The Importance of Saving Your Negatives (and RAWs)
If you’re anything like me, you return from every trip with way too many images, most of which will be passed over once and quickly banished digital limbo, below the star-rating sorting cut, never to be seen again. However, one thing I always remembered from the old days was “NEVER THROW OUT YOUR NEGATIVES!” Now that negatives are digital, It’s important to follow the same rule.
Yes, this means keeping vast amounts of hard drive space (I’m up to about 5TB with backups), and some damn good organization. I generally recommend you consider the cost of a new hard drive as a business expense for any extended trip. I’ll admit it, I can return from a busy day of shooting with over 16GB of RAW files, even more if I had been shooting many active moments or fast moving subjects. But still the question: If you’ve already edited the photos I like, WHY keep the rejects?
1. Useful information
It’s keywording time and you’ve forgotten the name of that town, the rare species of fox in that zoo, or on what street you saw that street performer. This information just may be (and often is) somewhere in your rejects. Look closely and you’ll usually find the details you need.
It may be right away, or months later when you’re inspecting an edited image at full size and notice an important change that needs to be made. The extra background elements or different angles of that photo from your reject pile are perfect resources for the element you need to finish that photograph with perfection. Bonus: If you ever decide to get creative one day and make some interesting compositions, you’ll have a huge worldwide library of everything from exotic plants to clock towers to pyramids, to giant pigs to put in it!
Software is improving quickly these days. Images which might not be salvageable right now, could turn out very useful with future advancements. HDR processing has taken leaps and bounds in the last few years, it is much better at lining up images (if you shot them handheld), handling ghosts, and general processing. Panorama stitching and noise handling are also at an all time high. Even the seemingly impossible is changing rapidly; Adobe has recently demoed a new technology that can actually deconstruct camera shake and unblur (no not sharpen, UNBLUR) your image. Check it out! http://blogs.adobe.com/photoshopdotcom/2011/10/behind-all-the-buzz-deblur-sneak-peek.html
4. You missed something great!
This is the most important one. Somehow, every time I look through old RAW travel photos, I see something with 0 stars which should have been a final pick. Why was it missed the first time? Just quantity, probably. When you have to look through 16,000 images, some simply fall through the cracks. That’s the way things are. Put in the extra time and resources to hold onto and organize these photos, and I assure you it will always prove worth it. Following are a few photos I “missed” the first time around.