Questions to ask yourself when decluttering photos

April 15, 2022

We are all drowning in digital photos. To reduce this constant overwhelm, we can either take fewer photos or delete those we don’t need– or ideally, we do both! Sounds easy, right? Well, I suppose we all know that it is not as easy as one would think. Photos are very sentimental and most people really struggle to let go of sentimental items. 

Let me share some questions you can ask yourself when you are not sure whether to keep a photo or not.

Oh, and by the way, it is definitely OK to delete photos – you are allowed to do this!

Do this first!

Before we look at the questions, here is another tip that will help you make decisions in the decluttering phase: know your Why and what you want from your photo collection! If you know where you want to end up, it is much easier to make decisions along the way. Like if you know you want to go to the north of your country, you are not going to take the road that points to the south, right?

sign post

Question 1 – Is it a good shot?

Here, we are talking about the quality of a photo. Is it blurry? Over or underexposed? Badly composed or out of focus? If it is and it doesn’t tell a really important story, I think it can go.

underexposed photo

Question 2 – Do you know the people in the photo?

Photos showing people are usually the most precious ones. However, if we don’t even know the people in the photo and have forgotten why it was taken in the first place, I think it can go. Please note I’m talking about digital photos you took. It is not about scans or prints of old historic photos. I would treat those separately; they might belong to a genealogy project and you might want to keep them for the time being.

underexposed photo

Question 3 – Do you want to be reminded of the person or event in the photo?

We probably all have them … photos of exes or other people we might not really want to be reminded of. So, why keep the photo? It doesn’t always have to be people. It can be locations or events that we prefer to forget. Hence, let’s get rid of the visual reminder.

sad woman with torn up photo

Question 4 – Is the photo a duplicate?

That’s a no-brainer! Keep the best version of the duplicate – which is usually the biggest in size – and delete the other. By the way, there is a great software that helps you find duplicates. You’ll find them on my resource page here.

duplicate photo

Question 5 – Are there similar photos?

Similar photos are not the same as duplicates. A good example is the group photos we all take. Rather than one shot, we take about 10 in the hope that everybody looks good on at least one of those shots. Instead of going through them straight away and keeping only the best ones, we keep them all and then forget about it. Time to find those series of shots, then keep the best and delete the rest! By the way, the above-mentioned software can also help to find similar photos.

similar photo

Question 6 – Does the photo tell an important story?

Sometimes, a photo might not be the best in quality or composition, but it might tell an important story. That means it’s a keeper.

story telling through photos

Question 7 – Do you like this photo?

This might seem like a silly question or maybe a bit too ‘KonMari’, who encourages us to only keep what brings us joy. However, I think it’s a good and justified question. Because – if a photo doesn’t make you smile – do you really need to keep it? And yes, there are exceptions, but give it a go.

laughing boys

Question 8 – Will you use this photo in one way or another in the future?

So, you decide to keep that photo, but there is that niggling feeling that maybe you shouldn’t? Well, ask yourself what you will be doing with this photo in the future. Would you use it for a photo book or a gift? If you decide it’s not good enough to go into a book and it doesn’t tell a specific and important story, do you still need to keep it?

displaying photos

Question 9 – Will your kids want this photo?

Think about future generations. Would they want this photo? Would it mean anything to them, or would they simply hit the delete key? I hate to break it to you, but your kids will not want to inherit 100,000 photos (and yes, this is probably what a lot of people will look at by the time the inheritance comes along!). They don’t want all our other stuff either and it’s not much different with photos.

family looking at a photo album

Feel free to keep them

If knowing your Why and goals and if asking those questions hasn’t helped, you are of course allowed to keep your photos. There is no obligation to declutter and delete photos. All I can do is encourage you to give it a go and lighten your photo load and start building a real meaningful photo collection that allows you to enjoy your photos rather than feel stressed and overwhelmed about it all.




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