Useful Year-End Photo Projects

We're only a few days away from the end of one year and the beginning of a new one. People often mark this transition with goals for the future, but it's also a good time to review the past. Photographically, there are a couple things you can do to honor the progress of time in your photography---select your best images and delete the worst.

Double Rainbow over the San Juan Islands, Washington
One of my Best of 2015 images


Selecting the Best
Selecting your favorite or best images from the last 12 months is a very good year-end project. If you use Lightroom, you can create a collection to hold your favorites.

The criteria for the collection are images created in 2015 and rated five stars, for example. Use whichever attribute you preferred for designating your favorites; this could be a Pick flag or a Label color, such as purple, instead of stars, or even a combination of stars, flags, and colors.

2015 images with 2 or more stars in Lightroom

In Lightroom's Library module, from the Library menu select Enable Filters. Then use the Filter bar to set Attribute to 5 stars (or a flag or color) and Metadata to 2015 images only. When these are visible, select them all (press Cmd or Ctrl + A). Then from the Library menu, choose New Collection. Name it "Best of 2015" and check the box to "Include selected photos". Then click Create.

Create a collection including the selected photos

Ansel Adams once said that if he made 12 excellent images in a year, that was an accomplishment! Keep that idea in mind as you choose your strongest photographs. You may need to delete some pictures from your collection if you have too many. When you've settled on your absolute best photos, consider sharing them in a slideshow, web gallery or JPEG print, all of which you can create in Lightroom.

Rejecting the Worst
Another year-end task goes back to the previous year, in this case 2014. Here you review all the photos you took during that 12 months and delete the rejects. By waiting a year to review your work, you create emotional distance from your shooting experience so you can be more objective when evaluating the results.

Candidates for the trash can be technical failures, such as lack of focus, extreme exposure problems or color issues. They can also be the less effective frames from a series of action shots, so you keep only the most exciting images. Or you can eliminate compositions that did not live up to your expectations.

In Lightroom you can use the "Reject" flag for photos you potentially want to delete. First, use the Library Metadata filter to display only 2014 images. As you review these pictures, press the letter X to apply the Reject flag to the photos you think you want to delete. When you are finished with this review, use the Library Filter to select the Attribute of a Reject flag (black x) and the Metadata of 2014 to see just these images.

Rejected images from 2014 in Lightroom

Once your potential rejects are selected, review them again to be sure you want to permanently delete them from your hard drive. Remove any images that you decide to save by turning off the Reject flag. Press the letter U to "unpick" an image. The image will disappear from the display because it no longer has a Reject flag, but it is still in your catalog.

When you are certain you want to erase these pictures, select them all and press the Delete or Backspace key. Lightroom gives you the choice of just removing them from the catalog or also deleting them from your hard disk. Choosing to delete from disk moves the photos to the trash. You need to empty the trash to permanently eliminate these rejected photos and free up storage space.

Choose Delete from Disk to permanently erase images

By reviewing your past work for both the best and the worst photographs, you may discover not only what you are doing well but also problems that appear repeatedly. Correcting these mistakes can be the focus of your photographic new year's resolutions!

P.S. You may want to take a second look at your 2014 images to see if there are some good photos you missed on your first review of that year's work. Emotional distance can help us find good work as well.