What is photo culling

By Rebecca Bradley

What is photo culling and how to do it?

As photographers, we take 1000s of photos but we only deliver a fraction of the photos to the client. This leaves us with the tedious task of photo culling. So what is photo culling? Culling is the process of going through all the images from a shoot and choosing the best ones (the ones we want to edit). When photographers are starting out, it can be hard to work out exactly what culling is and what the best practice is. This blog will outline what is photo culling and the best ways to speed up your image selection.

Why you need to cull before editing 

To better answer the question: What is photo culling? We first need to address why you need to cull before editing. 

Get rid of duplicates 

The majority of photographers will take a good handful of images each time you lift your camera to your eye. This leaves you with 100s of similar images that your clients don’t need. If you have too many similar images it can dilute your gallery and remove the attention from a great image. 

Remove objectively bad images 

There will always be bad images taken on a shoot. Missed focus, bad expressions, closed eyes. 

These don’t need to go to the client and therefore don’t need to be edited! 

Cull your photoshoot twice as fast

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Save yourself editing time

The more duplicates and objectively bad images you get rid of the better as you will have less to edit. If you’re bringing over images to edit that you decide you don’t like, it’s precious time wasted. So it’s important to get your cull as accurate as possible!

How to cull 

Now that we have covered why we cull, it’s important to have a good culling process. 

Use a fast culling tool 

Before you add your images to Lightroom you should cull them with a lightning-fast, purpose-built, culling tool like Narrative Select. Reducing the number of images in Lightroom will save you from having to sort through unwanted images during the editing process, and it also prevents Lightroom from being bogged down with unnecessary images.

Narrative Select is lightning-fast, meaning there is no load time as you switch between images. It’s also smart. It groups scenes of images together, allowing you to quickly navigate through your shoot. You can choose to view your images in chronological order or assessment rank (meaning you will see the worst images last!). Beyond this, Select has a handful of other features that make culling faster. The eye and focus assessments allow you to quickly identify if your subjects are in or out of focus and if their eyes are open or closed. This means no more wasted time on second guessing! Image assessments allow you to quickly identify the worst images from your shoot and then hide them, meaning you are viewing 20-30% less images per shoot.

Finally, Narrative Select is optimized to work with Lightroom, so it will fit right into your workflow. So when you have finished choosing your best images, just push the 'Ship' button and your color or star-rated images will automatically move from Select into Lightroom with just one click.

Download and try Narrative Select for free here.

Cull in not out 

There are two types of culling methods: “culling in” and “culling out.” 

‘Culling out’ is when you reject the images you don’t want, whereas ‘culling in’ is adding a rating to the images you want to keep. The reason ‘culling in’ saves you so much time is you will be choosing significantly fewer images than you would be rejecting.

Do a fast cull first, then refine 

Second-guessing whether an image is good or not can be a huge time-waster. Star your culling with a “no hesitation approach” and just select everything that is usable. If it looks good at first glance, I’ll select it. Then go back through and add a second rating to the very best.

We hope this answers the question: What is photo culling? Culling your images before bringing them into your editing tool is going to save you hours of time. While everyone has their own workflow, as long as you find a solid and fast workflow that works for you, you will save yourself a lot of time!