And, yes, it was on purpose.
Since I got a digital camera, like you, I have been taking lots of photos. And not really curating them. They were overwhelmingly of my artwork – in many angles, backdrops, settings, styles – and took up the lion’s share of the room. But, as a full service artist, I also had a lot of backstory, process, documentation, activity, marketing and adjunct photos.
None of it was very well organized. The folder trees were serendipitous. I knew where to find stuff by rote – most of the time. I promised myself I would straighten it all out “Someday.” And that Someday proved to take a couple of months to execute.
I was wise to stall on this. If I knew what I was getting into – and I blessedly did not – I might have never attempted it.
I sat down and proceeded with the first folder, deleting and rearranging, file by file, as I encountered each sub-folder.
I slogged untold hours – whole evenings until I couldn’t see straight – through my PICTURES folder. I clicked DELETE 10,789 times. That’s 20.11 Gigabytes, gone. (It took the Recycle Bin about 30 seconds to get rid of all of them, though, which was humbling.)
If you have a seven-year backlog of untamed picture folders, I both recommend and caution you from attempting this. It’s a life-changer, beginning, middle and end.
I have a select few suggestions and observations.
Methodology: Each time you sit down to this task, set a goal: # of folders and/or working time period. And stop when you reach it.
Intense work needs rewards. Have a few, preferably with serotonins, like chocolate.
Record the numbers of Files, Folders and Gigabytes before you start and, if it helps, check them at the end of every session so you can see where you have been. This is important for not only efficiency, but also because this work is NOT like cleaning out a closet. While physically moving things has an immediate and tangible reality to it, when you clean out electronic files, nothing really changes shape. There’s no physical heft and it becomes an intellectual exercise, a Sisyphean leap of faith. The way to translate that is with those file/folder and gigabyte progress numbers. It’s all ya got.
Ask Yourself: Each time you find yourself stalling over an image, wavering, repeat: “Does this photo tell MORE of the story? Even if it is of the plain backside of a 3D piece, if it adds more information about the work, it’s a keeper. If it’s repetitive, redundant, boring or, heavens, out of focus or frame, poorly lit, or otherwise not remarkable, DELETE! But if the only photos you have of certain pieces are bad shots, well, keep some of those as pure archival documentation and call it good.
New Habits: I first began to take and keep too many photos when I became an Etsy Seller in 2009. On Etsy, there are five photo slots to fill for each piece, and it is highly recommended that you fill them. For the shopper, those photos ARE your product. I took all kinds of views to find the perfect five, and I then got busy and never went back to clean out and straighten things. Now I know optimum views and angles and am more efficient. I also find myself assiduously deleting the poorer files immediately.
Take Away: This giant task was effectively a seven+ year review of my body of work. Because of what I saw and made decisions about as I cleaned, I have a greater appreciation for my maker’s journey and have made connections throughout it. I even found a dozen or so misfiled folders I was glad to relocate.
And I am thrilled that I am done.
–Liz Crain, who’s become more circumspect, efficient, and better at storytelling with a camera. And she’s also resting her Delete finger.
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