Culling -- also known as image selection or editing -- is one of the most time-consuming portions of our workflow as photographers. Choosing the photos I'm going to blog, include in the album design, and give the client happens to be one of my least favorite parts of my workflow. But I've learned over the years how to do it efficiently.

Here are my 8 tips for culling through images like Superman flies through the air. You know -- faster than a speeding bullet.

#1 -- Don't outsource
You might think I would suggest that you outsource your culling. I encourage photographers to outsource many portions of their workflow, but I'm a believer that weddings in particular, should be culled by the photographer who shot them. For one, if you outsource culling to someone who wasn't physically at the event, they won't know who and what was important. You get the story. You know why you took a particular shot, you need to decide which images the client sees. Also, image selection is a huge part of defining your style as a photographer. Your style is defined not only by how you take a photo, but by which photos you deem worthy of using. You may love an image that I would delete and vice versa. Your eye and heart need to be present in this critical decision-making stage.

#2 -- Don't procrastinate
Culling for me is like eating broccoli when I was a kid. I would sit at the dinner table and whine about it, trying desperately to find a way out of it. But I quickly learned that the best way to deal with something I don't particularly enjoy is to get it over with. And like broccoli, culling seems worse the longer you put it off. I enjoy looking through my images more right after an event. That's when I'm most excited about them. If I wait to cull, the task looms larger and more painful. So if I shoot a wedding on Saturday, I cull the 3000-5000 digital images that my 2nd shooter and I took at a typical 8 hour wedding THAT WEEK. Typically on Monday and Tuesday. (And I happen to love broccoli now, by the way).

#3 -- Cull in 30 minute increments
I used to take a break every hour while culling. But I found that I would end up staring off into space part-way through each hour. Culling is a tedious task that is essentially endless decision-making. So it's best done in smaller doses with breaks in between to allow your eyes and mind to rest. I set my iPhone stop-watch for 30 minutes and challenge myself to see how many images I can cull through in that period of time. I am easily able to focus on the task for 30 minutes straight. When the alarm sounds, I have permission to take a break. But before the ding, I love the challenge of seeing how many images I can get through. I've found that I can cull through an average of 850 images per half-hour segment. During my most recent wedding my 2nd shooter and I photographed a combined 4300 images. I was able to cull through them in five 30-minute segments. That's 2 1/2 hours, whereas it would have taken me 4-5 hours back when I was culling for an hour at a time.

#4 -- Cull once
Cull your images once and rate them strategically according to what you will need them for. I cull in Lightroom and rate my images as follows:

3 stars -- my favorite images I will pull from for the blog post, publication and my website portfolio (80-100 images)
2 stars -- additional images for the album design (100-150 images)
1 star -- additional images to provide for the client (300-500 images)

So on their online gallery, my client will see 500-800 images total (all of the images with a rating of 1, 2 or 3 stars). Their album will be designed from approximately 200 images (some of the images with 1 or 2 stars -- not all of them sent to Align Album Design make the cut). And my blog post will include about 50 images (some of the images with 3 stars. If you want to cull efficiently, make sure you are rating your images for every type of use rather than culling once for the client, once for the album design and once for the blog post or Facebook.

#5 -- Select the good rather than deleting the bad
Don't ever touch the delete key until you're completely done culling. Pick the photos you like rather than deleting the photos you don't like. There are two reasons for this. First, it's much better for your confidence level to focus on the positive rather than the negative. Look for the good and reward yourself with a star when you find it. Second, it's quicker and easier to pick one photo out of a bunch of similar photos, rather than deleting the ones you don't like until there's only one left.

#6 -- Choose from your gut & be critical
As mentioned above, I cull through an average of 850 images per 1/2 hour. That's a little less than 30 images per minute. For me the selection process involves a gut reaction. I don't agonize over it; I just react. And over the years, my gut instinct has grown more critical. Which is a good thing. That way the client ends up with the very best images, and I end up with a manageable number of images to work with for the remainder of my workflow. One of the best things you can do to speed up the entirety of your workflow is to keep the number of images saved to a manageable number. If you provide your client with more than 1000 images from their wedding day, you are burdening both yourself and them unnecessarily. You're creating more work for yourself, for one. And as for your client, too many options creates paralysis. I've experienced this first-hand. And I'm a believer that giving your clients too many options does them no favors.

#7 -- Don't save similar images
If your client needs to use a magnifying glass to analyze their grandma's expression in each family portrait, you have failed to do your job. Don't save similar images. Pick the best one out of the bunch for your client and delete the rest. That's what your client is paying you to do.

#8 -- Use the delete key one time
Once you are finished culling through and rating your photos, select all of the photos without a rating and push the delete key. Some of you may cringe at this, but it's part of our job as photographers. We are paid to provide a service, and that service includes choosing the images that are provided to the client. You were there, you know you got the important shots, and you know you picked the best photos out of each image grouping. So delete with confidence, my friend.

I hope you've found one or more of these tips helpful! I'd love to hear your feedback or which tip or tips you plan to implement in the comments below.

----------> Just starting your photography business? Click here to download a FREE list of 50 Goals for Your First Year in Business that is sure to give you some ideas to get you started on the right foot!
50 goals for your first year in business as a photographer
save time with these 8 proven tips for image selection
+ Comment +