Photo Education

Guide to Quick Culling!

June 9, 2021

I’m Catherine.
A New Orleans based wedding photographer and educator. We are excited you are here and cannot wait to connect with you!.
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I think we all know that having too many photos at the end of a shoot is MUCH better than not having enough. After all, with what we do as wedding photographers there’s no going back to “redo” right? It’s imperative that we capture each moment in a quality way, and sometimes that takes a few tries!! During weddings and receptions in particular, it’s also important to grab those candids. Not to mention detail shots of the venues… Plus, if you have a second-shooter, that number of images you’ve already compiled can sometimes DOUBLE!

What I’m really trying to say here, is that oftentimes you end up with somewhat of a daunting number of photos to compare, select, and organize. That’s why I’m going to walk you through my process (I use Adobe Lightroom Classic to cull), step-by-step! If you’re just starting out, maybe it’s a process you’ll want to adopt for yourself. If you’re an experienced photographer and already have a good system that works for you, maybe you’ll just find a couple tips or tricks helpful:

Step 1: Create a new catalog in Lightroom Classic

This is pretty self-explanatory! Open up Lightroom Classic and create a new catalog. Make sure you save it to a location that you can easily access! I often save to my desktop so I can locate it quickly, but don’t save an abundance of catalogs (or any other file types, for that matter) to your desktop at once, as it can significantly decrease the performance quality and speed of your computer.

Step 2: Import and Render your photos

Next, you’ll want to click that “Import” button in the bottom left-hand corner. From there, you’ll select the folder where your photos are located. Once they load into your window, select “Import.” It may take a few minutes for all of your images to be imported, so expect to be waiting for a little bit during this part of the process! Earlier, I mentioned a second-shooter; I pretty much always have a second-shooter at my weddings, so that means two different cameras/two different locations. After “Camera 1” uploads, I’ll import “Camera 2” separately.

**I do choose the option to render all images on import. It takes a while for lightroom to do so but prevents any lag when switching from image to image during the culling process. <<< This is very important to the speed at which you can cull and a big part of why many users get frustrated and switch to Photo Mechanic.

Step 3: Create collections for Organizing

In my culling process, I typically go through two rounds of eliminating photos before coming to a final culled collection. So, in advance I create two collection folders using the menu on left-hand side of the screen, named “RD 1” and “RD 2.”

Step 4: Sort by Capture Time and Set to Compare

Time to start culling!

First, I make sure my images are sorted by capture time. Then, I put LRC in full-screen mode (Shift+Command+F).

I mainly toggle between two views: grid (G), and compare (C). I stay in compare mode most of the time, because I find it’s the easiest and fastest way for me to accurately see the differences between photos. I also make sure that I can see my filmstrip (that bar that shows thumbnail images of your photos at the bottom of your screen so you can keep track of where you are/what’s next).

So, to get started, I’ll put LRC in full-screen, toggle compare mode, and open up my filmstrip there at the bottom. Making sure the LEFT window is selected, I then use my left and right arrow keys to start moving through my photos! Having the left window of compare mode selected means that the image in that window will remain the same, whereas the image in the right window will change as you move the arrow keys. When I arrow through a series of similar images and find one that’s better than the rest so far, I’ll press the DOWN arrow key to move it into the left window. Then, I’ll continue to scroll through the rest of the set of similar images in the right window to compare. If this ends up being the best image of the bunch, I’ll flag it as a pick (P)! I repeat this process with Camera 1, and then again with Camera 2.

If any images are oriented incorrectly, toggle grid view (G) and use ([) and (]) to rotate them!

(Using the “flag” Method)

***I like to use the “flagging” method when going through my images. It’s much more difficult to get an image back into the catalog after deleting it than it is to just keep it in the catalog in the first place, so I prefer to “flag” the images I want to keep and leave the rest as they are. It’s also faster to choose images you DO like vs eliminating images you DON’T like.***

Step 5: Consolidate flagged images into RD 1

After going through that first round of images, I move all of my “picks” to the “RD 1” folder! First, I’ll go back into my “Camera 1” collection and then go to Edit> Select by Flag> Flagged. Then, click and drag the selected photos to “RD 1,” and do the same for “Camera 2!”

Step 6: Organize and Regroup Pre-Rd2 for Delivery

Before I get into my second round of culling, I like to organize and order all of my photos. This makes it easier for me to see and compare many similar photos; it helps me make decisions! This is the order I typically like to put my wedding photos in:

Bride prep details

A few good shots of the bride

Bride prep

Groom prep details

A few good shots of the groom

Groom prep

First look

Ceremony venue + details


Reception venue + details


The last photo should be of the married couple

Step 7: Second round of culling

At this point in the process, I’m basically just repeating what I do for the first round of culling, except instead of paying attention to focus, pixelation, lighting, sharpness, facial expressions, and overall quality of the image. I pay more attention to the overall composition of the photo as well! For example, if I’ve got two very similar, good quality photos that are virtually, I’ll look more closely at things like the background of the image, possible reflections, orientation, and other smaller details. This way, I know all of the images in round two are good quality in terms of sharpness and lighting already which makes it easier for me to really decide which images to choose!

(Using the “unflag” Method)

***It’s important to note that here, instead of flagging photos, you’ll be unflagging the ones you’d like to remove from final cull.***

Step 8: Move all remaining flagged photos to RD 2

Repeat that selection command from earlier: Edit> Select by Flag> Flagged, then click and drag all of the photos into RD 2. Sometimes I run into a problem where my photos will be copied out of order. Not to worry! I’m always able to combat this issue by undoing the selection and copy (Command + Z), and retrying the selection command.

That’s it!! There you have your final set of images. You can also export that specific RD 2 folder as a catalog on its own by right-clicking and selecting “Export as Catalog.”

I hope you are ready to move forward with a better, more organized, and faster culling method. If you have any questions I’d love to hear from you!

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