location. During the processing phase I create many copies and these I often do delete. Knowing I will always have the RAW image makes that easier. I have just this evening, ordered another 2TB external drive to add to my 3TB internal hard drive and the 3TB external hard drives I already own. Storage is relatively cheap so I’ll keep buying drives rather than delete images I think.

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks Adrian. I do what you describe too: get to a stage in the processing and then save the image at that point, and repeat the process later perhaps. And end up with a few different versions of the final image quite often. five years ago I thought digital was simple – how wrong I was!

  8. A fantastic conversion, Andy! Actually, the original image kind of appealed to me. She of the quintessential fuzzy foto! 🙂

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