Finding the Good Photographs

Hand painted photograph. Dad, Singapore, 1947

Once I addressed overwhelm (here), the biggest hurdle in sorting the stash of old photographs was just getting started.  My aim was to quickly reject as many unnecessary photographs as possible and get to a much smaller pile of keepers. Here’s my system:

3 Boxes labelled:

  1. Not needed
  2. Keepers
  3. Others

Systematically work through the collection of old photographs. Done at a speedy pace and without agonising.  (A more thorough detailed look is done later, according to defined criteria.)

Photographs to go in the NOT NEEDED box were:

  • Out of focus                           
  • Any that were so faded that they would not be easy to reproduce                                   
  • Duplicates                                                                                                                             
  • Similar ones – taken with enthusiasm, but seriously, one image will do.
  • Those with a tiny dot in the background – “it could have been an elephant or was it a mouse?” … yawn.
  • Those with unrecognisable people.
  • Badly damaged ones
  • Unflattering ones: ‘the fork full of food just about to reach the gargantuan orifice’, kind of ones, or the really, really ‘bad hair day’ kind … unless they are worth keeping for the hysterical laugh factor.

Those photos that escape the not needed box are placed into KEEPERS or OTHERS

Criteria for the KEEPERS:

  • In good condition
  • Have meaningful content
  • Sharply focussed
  • Able to be digitally reproduced e.g. colour not too faded, clear detail **

The OTHERS are those left over – not terrible, not excellent – but may be needed down the track.

** The photograph below, taken in 1927, was easier to digitise than more recent coloured prints that had faded quite badly. I’m cool with the imperfections and made no attempt to clean up this digital copy. To me the blemishes are akin to wrinkles in old people! 


Next post:  Getting more strategic with the KEEPERS box and dealing with some of those ‘dilemma’ images.

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