Every photographer knows the feeling when you come home from a shoot or an event, and are suddenly faced with the task of sifting through the hundreds (or thousands!) of images you just took. This culling process when you go through and decide which images are to be kept and which ones will be deleted can be extremely time-consuming and not enjoyable. However, regardless of your skills level, culling is absolutely critical, so it is important that you learn how to approach the process properly and use your editing program to make this process more efficient and effective. Once you have a great strategy for culling your photos, you will be able to save yourself tons of time!
How to Approach Culling
As you being culling your photos, it is important to approach it in the right way and have the right mindset. When culling your photos, think like your client. If you are a client, you have hired a photographer to both shoot and edit your photos, and part of this editing process means that you want to be shown the best. A client also wants to be shown enough that they feel they have different options to choose between, but not so many different options that they feel overwhelmed.
One strategy you can use to hit this balance is aim for a 60/40 ratio of what you know the client likes, and what you like. This way, you know you are giving the client things they already like, but also expressing your creativity and personal style (which is another thing your client hired you for!) by giving them options they may not have expected!
Methods for Culling Photos in Lightroom
The first step in your culling process should be a very quick, surface level sweep. In this first sweep, go through your photos super quickly and only look for glaring flaws that render a photo unusable, like blinking eyes, blurry or out of focus shots, poor framing, wrong lighting, or bad backgrounds.
Once you take out the obvious throwaways, you can begin taking a closer look at your photos and narrowing them down!
Method 1: Flag Images
One way you can cull your photos in Lightroom is by flagging them as either “picked” or “rejected”. To do this, simply hit “P” on your keyboard to pick a photo, and “X” to reject it. If you accidentally reject an image, or flag it incorrectly, you can use “U” to unflag it!
Method 2: Star Rating
As you flip through your photos, you can use the number keys to give your photos a star rating from 1 to 5. This is a great way to immediately identify your favourite photos from photos you aren’t sure you want to use.
Method 3: Colour Coding
You can give your photos a colour label the same way you would give a star rating. Simply use the number keys! For colour coding, use 6 to label an image “Red”, 7 to label an image “Yellow”, 8 to label an image “Green”, and 9 to label an image “Blue”. These can be great labels to use if you have different people working on the photos. You can assign different people different sets of images, or you can use the colours to represent where the photo is in the editing process, to keep everyone in the loop!
If you are sorting through hundreds of photos, you want to do it as quickly as possible, which means you want anything that will save you any time at all, right? While you cull your photos and are applying labels, if you turn on CAPS LOCK, Lightroom will automatically flip to the next photo as soon as you choose a label. One click of an arrow key to switch photos may not seem like a lot, but this will save you from moving you fingers from the keys you are using to label your photos each time you need to switch photos, which can be a huge timesaver if you are sifting through thousands of photos!
In the end, the way you cull photos and the methods or labels you choose to use will depend on your preferences and needs as a photographer. If you are working with a team of people, it can be useful to apply different colour codes or have a more in depth label system to keep everyone organized. However, if photography is more of a hobby for you and you don’t have quite so many photos to sort through, a simple “pick” and “reject” system might be perfect! Experiment with the tools Lightroom has to offer you and find the method that works best for you!