Tips & Tricks: Culling & Editing

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Ever feel overwhelmed or bogged down when sorting and editing a big folder of images from a shoot? I recently shot this video in Aruba to share some tips and tricks I use for importing and quickly culling a big memory card full of images down to just those essential few I want to actually edit while simultaneously marking images to delete later when I’m sure I’ve gotten all I need out of the shoot. I find this process is essential for sports/action, wildlife and portrait shoots where there are many similar images to choose from. Here I’ll show my comprehensive culling process with kiteboarding images and then do a little processing.

31 comments on “Tips & Tricks: Culling & Editing”

  1. On September 13, 2018 at 3:49 pm Suzanne Brummel wrote:

    Thank you for posting this. I found it helpful. Biggest part for me is to be disciplined and avoid the temptation to edit something when I get excited or I never finish culling.

  2. On September 13, 2018 at 4:16 pm Dean Patton wrote:

    OMG guys, I shoot motorsports… and I have always struggled with storing too many photos that I waste time on. This video has given me a slap. That same slap that I needed to wake up. I truly have to watch this again, and gather more positive info. I get tired of posting shots that I know will not sell, and that eat up my time, energy, and my drive. I have found that I am stopping due to fatigue, or even boredom. I am an On1 Raw user for some time and fell into that Lightroom/On1 thought pattern. I believe it’s time to step away and run exclusively with On1. This video truly has given me some tools for me, and not just tools for my Photography. I hope you understand that last line.

  3. On September 13, 2018 at 5:15 pm Nikola Vlahovich wrote:

    Thanks for sharing your process Hudson…and for the great reminders!
    Be Well

  4. On September 13, 2018 at 7:07 pm Kenny Wright wrote:

    Thanks Hudson, I learned a lot from your video. I really enjoyed watching it. Keep them coming!


  5. On September 13, 2018 at 10:06 pm marc labro wrote:

    Thanks Hudson, nice tuto.

    Do you also use Lightroom for developing RAW or only ON1 ?
    Personnally i still use lightroom and all effects in ON1. drawback is creating huge TIF just for adding a sunshine filter and a big softy vignette.

    best regards

    1. On September 15, 2018 at 11:10 am Hudson Henry replied:

      I bounce around between ON1 and Adobe, but I always finish edit in Effects and I really do love the simplicity of doing the full edit in Photo RAW with no PSDs or TIFs to do finish editing on. Since I use both platforms and I want LR to see ON1 edits, I tend to export a small 8-bit Tiff into the same folder and sync it in LR so I know there is an ON1 edit and how it looks. If I tweak it again in RAW, I can just overwrite that file and LR will automatically see it.

      In the early days of LR before I used ON1, I nearly always took my finish editing into Photoshop, so I had to create psd files anyway. Photo RAW as a stand alone is the only way I know to keep a pure RAW workflow through a precision finish edit.

  6. On September 14, 2018 at 9:28 pm Neil Shapiro wrote:

    Thanks for this video. It’s information I look for all the time to try to streamline my process, which I’ll say is still painful. I feel I can’t mark a photo deleted unless I zoom in and check absolute sharpness of my subject. That takes the most time (especially in LR). Especially when you have two very similar photos that you can’t eliminate based on composition.

    I like your 1 and 2 star approach as well; for years, unfortunately, I’ve basically used the whole gammut from 1 to 5, where anything below 3 is probably a delete–but that’s for later! You are deleting in the first pass, and I like that, because in retrospect, I accumulate too many photos and then it’s a continuing problem to go through and later cull.

    You nailed it too in terms of my biggest problem…I am more likely to skim through the batch, pick the ones I like, and start editing. While that easily lets me go back and find more that I liked, it leaves me with a lot of photos. I end up with about a 1TB or even a bit more per year of photos (and I only have a 24mp camera).

    One thing that I noted here that I liked but went unmentioned so I’ll call it out…you never culled or deleted your backup copy you made when importing. Do you just delete the whole backup set when your edited set makes it home safely? In my own process, I wouldn’t delete anything until I backed up the full set to Blue-Ray BD (or DVD) discs. Then I feel more comfortable that I have a complete archive of the originals. Still, in my process, I have that backup, but I never seem to finish the cull, as you said. And it becomes a chore to go back through years of old images to cull.

    I’ll try and carry your method in mind next time I have a large batch of images and see if I can be more “disciplined!”.

