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Friday, February 16, 2018

Deleting a Third of a Million Digital Photos

Did you know that a few days ago was "National Clean Out Your Computer Day"?

"DAY"... yeah, that one made me laugh.  I've been cleaning out my computer and external hard drive since the beginning of January.  Just in photographs I have deleted ~ brace yourself! ~ about 350,000 photos!

I've mentioned this in a few of my Facebook groups and have had many ask how did I do it?

First thing was for me to come to an understanding of just how that mind blowing number came to be.  The answer: laziness.

Remember the old days (and some of you probably don't...) when you loaded film into your camera?  You might have 12 shots you could take, or maybe 24.  The very most was 36 and that was almost decadent.  Then you very carefully selected what you wanted a photo of and very carefully took one...maybe two shots because that film was not cheap!  When you took all the photos for that roll of film, the next step was to take it to be processed.  More not cheap.

Picking up your photos was always a butterflies in the stomach time.  How many turned out OK?

Digital photography.  If you feel it, you can take 1000 photos of your kid's soccer game.

Here is where the problem arises.

I didn't have 350,000 photos to delete because I've taken a half million photos.  I had that many because of lazy back-ups to my external hard drive.  I'd just keep backing up and backing up and backing up the same darn thing with only a few new ones each time.  And I never went thru those photos I had taken to pick the best 2 or 3 from the 200 or 300 shots I'd taken at that soccer game.  Ditto the trip to the park.  Ditto again the birthday party.  See the problem?

And trips... oh goodness.  My 30 day trip to Scotland produced 9000 photos.  Now it gets really sticky because 8000 of them were good photos of amazing places.

Folks... I travel a lot...

So it goes until I was completely overwhelmed with where to start.  Here is how I accomplished my sorting and culling...

I started with just looking at what sort of things I take photos of.  What are my main topics/themes?  These I wrote on paper first.


Yearly is a no brainer.  Sub files of each year (ie 2011), then sub file that with the months.  That to me is the most basic organization.  


The next major file for me was Travel.  Sub files Overseas or US trips.  Within those sub files for locations.

After that I just came up with various topics that I do... "Family and History", "Creative", "Blog", "Photography" (those shots I want to use for selling/contests/etc), "Home", and so on.  You can always add more as you work~ these first one just help make for faster sorting.  

Now I was ready for the big sort-cull-organize to begin.  I started with my external hard drive.  I had done save after save of the same files, so I picked the largest and latest folder to drag the duplicates into.  "Merge" and "Move and Replace" are wonderful time savers.

I kept busy at that until I had one large folder of unique files.  

Then I copied over laptop drive files using the same method.  This way I ended up with files on the external drive of every single photo.  Oh... I added Dec 17 to the end of every file name (cause I started this the beginning of Jan).  An incredible amount of photos were deleted during this time as I ditched the duplicates or sub-files I knew I didn't want to keep.

Now back to the laptop drive...

First folder I made was 000 Hold (those are zeros).  So named so it would always be at the top.  Due to extreme paranoia, I dragged all the photo files into this folder for safe keeping ~ even tho technically I also had them on my external drive.  Don't know if that was needed but it made me feel better!

So at this point, I had one folder showing in my file tree.  


Then I added in all the new files I had brainstormed earlier.  

At this point I dragged over one folder at a time from the external drive... adding 00 to the front of the file name to put it on top.

I worked on that file one photo at a time, until each photo and sub file was completely culled to just what I wanted to keep.  The finished files were dragged into the new blank files.  

Once the transferred file is empty, I deleted it.

I did this over and over for several weeks until I had gone thru all the photos I was going to.  As I finished each yearly folder I renamed it with DONE at the end of the name.

OK, that sounds a bit strange when I say I'm done culling my photos.  Except for the travel photos, (which I am working thru month by month making photo books out of after which I will do the cull), the important photos are done (ie yearly, family history, etc).  

I discovered as I worked there are photo files I really don't consider important such as "projects" (photos grabbed from the 'net that I want to do) and I don't care about backing them up per se.  Maybe later but probably not.  I can always go to Pinterest.

My final steps were to copy back to the external drive all my finished files or untouched consolidated files (like "Travel") that now had the name ending Feb 18.  The files named with Dec 17 on the end were deleted.  One last check to make sure I had all files in both drives, and the final copies were deleted.

Was it fun?  No.  Was it easy?  Oh no.  Was it needed?  Absolutely yes!

I worked on this almost every day for 1 to 4 hours a day.  When I was tired of it, I walked away because that is when you start making stupid mistakes.  But when I started this I pledged to myself I would complete the task, which I did.  It might have taken less time to do if I hadn't been simultaneously going thru those 8000 Scotland photographs for my Blurb book of the trip.

If I could go thru that many photos and get them arranged, so can you!



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