5 Steps On How to Cull Your Images Faster:

Culling is an essential part of streamlining the photographic process and I believe what I have experienced will greatly benefit your process. If you’re a wedding photographer or a newbie that just loves to shoot, reducing the amount of photos before you start editing is essential for better photography. Spend less time preparing so many photos and more time on practicing better techniques of getting the right shot.

I started photography when I was in high school, I would go to football games and the next day post every image I took on Facebook. This was a mistake; people don’t engage with 200 images. My first real job was photographer for a summer camp. I truly lucked out in that position, the late owner was an avid fan of photography. The goal of the camp directors was to send home with each child a catalog of personal images taken. This feat was headed by myself and another volunteer photographer. To describe my photographic burden lightly, she was an enthusiastic mother that loved to hold the shutter button down. She would give me her daily files, easily surpassing 10,000 images.  It was my job cull her photos. I would usually reduce down to 10% before I tagged each one with general information such as the activity location. I would also tag the name of each child and bunk number for every photo. This was incredibly time consuming and was only made worse by the over avid volunteer effort of destroying her camera mirror.  I’m serious about that, she broke the mirror because she took too many photos.


Here are 5 tips to cull your photos faster:
  1. Take fewer photos

I imagine this might seem obvious or annoying but hear me out. Unless it’s specific to your job like sports or news photography; there is no reason to have 15 photos that look nearly identical. In the job I mentioned above, the photographer would give me 20+ photos of the same flower. If you routinely find yourself looking at a line of images that look nearly identical then you should spend time actively reducing the number of photos you take. One tip for practicing is to use a smaller card with the highest setting. You can’t take as many photos so the idea is you should focus on getting the specific shot.  A real challenge for you is only use cards that are 512mb. That would limit the amount of photos to about 2 rolls of film. To do this take a normal card (I believe the smallest SD cards are 4gig) and create a partition primary. You might have to do some research but there are many online sources that can help you.


  1. Start culling backwards

I usually start with the last image I took and work backwards. I notice that I have an easier time letting an image go (marking it a reject) if the order of images is not sequential. This might not work for you but I think its worth trying. And it doesn’t work for every session. I would skip this for weddings.

  1. Listen to music

Culling is boring. Going through 4,000 images quickly and reducing by a factor of 10 can be a drain on your creativity. I haven’t met a single person the truly enjoys flipping through and marking rejects. Finding ways to make it more enjoyable will help with an effective workflow. Similar to running, culling works best when you pace yourself. Find a rhythm, which might easier when you have music to keep your tempo. I can breeze through 10,000 photos without losing my drive if I have Pandora running in the background.

  1. Learn keyboard shortcuts

I’m going to assume you are using adobe products like Lightroom. If you are and you don’t know keyboard shortcuts you are wasting so much time! Navigating with your keyboard allows for incredible speed that is only limited by the processing power off your computer. Print out the shortcuts and study them. Test yourself by covering either side and don’t stop until you have a perfect score. You will be stunned by how fast you go.

  1. Be your worst critic

Have a heavy hand and be as critical as possible. Again, should be an obvious but worth remembering before you start.  I tend to do two sweeps. The first I move fast with a heavy hand. I reject the obvious like out of focus and bad composition. I ignore everything else until I come back the second time looking for the best shots. Again I am very critical and harsh.