Jennifer’s recent blog post about image recovery shed some new light on a dilemma I’ve been facing since the day I became a photographer. In a bit of a technical snafu, Jennifer nearly lost a bunch of photos she’d taken – which is a pretty big fear of mine. As a result, I find it incredibly difficult to delete photo files – even long after the final shot has been posted!

The question I face is, when is it time to delete old or alternate shots?

I’m not talking about final shots, here. I back those up regularly, in multiple places. On my laptop, on an external hard drive, in the iCloud, on Google Drive… I kind of obsess over it. And if worst ever comes to worst, I could always download them from one of my social channels (Flickr is an especially good place for this, as the images always stay in high quality despite being uploaded).

But what about the other shots? Sometimes, I can take upwards of 20 or 30 takes of a single setup. A slight change of focus here, a slight change of angle there… Then I import them all into Lightroom, pick the best one, and after a bit of post-processing I export it and back it up in the aforementioned places.


I finished these Ant-Man shots in January, but still have them cluttering my hard drive

For some reason, I find it incredibly nerve-wracking to delete the photos that don’t make the cut. Unless the picture is beyond saving (the reasons vary; bad lighting, bad focus, etc.) I end up keeping it. Partly, I feel that I may want to use or post an alternate take someday. A “B-side,” if you will.

This has never happened.

If I don’t like the final shot, I retake it. And on the rare occasion that I want to revisit or reinterpret a photo I’ve posted, I don’t look through the alternate shots I took at the time. I just try again, taking the new skills I’ve learned since the original shoot and attempting improve on my initial work.


When I didn’t like my initial shot of The Flash delivering pizza, I didn’t turn to an alternate shot. I redid the whole thing and improved on the entire setup – over a year later.

I can’t tell you why I do this. Maybe this is my way of saving ideas? I guess I’m paranoid that, unlike Jennifer, I won’t be able to recover work that I lose. And while I have yet to post a B-side of a photo I’ve taken, I guess someday I could? Why not give myself the option if I can? After all, they’re just photos on a hard drive, they can’t take up that much space, can they? (I’ll tell you right now. They can. Those megabytes add up to becoming gigabytes fast, especially when you shoot RAW!)

Perhaps to help myself through this anxiety, I’ll start small. Don’t eliminate all alternate takes, but most. Leave myself some breathing room in case I ever do want to turn to a B-side, but cull the herd a bit. And then back up the remaining photos in my usual digital safety nets. You know… just in case.

I open this discussion up not only to my fellow blog mates, but to the greater Toy Photographers community. Do you keep old files and alternate takes of finished photos? If so, why? If not, are you able to sleep at night? 


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