As a wedding photographer, you have many tasks to manage. You book the wedding, you help plan the wedding, you photograph the wedding, and then the work really begins! Now you need to go through the thousands of images you captured and select the best ones to edit for your couple. This process, which is known as culling, may be the thing you least look forward to and continuously put off because it’s time-consuming. We are here to help! In this blog, we will teach you the process of culling images using Adobe Lightroom, one of the best software programs in the industry.
Quick Tips for Culling Images
Before we take you more in-depth on culling wedding images in Lightroom, here are some fast tips to get you started culling quickly!
- Be critical and try to separate your emotional attachment to your photos.
- Quickly eliminate any images that are out of focus or have unfixable lighting issues.
- Instead of opening every single picture, do a first review using only the thumbnails.
- Use the star, flag, or color system to rate photos so you can easily group them later.
Easy Ways to Cull Photos in Lightroom
1. Begin the Import Process into Lightroom
In order to start culling photos in Lightroom, you need to first import them into Lightroom. If you are unfamiliar with that process, you can refer to our blog on Importing Photos to Lightroom. And if you are already familiar with the process, you know that Importing is a simple and straightforward process done using the Import window.
To start importing the photos, you have to launch Lightroom. Then click Import at the bottom of the left-side panel of the Library Module. You can also import images by selecting Import Photos and Video from the File menu. Windows PC users can press Ctrl+Shift+I to complete this action, and Mac users can use Cmd+Shift+I. This will open the Import window for you. Now you can choose the source directory, image files, and destination details. Once you have completed the import process, it’s time to cull!
2. Clear Previous Stars, Flags & Labels
Use the Lightroom Shortcuts below to clear all previous Stars, Flags, and Labels. This step only applies if you have already starred, flagged, or labeled your photos and want a fresh start on your culling.
- Press CTRL+A on Windows or CMD+A on Mac to select ALL the files in Lightroom.
- Press U to unflag all flagged wedding photos.
- Press 0 to reset all starred ratings.
- Press 6 to set all images to a red color label and then press it again to remove the color labels.
- Press CTRL+D on Windows or CMD+D on Mac to deselect all files in Lightroom.
3. Review Images in the Library Module
The Library Module is where you will review and begin culling your images. By default, after Import, you will be viewing your images as thumbnails on this screen. You can adjust the thumbnail size if you’d like bigger previews using the thumbnail slider in the bottom right of the screen under the image grid. Lightroom does not render these initial images in high quality, but you can preview your photos larger using many of the viewing and comparing options available from this view.
First, you can use the Loupe View by double-clicking on each photo individually or pressing the E key. Loupe View brings the image full screen. Double click or press G to get back to Grid View.
There are a few other options for reviewing and culling photos in this module. All the options appear as icons in the toolbar at the bottom left of the screen under the image grid. The first selection is the Grid View (default), the second option is the Loupe View (discussed above), the third option is the icon with the XY, which shows a side by side view allowing you to compare two photos, the fourth option gives you the opportunity to compare multiple photos at once, and the last option may be the coolest – it’s the Find People option which looks for people in the photo and allows you to name them (and Lightroom can find them by name later).
You can zoom in further on any image in any of these options by clicking once on the image (hover over the image, and you will see a plus sign come up, Left Click on an area to zoom, and Left Click again to return to normal view).
4. Star the Selected Images
Now that you know how to take a closer look at the photos using the various views in the Library Module, you can begin culling using the Star Rating System, which allows you to rate the images you want to keep in your catalog by ‘starring’ them. This can be done by pressing a number from 0 to 5 on your keyboard. Here, 5 represents the highest-rated images and gives the image 5 stars. You can either leave the undesirable images as no stars or give them a 1-star rating.
5. Flag the Selected Images
Another method to use for culling in Adobe Lightroom is the Flagging System which allows you to flag the images you want to keep as you cull. This method is a great way to cull images quickly. Scroll through your catalog and flag the images you want to edit by pressing P on the keyboard. You can use the X key to identify and mark the rejects.
After you have completed Flagging, you can remove the rejected images by deleting them from the catalog. You can do this by pressing CTRL+BACKSPACE on Windows or CMD+DELETE on Mac. When the pop-up window opens, simply select Remove from Lightroom. Just double-check that removing the rejected images does not delete them from their source folder (unless that’s your intention).
6. Use Color Labels to Select & Cull Images
Using the Color Label system is another way to select and cull images in Lightroom. We recommend selecting two different colors if you choose this process. Press a number between 6 and 9 to select a color. Mentally assign one color for the photos you want to keep and the other color to the images that you want to reject.
Quick Tip: All our suggestions above assume you are culling wedding images in the Library Module rather than the Develop Module (where previews load more slowly). If you want to speed up the culling process for any of the tips above, use Auto Advance, which is one of the fastest ways to cull images as it enables the next image to load automatically. Then you can flag, star, or label an image and go to the next one without manually advancing. If this feature is not turned on, you will have to flag an image and press the right arrow to advance to the next photo. You can also use Caps Lock on your keyboard to do the same. With Caps Lock on, Lightroom will automatically jump to the next image when you flag a photo. This will save you an extra click for each photo!
We hope this blog has helped you understand the process of culling images in Lightroom. This blog is a part of our Post Production Workflow Series, so if you need help figuring out how to edit and export your images in Lightroom, stay tuned!
Further Read: How To Reduce Noise In Lightroom
At ShootDotEdit, we love helping you grow as a wedding photographer, but we also know that culling your wedding photos takes tons of time. And that’s where we come in with our photo culling services! If you want us to do the culling (and editing) for you, check out our pricing plans here.