by Susan Caplan McCarthy
As you sort through your photos, grouping them by event or year, you’ll encounter photos that you can toss without guilt. I know, I said in a previous article in this series that you wouldn’t be judging photos as you sort them and tossing these photos shouldn’t require thought or leave you doubting whether to hold onto an image.
Photos to Toss (or Delete) without Guilt
The following photos add little your collection:
Duplicates – Unless you plan to send the duplicates to another family member, you don’t need two or three copies of a print photo. Also, keeping a back-up with the original doesn’t help to preserve the picture. You can back up favorites and important pictures, later, by scanning them.
Blurry images – Can’t tell who or what is in the photo? You don’t need to hold onto it even if you think that blurry shape in the distance is your 20-year-old grandmother at the beach.
Pictures that are too dark or too light – Again, if you have to struggle to decipher an image, consider if the effort is worth the image. If you have a single photo of your mother and the flash wiped away the details of her face so that you only know it’s her because your aunt remembered her sister wearing a particular dress, well, you might choose to keep that picture. But, in most cases, if a photo makes you say, “huh?” it’s not going to be special.
Vague subjects – Oh, look, a tree, the ocean, a tree, another tree, more trees, oh, here’s the ocean again. I led a few nature photography classes with preteens and teens during my time as a nature and art teacher which means that I have many folders on my computer that are filled with pictures of trees, rock formations, leaves, and mushrooms.
If it wasn’t for the label on the digital folder, in many cases I’d struggle to identify the location of an image. Deciding to toss pictures with ubiquitous subjects comes down to why you want these images. If nature photography is your hobby, then you’ll hold onto photos that someone who took the pictures on vacation probably wouldn’t.
I’m not saying that you’ll toss every scenery shot, but the ones that could have been taken anywhere won’t stand out in your collection.
Photos from past projects – Years ago I wrote how-to articles with directions for kids’ crafts. I’d need pictures of the process as well as the finished project. It wasn’t important to hold onto these images after they were used.
I also weeded through photos I’d taken of crocheted items I made as gifts. I have a few pictures so if I’m talking to someone about the type of things that I’ve made I can show them photos of the finished projects.
Maybe you’ve taken progress shots of your garden or your home renovations or something you built. If you like that they tell a story, hold onto them. You can always weed through them later. However, if you find yourself looking a picture of meals you’ve eaten or cakes you baked and rolling your eyes that you have these images, it’s a sign that you can let them go. (And chances are that if you posted them to social media, you still have a copy.)
People and places that are no longer connected to your life – Back before people had phones with cameras, I’d bring my camera to all sorts of work-related events. It gave me something to do and to talk about (I’m not great with small talk nor am I fond of crowds). Often, I was the only one with a camera.
For some reason, I’d get duplicate pictures printed (again, this was in the days of film) – one for work and one for myself – which meant that years later I was faced with photos of people I was no longer in contact with. The pictures no longer had any meaning for me.
Why Did We Keep These Awful Pictures?
Remember, back in the days of film, you had to pay for film developing and photo printing whether the images were good or not. Many people probably felt that they paid for a picture and so they were going to keep it no matter the quality.
And digital pictures live “invisibly” in our computer. They don’t take up physical space, probably don’t affect our cloud storage plan, and are easy to ignore. However, when we go looking for a certain photo, or even group of photos from a vacation, it’s discouraging to scroll through lackluster images.
Remember, these aren’t photos that you are judging the content or their value to your memories. This is the simpler acknowledgement that these blurry, vague, unimportant images aren’t worth holding onto.
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I help people focus on what's important to them by guiding them through clearing clutter and distractions from their lives. I teach decluttering and organizing skills through articles; books; courses; speaking engagements; as well as virtual coaching sessions.