How Often Do You Organize And Review Your Archive?

A silhouette of a colorful water tower built by artist Tom Fruin in Brooklyn New York at sunrise.

Over the past decade, probably similar to you, I’ve created a copious amount of images over several devices and numerous external hard drives. My Lightroom catalogue was starting to look a lot like my iPhone’s photo app where there are thousands of additional images in no particular order that take miles of scrolling to locate anything I may want to use. It got so bad over the summer that I passed on a couple requests because I knew I’d spend more time searching my archive to locate the images than it was worth. That was bottom for me, the moment I realized I needed to wrap my head around my growing catalogue of images or suffer anxiety every time someone offered to buy an image.

This isn’t the first time I attempted a deep dive into my archive. I’ve started and promptly stopped too many times to count. This is, however, the first time I’ve committed to doing it and actually enjoyed it. Partly due to circumstance, we just had a baby and my free time is scarce, and partly because of a few personal projects I’m excited to tackle. Finding motivation has never been the challenge though, staying motivated is the hard part. What has really helped me stay motivated are the hidden gems I’m uncovering that were collecting digital dust in the dark corners of my archive.

The image at the top of this article was taken back in 2017 in Brooklyn N.Y. with the Nikon D850. I can remember walking from our hotel before sunrise to try to get a decent perspective of the Tom Fruin stained glass water tower glowing with the first light. Unfortunately, I thought at the time, the water tower was more of a silhouette than a glowing representation of the stained glass water tower I had hoped for. Almost every folder I go through I am uncovering similar images that are visually as strong as or stronger than the initial images I believed to be the best. It seems as though when I strip away my initial intent with a series of images and approach them with an open mind I’m able to better discern what has visual strength versus what just fit with whatever box I put myself in that day.

Ultimately, in revisiting my images from the past I’m uncovering things about myself in the process. Just this year I finally gave myself permission to take whatever image triggers my gut instinct to start to pull my camera up to my eye. Before, I would self regulate and tell myself that it wasn’t worth it… I would override my natural inclination with my prefrontal cortex, that part of the brain that regulates us, and talk myself out of “wasting” precious hard drive space with crappy images. Going back through my archive has reinforced my belief that my gut instinct is often better than the overthinking of images that I often do.

Even if you don’t have a personal project in mind, I’d challenge you to start to go back through the images you have not looked at for years and see how your perception of a good vs. bad image has changed… You might surprise yourself. I know I did.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section below and/or follow me on Instagram @Photolisticlife.

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