One benefit of digital photography is that you don’t need to worry about capturing one too many images in the field. In fact, it’s better to shoot an extra frame or two to ensure that you got a sharp and in-focus shot.
However, as your archives start to grow and the hard drives fill up, it becomes challenging to keep track of your images and expensive to purchase more disk space. This is why deleting images should be a part of your workflow.
It can be a daunting task though… Especially if you’ve just imported hundreds or even thousands of photos. Deleting every single file manually would take hours, if not days.
Luckily, there’s a simple way to delete multiple images in Lightroom by using a couple shortcuts.
Important: The following steps are for Lightroom Classic and may not work in Lightroom CC.
How to delete images in Lightroom
The typical way to delete an image is by right-clicking on it and selecting Remove Photo from the drop-down menu. However, this is extremely time-consuming if you’re deleting bulks of images; quite honestly, that’s way too much work for me.
But there’s a much more effective way to do it. Hitting “X” on your keyboard will flag an image and mark it as rejected. You’ll see that the thumbnail is greyed out and has a black flag in the left corner. Repeat this on all images you want to delete.
Turn CapsLock on to make it even quicker. By doing so, Lightroom automatically moves to the next image after rejecting or rating an image (in other words, you don’t need to navigate using the arrows).
When you’ve flagged (rejected) all the images you want to delete, hit Command + Delete (Ctrl + Backspace on a PC) on your keyboard. This opens a pop-up window where you can choose to either delete all rejected photos from Lightroom (Remove) or the hard drive (Delete from Disk).
Deleting them from Lightroom means that the images are only deleted from Lightroom but still stored on the hard drive and can be found in your folder structure. In order to completely delete the images (both from Lightroom and the hard drive), select Delete from Disk.
Which images should you delete?
If you’re anything like me, you’re probably a little paranoid about deleting too many images. What if you deleted a potentially good photo? What if you deleted an in-focus version but kept the out-of-focus one?
Developing a workflow that suits you might take some time but here’s how I approach the deleting process:
- Directly after importing and keywording I delete the most obvious images (snapshots, those with bad compositions, test shots, or other shots with visible errors)
- Next, I rate the images. Anything with 3 stars or more won’t be deleted
- A few days later I’ll go back and look through the non-rated images again. I might give a few more images a 3-star rating.
- In the same session, I spend time comparing similar images. This typically involves zooming in to see who’s sharpest, or which version has the best waves, flow, clouds, etc. I then delete the ‘losers’.
- I’ve now deleted a big portion of the images and will leave the remaining unrated ones untouched for a while. A few weeks, or even months, later I might come back and repeat the process. This time I often find a shot or two that I didn’t like the first time but now has something about it.
Is this the right way? No. Is it the wrong way? No. Does it work for me? Yes. As with anything related to post-processing, it’s important to find a workflow that makes sense for you.
If you don’t currently have a workflow for deleting images I recommend implementing the one above and adjusting it as suited in order to work for you.
Over to you!
Today I want to give you a little task: Enter Lightroom and open the most recent folder. Now, go through and reject all the images you know that you won’t use for anything.