To keep my personal image catalog compact, I am considering scaling down all images that are unsharp for one reason or another, but are interesting or valuable enough not to delete them altogether. I am finding surprisingly many such images:

  • Some are simply out of focus, to varying degrees.

  • Some were taken with a compact camera, producing 12 megapixel images from a tiny sensor (a clear victim of the megapixel race). Viewed at even 50%, many of those photos look somewhat blotchy.

  • Some lost detail or acquired severe artifacts from repeated JPEG processing in my less quality-aware days, but are still large files.

The candidates include processed DNG files. Given the lack of sharpness, these are far from my best works, so I am willing to give up the advantages of the raw format there.

I am wondering if I would lose any useful information if I scaled all those photos down to a quarter of the pixel count (or even less; where possible keeping an integer ratio in each dimension for cleanest scaling). Could future improvements in processing technologies make me regret that choice, or do these images really just take up an unnecessary amount of storage space?

  • 1
    Storage is cheap. I recommend keeping whatever you shoot in the form as closest to the original as possible.
    – Brad
    Nov 26, 2014 at 15:58

2 Answers 2


Any photo you're never going to use again is taking up "unnecessary" space, and frankly no matter what happens to image processing technologies in the future, you're probably not going to go back and reprocess some low quality photos from 10 years ago.

On the other hand, disk space is cheap (unless you're Google, Amazon, etc). Very roughly, my SLR has a shutter lifetime of ~ 100,000 shots and produces ~ 20 Mb RAW files. That comes out to ~ 2 Tb of storage space, which I can buy for around £60, or around 10% of the cost of an entry level SLR and some kit lenses. Shelling out 10% of the cost of my kit to mean that I have a pretty good chance of being able to keep every photo for ever seems like a reasonable investment to me. (For avoidance of doubt, my better photos have more backups, but that's a different question).

  • 1
    That £60 2TB HDD won't work indefinitely, however, and will eventually need to be replaced to keep serving its purpose of providing reliable storage. So the single purchase won't really let you keep the photos "for ever". Not really arguing with the point you're making, just pointing out that "for ever" is a fairly long while.
    – user
    Nov 26, 2014 at 14:30
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    I actually do revisit old, low quality photos quite a bit if they have personal value to me, and on many occasions I have been able to improve them considerably, years after the fact. I am just not sure if those possibilities are now exhausted or if it is still worth keeping larger files just in case. I take your point on cheap storage, though.
    – Dominik
    Nov 26, 2014 at 16:07
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    This does not answer the question in any way. You are probably right but this is not an answer to the question.
    – usr
    Nov 26, 2014 at 21:45

There might indeed be technologies (like deconvolution, eg. Focus Magic) that can restore some information from those unsharp images. This will probably improve in the future, so you might regret discarding your larger files. Plus, storage is really cheap nowadays.

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