What is Culling in Adobe LightRoom?

In the photo editing world, choosing your favorite photos is called culling.

Culling is simply the process of selecting the best images from a shoot to be edited and delivered to a client. It is absolutely critical that you learn how to look at culling and how to use your choices to make culling more effective. The client, have hired a photographer to shoot and edit. A little time spent culling your photos will save you a lot of time during the editing stage of your workflow.

A little time spent culling your photos will save you a lot of time during the editing stage of your workflow. Don’t confuse yourself with a rating or rejecting photos and then working out which photos to edit. It’s not the fastest, but the most efficient use of your time and the part of editing you want to be shown the best. For this service, which doesn’t mean you want to be shown all the work on the back-end. No, you have to show your decision-making ability through the selection of the photographs. This is a very effective technique for weddings, holidays, event shoots or any other photographic activity that ends in a large mass of material that is crying out for culling and asserting.

What Is Culling?

To cull your photos in photography means to get rid of all the bad photos so that you are left with only the good used ones.

The term culling can also be referred to as sorting your photos. Essentially what you are doing is going through a group of photos and taking out the bad photos such as poorly composed or out of focus, photos of people that have their eyes closed, even those overexposed or underexposed.

Photos that you cull, sort or remove have a common theme which isn’t considered to be edited because they are unusable or too much time taking or needs a lot of work to fix.

Before You Start To Edit

It’s important to cull your photos before you edit to avoid being overwhelmed with choices or making mistakes and leaving out photos.  It also makes it easier to delete the dull photos to save hard disk space.

If you are there with 1000 photos from an event, to look at so many photos at once and start editing without culling can take a lot longer to finish your post photography process.

Set your mind in two steps: 1.culling and 2.editing.

You start to cull your photos by happening to find a photo you like, spending a few minutes on editing and then the processing to cull starts again until you find another photo to edit and so on.

For instance, you have taken 2000 photos at an event. There are sections of your shoot where you have taken multiple photos of a similar scene. Now you have to stop and access similar photos before choosing one to edit. The whole process gets dragged out by trying to do two tasks at one. That’s why it’s important to cull your photos before you start editing.

Start Culling with Camera only

You can start to cull your photos while you have a quiet moment while photographing.  All modern cameras have the option to protect images on a memory card. This option was originally designed to avoid deleting images while reviewing on the back of the camera. Although you can still format your memory card, just not delete.

Some cameras have a button assigned to this task. It’s represented by a picture of a key. While the other cameras require to dig through its menu.

By marking your photos as protected, your editing software reads this as a tag which can be used as a way to select photos to edit.

What is a 5-star rating?

Using the star rating to choose which photos to edit is not a very efficient way to cull.  5 stars for favorites, 4 stars are maybe, 3 stars take a 2nd look etc…

Most editors tried this and had a hard time deciding between the maybes and favorites, basically too many options. Personally, if you’re going to edit your photos you should only be editing the worth showing ones.

A better use of the star rating system would be to assign each star a task e.g. 1 star best for selection, 2 duplicates, 3 stars for the bad pictures etc. You could also use the color labels in a similar way, each color assigned a task.

How to Cull Your Photos

Remember you are ONLY going to tag or select the photos you want to edit.

One keystroke of the keyboard and then move on to the next photo, passing by the out of focus, badly composed, severely overexposed and underexposed photos. If you have multiple photos from the same scene and 2 or 3 photos are the best because they have slight variations or if you’re not sure, that’s fine tag all 3 and move on. It’s during the editing stage when you can make the decision which to edit. Sometimes editing all 3 photos is necessary like for a wedding or an event.

The more you practice this technique the faster you become.  Trust your gut feeling and your experience as a photographer will also help you a lot. You know what a properly exposed or composed photo looks like. Or what a photo can look like after you edit it.

It’s important to make two rounds during the culling stage to avoid missing any photos. The first round is quick as you tag the obvious best ones. The second pass is making sure you didn’t miss anything and for the photos that you weren’t sure of. The next step would be to filter and show only the tag photos. Copy those photos to a separate folder called selects and import into your favorite editing software like Lightroom CC.

How to copy the tagged photos into a select folder?   You have no use for those photos anymore since your selections are in a different folder. Once all editing has been completed and you have uploaded to the web and handed over the edited photos to your client. Go back and DELETE all the original photos. You can save your space more than 10 GB per wedding by doing that simple step!

Culling with Adobe Lightroom cc

Adobe Lightroom cc is a powerful tool for photographers and Image editors. This is how you would culling your images in Adobe Lightroom.

Select the first photo in your beautiful gallery. You should definitely be in the Library module if you just opened Lightroom, but this is key to ultra-fast editing, so you'll want to double-check.

You'll find this menu option in the top right part of Lightroom. Using the “P” key to pick or tag a photo in Adobe Lightroom cc.

  1. Open Adobe Lightroom and either using an existing catalogue or create a new one.
  2. From the grid view press ctrl + shift + I to bring up the import dialogue or simply use the import button bottom left-hand corner.
  3. Select images from a source folder, make sure you have build 1:1 previews selected. And it’s up to you if you want to copy move or add your photos. I would wait for the 1: 1 previews to build before you start culling as it does speed up the process.
  4. Used the “P” key to tag only the images that you would like to edit.
  5. Use the filter option in the bottom the right-hand corner and filter out only the images that you have selected.
  6. It’s ok if you select more images than you intend to edit. It is still a lot better than having a thousand images to edit from.
  7. It’s a good idea to rate or label your photos before editing. It can be a way to select which photos to post online, give to the clients or print off.