Again: No Deleting

As I said in 2016: Today, I present to you an excerpt from my classes at Sheridan College and from my private classes. The subject: “Should I habitually delete my bad pictures?”

And the answer, my photographing friends, is a strong “no”. Deleting, whether “from the camera”, “afterward”, or “instead of formatting”, is always unwise!

So why is that? Let’s look at all three reasons in turn.

[A] Why not delete from your camera?


  • First of all, it is a waste of time. When you spend your time deleting images, that means that you are “chimping”, i.e. looking at the images instead of looking at the things you are photographing! You should use the time you have on location to be at that location.
  • Also, by all this looking you are wasting valuable battery power; power you may well need later on in the day.
  • And you are losing learning opportunities: why exactly were they bad? The EXIF data usually shows you why—and without the image you may never know.
  • It may be As Good As It Gets: The bad image of uncle Joe may be the last image you have of him.
  • You may be mistaken: Often, you cannot really tell how good or bad the image actually is.
  • And finally, when you make a habit of deleting, you will delete the wrong image soon enough. Guaranteed. Law of nature.

[B] OK. So why not delete afterward?

This too is simple once you think it over…

  • Statistics, is one reason. “How many pictures do you take with wide angle lenses? What proportion if your images is out of focus? How many photos has your camera taken? All these are questions you cannot answer if you have deleted bad images.
  • As before: maybe it’s the only picture you will ever get of this person, even if it is out of focus. I would love too have an out of focus or badly composed picture of Lee Harvey Oswald the day before he shot the president.
  • Processing techniques improve with every iteration of Lightroom/ACR. Maybe that terrible image will be usable 10 years from now.
  • They don’t matter. The drawback of “they get in the way and slow things down or make my photos hard to work with” no longer holds at all with modern image resource management tools like Adobe Lightroom.

So you use 1TB of your 8TB drive for bad stuff. Who cares! Storage is cheap today.

[C] OK then. But why not “delete the card when importing”, or “delete after use”?

  • Because formatting is much, much better than merely marking as deleted (that is all that happens when you “delete”) . It removes lost clusters, fragmentation, and all the other disk error that occur naturally over time on every disk, even virtual disks. Formatting fixes all these and is much safer. It actually deletes.
  • “Deleting when importing” is also unsafe because “what if the import fails”?

But remember, friends, do not format until you have made at least one backup of your images: one main copy, and one backup on other media. All hard drives fail—then question is when, not whether.

So my conclusion: there are lots of reasons to not delete your work. Leave all the bad images intact; format card after backup.

Trust me on this. You will be happy you listened, one day.

Next question.

Q: Should I format the memory card? And where?

A: Yes. After you copy the pictures to a computer and make a backup, and only then: put the card back into the camera and format it. Yes, in the camera, not in the computer. And every time. After your pictures are backed up.

‘Nuff said.


More Hardware (repost)

Today, a further hardware tip.

One of the lenses I had looked at by Keno-san of Canada Camera Repair (see prior post) was my 50mm f/1.2L prime lens. It was never the sharpest, and I figured a $2,000+ lens should be pretty sharp even wide open. The inspection turned into a repair, but not a very expensive one – under $175 for the repair, including a new rear lens element.

Good news: it is indeed sharper than before: I can now use this lens in available light situations. (The lesson in this: lenses should last forever and a well adjusted lens is worth having – lenses are therefore worth inspecting and repairing.)

Here’s a handheld (both) shot at f/1.2:

And detail:

The testing process also prompts me to remind you of a few important things:

  1. First of all: Do not be too critical. 50mm at f/1.2 is silly if you want more than a few millimeters of depth of field.
  2. Best use a lens test kit.
  3. Use a very small focus area to test focus. I used the “spot focus” option on the 1Dx.
  4. Focus elsewhere, then come back and focus on your subject
  5. Eliminate shake issues by using a tripod or fast shutter speed.
  6. Avoid “fully open”. Every lens is better when stopped down a little. That is why you buy an f/1.2 lens: not just to use at f/1.2, but also so it’s sharp at, say, f/2.0. (just like an f/1.8 lens would be sharp perhaps at f/2.8).
  7. Learn how consistent any issues are. A little back focus is fine, for instance, if your camera has a micro-adjust setting. But only if it is consistent.
  8. Focus in bright light. Use your center focus point; have the camera perpendicular to the surface you are focusing on.
  9. Focus is dependent on aperture, on distance from your subject, and on light intensity. If I adjust for close-by shots in my office, I need -15 on this lens; but at a distance, zero is what is needed. You need to adjust to an average that reflects what you shoot. Like (1 metre distance at f/2.8 in bright open shade”. Yes, this is complicated!

I used this setup:

That gets me to a micro-adjustment of around -15 for close-by shots (on a scale of -20 to +20): I focused on the “o”.

As said, this is complex. I would keep it simple; avoid shooting too wide open, shoot at least 1 metre away, say; and adjust lenses to an average (for you) situation.

For my 50mm lens, the conclusion is clear: “When shooting wide open, if the subject is very close by, apply a -10 to -15 micro-adjustment. But for subjects far away, or for shots at f/4 or smaller, apply no auto-adjustment. By default, therefore, leave it off.”

Yes, this stuff is indeed complicated. But so is flying an airplane: complexity is sometimes necessary for best results.