Photo Editing Tips: How to Cull Photos Quickly with a Faster Photo Editing Workflow

Photo Editing Tips: How to Cull Photos Quickly with a Faster Photo Editing Workflow

For the past one year, we are actively interviewing professional photographers to learn about their culling workflows. Today, we want to share some common patterns that each of them is following.

In this post, we are going to discuss the possible methodologies used by photographers all around the world to cull photos quickly.

What is Culling?

Culling is a process of selecting the best photos from many photos that photographers shoot during an event or a session.
Wedding Photographers generally spend 11% of their time just culling photos which accounts for 250+ hours per year. The faster you are, the more profitable your business will be.

Photography: How much time it takes?

Additive vs Subtractive Culling

One tip that was common by most professional wedding photographers was the method in which they were doing the culling process. There are two major ways to do culling that are additive culling and subtractive culling.

During additive culling, photographers go through all the photographs, keep stars on the image that they want to keep and call them keepers. While in subtractive culling they discard all the images that they don’t want instead of picking the best ones.

Let’s see what professional photographers generally do.

What do you keep while culling photos?

When we asked this question, approximately 65% of them favoured the additive approach when they want to save time.

If you are culling more than 50% of your images, it’s better to follow additive culling. That means you are doing less work, it’s more effective and faster.

How many passes should you make during culling?

For most photographers, one to two-pass is sufficient. While the entire purpose is trying to limit the number of images in the first pass. Going through the images quickly and just selecting the images for one specific purpose saves a lot of time.

How do you decide what to keep during culling photos?

All of them want to keep just their best shots, and hence it’s essential to get rid of any motion blur or less sharp images, closed eyes, or any other bad clicks. In terms of what to keep into the story, every one of them has their unique art and style which comes from their gut instincts.

What software do you use to cull your photos?

In all the interviews, it was so clear that Adobe Lightroom is the hub of the wedding event photography industry. While generating previews in Lightroom is a bit slower, most of them still favour the lightroom over any other software.

As a fact, there is a software called PhotoMechanic that is also used and is a huge add-on to productivity. PhotoMechanic is specifically designed for culling.

The software still needs to be faster, it depends on your machine and also on the type of software that you use.

How do you mark your selected photos?

Many of the photographers use a star rating system while others add the flags inside Lightroom with a keyboard shortcut. While all of them vary a bit in terms of their rating values like some of them mark all of their culled images as one star during the first pass while others just believe in keeping a rating of 5. One tip which was really interesting was this:

While culling in different passes, make sure you are making decisions only on the basis of one thing at a time and that would be either yes or no. Either you are trying to select all one stars or two stars in a pass but don’t try to multitask.

How to become faster in culling?

There is no way to become faster in culling without measuring your last performance. Some of the professionals used a timer to measure their performance per 20-30 minutes session. You can also check the timing difference when you just cull it after the shoot or when you cull it after procrastinating for so long.

As you progress further, you can increase the speed by practising more and more, and by trying different tools and methodologies. But if you cull the images just after clicking them, you are going to be much faster in the process.

Where and when to cull?

By trying different times, you can easily figure out at what time you will be the most effective. Fewer distractions can really help in speeding up the process.

How long do you cull for?

We had a lot of different answers varied from 20 minutes smaller sessions to somewhat an hour-long session. A common pattern here was to take effective breaks and refresh yourself to enhance your productivity.

Short sprints are better than long marathons


You can also follow some of these quick tips to have a faster photo editing workflow, while we believe everybody is different and can have a different way of culling, there are some common patterns that the best photographers are following to save their time.

We tried to summarise all of our culling tips in this post.

Filterpixel is also helping photographers by automating the science behind the culling process so that they can just take care of their art.

If you are interested in trying our beta, you can signup to get it for free.

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