For an overview of this series, see the debut post on my morning routine.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve got too many photos in my photo library and I don’t know what to do with them all. They are all digital, of course, so they don’t take up space. But there are three problems that plague me:
- Duplication: because there is no limit to how many pictures I can take, I tend toward taking a lot of the same thing.
- Ephemera: there are pictures I take so that I can use for a specific purpose: like the brand of detergent I need to pick up at the grocery story. These could be thrown away after I use them, but they never are.
- Lack of curation. Almost none of my photos are tagged, labeled, or otherwise curated in any way.
Recently, I decided to tackle this problem, and I developed a playbook for curating my photos. Here is what I do.
- Open the Photos app on my Mac.
- Select the “Weekly Photo Curation” Smart Album
- For each photo in the album, so one of two things:
- Delete the photo
- Give the photo a title, and optionally, give it keywords
- Repeat step 3 until all the Smart Album is empty.
I use Apple photos for managing my photos. As of this writing I’ve got over 25,000 photos there, many of which are duplicates or ephemera, and most lack curation.
I decided to tackle this problem by stopping the bleeding first. Thus, this playbook.
Defining the Smart Album
The “Weekly Photo Curation” Smart Album is defined as follows:
I search for any photos in the last 7 days that do not yet have a title. Since a Smart Album is a “live” album of the photos that match the criteria, each time I either delete a photo, or add a title, the photo drops out of the album so that I know I am finished when the album is empty.
What goes into the decision to delete or save? Mostly experience. I usually ask myself a few questions that go beyond the usual keeping a photo out of sentimentality or personal documentation:
- Is the photo a duplicate or close enough to be considered a duplicate?
- Is the photo distorted (blurry, etc.)?
- Is the photo unique enough to keep for use on the blog? (I prefer to use my own photos on the blog than ones that come from curated sources online.)
- Do I need this photo to be available in my Photo library? (Is it available somewhere else?)
- Have I needed to find similar photos to this one recently?
Selecting a title
If I choose to keep a photo, I try to give it a succinct title that is specific enough to be useful in future searches. For instance, this morning I took a picture of the sunrise coming up behind the 7-Eleven which marks the halfway point of my morning walk. In this case, I simply titled the photo “Sunrise over 7-Eleven.” I try to be conscious that Apple Photos, like Google Photos, uses AI to be able to identify things in photos. Sunrises are one example that Apple Photos is probably good at. But the 7-Eleven in the photo is from the back, so there is not much of a change for the AI to identify it as such so I throw it into the title.
Tackling the entire album
At some point, I’d like to go back and clean up the entire album, but with more than 25,000 photos, that seems an almost impossible task. Maybe at some point, I’ll put together a playlist which would allow me to review a month of photos at a time, slowly working my way backward. But for now, I’ve got too much on my plate already so I am focusing on ensuring good meta-data quality on photos going forward.
Also, I am trying to be more present when doing things, and am less likely to take as many photos as I used to. Every little bit helps.
I try to do this on Sunday mornings, immediately after completing my morning routine. I guess you could say that this has become part of my Sunday morning routine. That allows me to get the past week’s photo’s curated just as the new week is beginning.
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