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 Sinclairification by Grant Sinclair

Why Deleting Individual Images Off Your Camera Is Bad

13 Aug 2008

A common comment (ha!) I hear when people talk about the benefits of using a digital camera is, “If I don’t like the picture, I can just delete it.”

This is a terrible idea.

But if the technology exists to make the option possible, why is it a bad idea?
There is one reason why you shouldn’t delete individual pictures off you camera, ever:

- The screen is too small to capture all the details of the image and you run the risk of deleting a great picture.

Sure, at first glance, the picture may not be so stellar.  But keep it anyway.  When you get the time to view the images more closely on a computer, you may see things you like in the photograph you didn’t expect.

Take, for example these pictures.
In this image, you have the man taking the picture of the statue.  I didn’t want the man in the picture, but I took it anyway because I was impatient.

A few minutes later I took this picture of the statue without anyone in front of it.

When I was looking over the pictures, I realized I liked the photo with the man in it more than the photo of the statue by itself.  The reason is because the statue gives a human scale; you can see how big the statue is because the person is beside it.

This next photo (which was taken the same day) is another good example.

I took this picture when I was showing someone how to use my camera; “Halfway down to focus, all the way down to…oops.”  If I had taken the picture with a digital camera, I might have been tempted to delete the image.  After all, it’s a picture I took accidentally, so I know it’s bad, right?

Not so fast.  I like the people in the background.  They have a story.  They’re obviously travelers and the gentleman with the older model camera looks like he’s seen a few miles in his day.  They also appear to be Westerners, which implies they have come quite a distance to get to Japan.

In the center and right of the photograph there are people wearing blue jeans and sneakers.  You know it’s warm weather by the shorts the man is wearing, the tank top the girl sitting beside him has on and the bare arm in the left of the frame.  This makes the people wearing jeans that much more peculiar; jeans in warm weather.

This lets us know, as an audience, about the variety of people who come to Kamikura.

We got all of that information from just one picture, taken by accident that, with a digital camera, might have been deleted and lost forever.  It might not have been considered a great loss, but it is an insightful addition to the rest of the photographs.

Now that you understand why deleting images straight from the camera is a bad idea, there is still one issue at hand.

If you’re not going to delete individual images off your camera, what are you going to do when your memory card is full?

The key to this situation is preparation.  The advice listed here should help you, particularly if you do these things before you travel.

1) Buy a large memory card.  A good size to get is 4GB, as the capacity of a single-layer DVD-R is 4.71GB.  Therefore, you won’t have to delete any images when copying pictures from a 4GB card to a single-layer DVD-R.

2) Buy several memory cards.  When one fills up, put in the next one and keep on taking pictures.

3) If you run out of space on your memory card and have no other options, switch the image size to the next lowest quality (From “Large” to “Medium”, etcetera).  Just remember to switch it back to the “Large” setting when you start again.

4) DO NOT WAIT UNTIL YOUR CARD IS FULL TO COPY THE PICTURES!  You should, if possible, copy all your pictures from your card to a computer, DVD and/or other device AT THE END OF EACH DAY.

INCIDENTALLY: Is your camera set to the largest file size?  If not, you are wasting the capabilities of your camera.  A 6MP camera shooting at the lowest quality will give you about a 2MP image.  Did you spend your money, time and research to buy a 2MP camera?  Probably not.  Put the camera on the largest file setting and get the most out of your investment.

Once ALL your pictures are copied safely to a device, you can format your photo card and be ready to take pictures again tomorrow, knowing you’re ready for the day.

It seems like a lot to keep every picture from your trip until you get home, but it’s actually less work than you may think.  While you’re traveling, you shouldn’t have to make decisions on what to keep and what to lose.  Don’t even think about it.  Keep everything and do the other stuff when you get home.  You’re traveling to have fun, so have fun.  If you see a few images you really like, head to a PC room and upload them to an online photo site or E-mail them to friends, but keep it simple.  Don’t spend all day messing with pictures at a PC room, unless you’re on an extended trip and are backing up images for safety.

For our article entitled “Protecting your pictures as you travel” click here.

 The key to this part of photography is the mindset.  Pretend you don’t have the capability to delete individual images from your camera and you won’t be tempted to do so.

We admit, by keeping every photograph, you are certainly going to have a few you don’t like.  That’s okay, because you aren’t going to know the good pictures from the rest until the trip is over and you’re back home.  There are fewer disappointing moments than when someone asks you for a picture of something you saw – and photographed – but deleted because you didn’t like it.  It’s better to have more pictures than fewer pictures and it’s easier to not use something you don’t like (but have) than it is to try to get something you want, but erased.  Besides, a less than perfect photograph of something is better than no photograph at all.

I think I’ve made my point.

However, the saving of all your photographs doesn’t end when the trip does.  When you sit down at your computer to look over the pictures from your trip, you may be tempted to start deleting pictures.

Not yet.

Let’s set the scene.  You’re home from your trip.  All your post-travel chores are finished and you finally have time to look over your photos.  Give yourself plenty of time and put on some good music.  (If you picked up any music from your trip, now’s the time to let the music play.  See how well the pictures and the music go together.  Great for slideshows.)  You’ve had a good trip.  Now it’s time to enjoy the nostalgia of your own personal history.

Maybe you’ve backed up your pictures on your iPod, portable USB storage device or CD/DVD (Again, check out “Protecting your pictures as you travel”.).  Which ever method you have used, copy all your pictures to your computer.  Don’t think about which pictures, just copy them all.  Even the photos of your rental car license plate (link).

If you already have your images on CD or DVD, make sure that the disc is labeled and the ink is dry.  Then store the disc in a safe place, like a DVD binder or jewel case.  Be sure to view the images on the disc to make sure everything burned properly.

If your images are not on CD or DVD, now is the time to do so.  Copy all your pictures to disc (using as few discs as possible, but as many as necessary) while leaving the images on the computer.

At this point, all your pictures should be saved on disc and on your computer.  Now the fun starts.

THIS is when you can start deleting the pictures you don’t like – the editing process.  This is when your pictures start to mean something.  Those seemingly innocent photos you snapped with your friends now represent a chapter in the story of your life.  You may have taken it all for granted in the moment, but the fact remains, you were there.  And nothing will ever change that fact. 

When you see the places you have visited in the movies or on TV, you will have a sense of familiarity with that place, a sort of understanding.  And that’s really cool.  You might even say, “I was there.” out loud, even by accident, even if the other people in the room know you were there.  If you’re not in the room, someone may call you over “Come quick!  They’re talking about Sydney!”

So as you go through your pictures, try and pick the images that are most important to you and tell the best story of your experience.  As you edit, think about someone who wasn’t on the trip and how they would view the pictures.  Will the photos you are selecting make sense to them?

Once you are finished editing your pictures, copy them to a CD/DVD and label it “Best of…”.  Then make another, identical disc.  Label it “Copy of Best of…”.  The copy is the disc you will bring to have prints made, to friend’s houses, etcetera.

You’ve had a good trip and ALL the pictures to prove it.  Go share your story.

© 2008

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