We all have multiple hard drives brimming with data, and I'm willing to bet that most hold a couple of gems which have never seen the light of day. Imagine all the amazing creations that reside on forgotten drives around the world.
It could happen with any medium, including music. In this revealing video, watch Sir George Martin's look of surprise as he discovers a forgotten guitar lead played by George Harrison of the Beatles. It never made it into the finished album recording, but that doesn't diminish its importance. Actually, considering Mr. Harrison's untimely passing, it's a bittersweet piece for his friends, family, and fans to hear. This was only made possible because every recording was meticulously preserved, even the unused tracks.
As photographers, we need to start treating our digital files with more care. When I first started shooting with slide film many years ago, the work was more tangible and required deliberate action to throw it in the trash. It was expensive and I was very careful to preserve it. Today, memory is cheap, and doesn't have the same physical presence of film. As a result, it's too simple to delete a photo without thinking twice.
This week, make a point of digging into the depths of your photo library. Look beyond the greatest hits, and study the images which were initially left for another day. Instead of deleting, keep everything! Perhaps something as simple as a crop can reveal a magnificent capture that needs to be shared with the world. Maybe the great scene with a problem exposure can be rescued as you advance your editing skills. The noisy image shot at ISO 6400 by accident can be run through Neat Image and made to look as if it was shot at ISO 100. Your unique perspective is valuable, so be sure to back it all up. You never know who will want to look at it in 30 plus years.