Every step of our photo editing process is important., but there’s something essential about culling. Culling, the process of cutting down our shoot to our “keeper images” is where big decisions get made about which images will make the cut.
The problem with culling is that it’s time consuming. It takes serious time – and energy (in the form of decision making) to get our keepers cut down. Today, I’ve got five of my favorite tips for how to expedite this process.
1) Do it all at once.
After I throw a series of images into Lightroom, the first thing I do is cull in the Library module. Period, no questions asked. I won’t do any editing (Develop module) work until I have my images narrowed down to exactly what I need post-culling process.
Before adopting the “all at once” approach, I spent too much time jumping around in Lightroom. I might cull for an hour, edit those photos, export etc. Terrible approach – knock out all of your culling all at once.
2) Build a system.
Photographers have all types of systems for culling their images. Some use flags to mark keepers, others use color labels, and still others like to use the star system. Whatever route you want to take, make a choice and stick with it! The more that you can learn your routine, the more you can reproduce it. Routine helps us keep our creative thoughts organized.
Filter by color label is one system photographers use to cull.
3) Use the keyboard.
I can’t say enough about the power of the keyboard shortcuts that I’m always talking about. You don’t realize how much time you lose by moving your hand back and forth to the mouse. A quick refresher on a few keyboard shortcuts:
- Flag: P to mark as a pick, U to unflag a photo
- Color labels: use the keyboard numbers 6, 7, 8, and 9 to apply color lables
- Star ratings: use the keyboard numbers 1-5 to apply star ratings
When it comes to culling, I think that using the keyboard is the only way to go. Here’s a quick tip for you, free of charge! When culling, make sure Caps Lock is on on your keyboard. This auto-advances you to the next photo to mark it is a pick, give it a color label, etc.
4) Be confident.
This might sound like a silly tip, but this is one thing that I used to miss out on. I would deliberate or agonize over “should I keep this one or the one right after it?” and find myself taking forever to finish culling.
We’re digital these days. If I find that I’m missing a photo in my the editing stage, I simply switch back and add that photo to my selections. Do we want to get the cull right the first time? Absolutely. But we aren’t dealing with life or death, one time opportunity type work here.
5) Enjoy it!
This might not make it faster, but it will certainly make the time pass more rapidly. Culling is rarely mentally-intensive work, so I almost always have something going in the background. A good episode of SVU on Netflix or one of my favorite stations on Pandora has set the stage for lots of long nights of getting my favorite photos picked for Development.
What are your favorite culling tips? What challenges you to get your work done?