Ask LH: How Can I Get My Holiday Photos Under Control?

Ask LH: How Can I Get My Holiday Photos Under Control?

Hey Lifehacker, Got any tips for managing an excess of holiday photos? Take me, for example: on my trip to Melbourne and Sydney last March, I took around 2500 photos; I was there for three weeks. Even a short 3-day vacation took up more than 200 shots. The big problem I’m facing is which one to print. Thanks, Photo Profligate

Dear PP,

Your question raises two immediate issues:

Why do you want to print them in the first place? We are, realistically, a long way from the era where a printed photo album was the best (and ony) way to experience photos or share them with friends. If you want to show them off to others, you can do so from your phone or laptop screen. If you want photos on permanent display, a digital photo frame is a good solution. While the typical digital photo frame shows rotating images, you can easily set it to display just a single image, and alter it on a much less regular basis.

That said, there’s obviously still a place for getting a large version of a cherished print — one where you’re impressed with your own skills or which brings back fond memories of a great trip. But honestly, those shots will jump out at you if you take the time to go through your photos. And that brings me to my second point:

Photo management on holidays makes sense. In my experience, by far the best way to stay on top of your holiday photo workload is to set aside time each day to go through the shots you’ve taken, and ditch the ones that aren’t relevant/in focus. With digital cameras, it’s easy to take “one more shot to be sure”, but we often fail to do the follow-up work. When you get home from a holiday and face an SD card filled with thousands of images, it’s all too easy to put it in the too-hard basket. It’s much easier to

This was exactly what I did on a month-long holiday with friends last year: set aside a little time every day to go through the photos we’d taken, ditch the duds, edit the ones with potential and end up with a good record of the day’s activities. That also gave us the opportunity to share the photos with friends. That still only took half an hour a day at best, and it’s something you could easily do before retiring for the night or over breakfast the next morning. Even if you don’t take a PC, you can get rid of most questionable shots on the camera itself.

Readers, have other strategies for dealing with your holiday photo glut? Tell us in the comments. For more holiday photo advice, check our thoughts on how friends should share photos after a trip.


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  • Basically you just have to be ruthless with deleting things. At a concert recently I took easily 100+ photos, but less than half a dozen of them were any good. The rest were unmercifully deleted, and good riddance.

  • Step 1. read the DAM book by Peter Krogh.
    Step 2. Get a good triage workflow going using the keyboard to assign 1 star to photos that you’d be happy to show, 2 to the cream of the 1 stars(i.e. The ones that you’d sit down for a here’s what we did on our holiday chat with a friend, or include in a screen saver). 3 stars is the cream of the cream (the photos that you might print to hang showing the holiday). 4 stats are

  • Sorry, Android fail…
    4 stars are for photos that summarise your career, and 5 are those that define it.

    Use the keyboard to assign these stars in a program like light room or aperture and the process is fairly painless. Try to keep a ratio of 1 to 10 for the stars to have meaning.

  • Two tips: Cull photos while still on holiday, and then Windows Live Photo Gallery when you get home.

    It’s excellent at batch-deleting/tagging/rating photos. But the good bit relevant to this is the ability to ‘flag’ photos. This removes the stressful decision of whether to delete a photo or how to rate it. Just flip once through your photos, rotating as you go, and flag any that you like a lot. Then filter to view only the flagged bunch, and remove some flags if you have too many.

    One of the development blogs for WLPG calls this the 400-40-10 method, where you can easily go from 400 shots to 40 decent ones, then 10 to share.

  • I feel your pain, I went to the U.S. in August for the first time with my shiny new Canon EOS. Thousands, upon thousands of pictures. So many angles of the Chrysler Building. I just decided to keep them all. The White House photographer never deletes any thing, we could learn from his example… 😀

  • Be ruthless in culling your photos. Nobody wants to see 32 photos of the Eifel tower. 2 is plenty, 3 if you have a great night shot to add.

    By all means keep them all if you want, but select only the very best to share with others. Keep them in a different folder or print them and maka an album.

    @ Angus – a printed photo album is the only way to make sure your photos will still be around in 20 or 50 years. I loved looking through my parents and grandparents photos when I was kid. Still do.

  • I couldn’t agree more with the others. Ruthless is the only way but you will be better for it. My workflow changes all the time however the basic steps remain the same:

    1. Cull photos while on holiday. I just do this on the camera getting rid of the blurry/bad shots.

    2. Once home sort into folders based on locations and set the correct photo times, synchronizing the times from multiple cameras. For this I use EXIF Date Changer.

    3. Combine all the photos. With the photo times the same it is easy to compare and cull photos of the same thing.

    4. Run through all photos very quickly giving a rating. For this I usually use Pixort however lately have been using Lightroom. Anything with no rating gets moved to a deleted folder.

    5. Repeat step 4 with images with a rating of 1. This forces you to be a little more ruthless.

    6. Compare images of the same thing, keeping only the best shots. If there’s no real difference between two photos then 1 must go. While doing this I then set better ratings with the aim of only ever showing people photos with a rating of 3 or above.

    7. Run through rating 3+ photos dropping rating of any which you have second thoughts about with the aim to have no more than 150 – 200 photos for the entire holiday.

  • There is no commercialy viable way to archive digital files. So if you want your photos to be around for the future (and why are you shooting them for if not to enjoy in the future), then you need to print the most

    You can maintain digital files by migrating to the latest technology, but this requires time and attention down the track. Whenever technology is needed to view images, it can fail or become obsolete.

    So curate carefully and print the best for future generations.

  • Guys, if you haven’t tried photozapper for sorting your photos you really should. Its really really simple and does just this one thing – helping you get your photos under control.

    You choose buckets for sorting the photos into, then do a full screen no distractions slideshow of your photos. For each photo you press a key to rotate, delete, or to send it to one of the buckets. At the end it moves the photos to the relevant bucket folders.

    (PS – its windows and its not very slick, but it really does the job well)

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