Ever talk to someone who lost their phone and didn’t have it backed up?
The photos are the only data they actually care about. Years of mindless shooting and uploading had made my own photo library an unmanageable mess—22,000 images spread across multiple devices. So when Apple and Adobe recently updated their photo apps,
I had an excuse to pare down to the ones I want forever, the stuff that reminds me why photographs matter. If you can relate, here’s how to do it.
1. GET THEM IN ONE PLACE
I had to assemble everything from a couple dusty hard drives, an old laptop, and my Google and Amazon accounts into one place. I downloaded and transferred the photos into a folder on my MacBook, then dumped them into one unifying app. I chose Apple’s Photos, which is newly fantastic. It saves everything to iCloud at full resolution, including RAW photos I take on my Olympus PEN-F. It’s easy to correct time stamps. And, as with almost every Apple product I’ve owned, it just works. I can open Photos on my iPhone X, delete a few from last weekend, and know that it will free up space on my iCloud. Speaking of which, paying R45 per month for a bigger iCloud plan (200 gigs), worth it.
2. START DELETING
The big photo mountain was ugly. Everything out of order, duplicates all over the place. I asked Apple, Adobe, and Google whether their software could delete duplicates. “We’ve had a lot of requests for that,” they all said. But none has acted on it. That led me to PhotoSweeper, a $10 app that scans your library and shows a side-by-side comparison of what
it thinks are dupes, then you trash what you don’t want. And unlike similar apps, PhotoSweeper can adjust. For example, you can ask it to find photos burst-shot within two seconds of each other, and save only the one you like. (For Windows, Duplicate Photo Cleaner comes closest to PhotoSweeper.) I went from 22,000 to about 14,000. Progress.
3. DELETE SOME MORE
Google, Apple, and Adobe all have their own versions of computer vision—software that analyzes your images so when you type in “beach,” or “dog,” it finds all instances of that object. The technology is fallible but useful for this project. I searched for “receipt” and found dozens of restaurant checks from old expense reports. Photos also has a Screen Shots section, where I’d saved images of digital plane tickets and text conversations that weren’t as funny as I remembered. Same for the Videos tab, which contained movies of the inside of my pocket. Delete.
4. ACTUALLY ENJOY THEM
I was down to 12,300, about 46 gigabytes, just over half what I started with. The change was unreasonably satisfying, and not just because I could downgrade my iCloud plan from R45 to R15 (50 gigs) a month. With a clean workspace, I’ve been teaching myself to edit. I’m favouriting the ones to send to Orms Printoom (less than R300 for a framed 200×200). I got back on Instagram. And having fewer files is liberating. Because, unless tech companies find a profitable way to lighten your digital load, you’ll have to take care of it yourself. Photos are the best place to start.