    1. On September 15, 2018 at 11:18 am Hudson Henry replied:

      Thanks for the kind words Neil! I’ve come to this over a long painful process myself, and I have scads of folders over decades that beg for this treatment too. :-) I remember in the film days just tossing slides off the light table that weren’t just right. It was easy. You shot 36 and on a good roll you kept 10. For some reason we want more from our digital files and it’s harder to scrap.

      What I now do is leave those I really can’t immediately decide on unmarked, flag what I think is junk for deletion (and filter to hide them) and mark the 1 and 2 stars. If I don’t get what I need from the 2 stars, I look to the 1s (and rarely the unmarked). If I’m done editing a folder and I’m satisfied, then I dump the ones marked for deletion and call it good. Someday I might go back and look through the unmarked ones again (or not). :-) I’m trying to get back to that film way of doing things.

      With regard to my mobile backup, I dump it once I transfer those files to my desktop Drobo which is backed up to local drives as well as BackBlaze in the cloud. So I dump it between trips.

      1. On September 17, 2018 at 6:25 pm Neil Shapiro replied:

        So if I understand correctly, you’re brave enough to actually throw away the photos you’ve eliminated in your first pass — no backup anywhere even offline to CD/DVD/BD? If so, that’s very impressive confidence in your culling abilities. I keep everything, at least somewhere. I’m a digital hoarder!

        Another file management question though…I suppose, like me, you develop some of the files with Photoshop and end up with large TIFFs and PSDs?

        I have found having a global JPEG “Print Ready” (output) folder is really handy as it keeps a much smaller number of photos ready for printing/reprinting and makes it clear to me what versions passed muster to reprint. I begin to wonder if it’s worth keeping the huge PSD/TIFF working “master” files for those, and I’m curious what others do.

      2. On September 18, 2018 at 1:37 pm Hudson Henry replied:

        Hey Neil,

        I do delete my first round culls, but only after I edit the folder and make sure I have what I want. Oh, and I’m judicious with what I toss leaving many unmarked images to go back to (but I rarely do).

        I do have lots of PSDs with PS, LR and ON1 edits stored in the same folders with my masters. I don’t create printing masters. I just have albums and collections with versions or vitual copies for print and… I make all softproofed versions/virtual copies color coded Purple.

  7. On September 15, 2018 at 10:08 am Robert Thieda wrote:

    A very good and useful video, Hudson. I like the system you use, very simple, yet it appears to be very effective.

    If only someone taught me this 5-6 years ago before I built an “undisciplined,” 30K photo mess, with Lightroom. I would love to know a good, quick way to correct that.

    1. On September 15, 2018 at 11:19 am Hudson Henry replied:

      Thanks Robert,

      I wish I had a magic bullet, but it’s just a folder by folder process. The key is to carry it forward and use downtime (someday I’ll get some) to work back on the older folders the same way and update them to the new system.

      1. On September 15, 2018 at 11:38 am Robert Thieda replied:

        Thanks! I figured I was just dreaming. ;)

  8. On September 17, 2018 at 7:14 pm Stephen wrote:

    Thanks very much Hudson for this video. I particularly like your 1 & 2 star methodology. I do my first cull before importing in Photo Mechanic. The import goes directly on to two drives and I work in either LR or ON1 from the one principal drive. Like many of the others that have commented I know I have way too many files on my drives and could do well to be more disciplined in the initial import. I am going to try your 1 & 2 star process and see if that helps stream line the import.

    I also like your idea of a small 8 bit TIFF On1 file into the same folder.

    Thanks for sharing and I hope you got some phenomenal kite surfing in.

    1. On September 18, 2018 at 1:37 pm Hudson Henry replied:

      Thanks Stephen. So glad to help stir some fresh creative thoughts. The kiting was a lot of fun. :-)

  9. On September 17, 2018 at 7:27 pm Adam Rubinstein wrote:

    Hi Hudson, a really useful video and hope you are enjoying a great time in Aruba. Is the background hiss, your MBP fans churning or the delicious surf? Also, one thing I noticed is that when you pulled up your shadows, the image, in particular the water became crunchy as though it had applied DC. Would you have considered pulling back the shadows slightly, reducing the contrast, or maybe even applying a bit of blur? Thanks.

    1. On September 18, 2018 at 1:39 pm Hudson Henry replied:

      I think it was the Macbook fan spooling up. :-) I noticed that too. Normally it’s not an issue when I use my wireless lav mic. Lesson learned.

      Yeah, I didn’t go into that detail here, but yes. I did a bit of selective noise reduction on that lowlight action shot.

  10. On September 17, 2018 at 7:30 pm sharlotte Coker wrote:

    Thank you for sharing your photos and giving us some very helpful information.

  11. On September 18, 2018 at 5:09 am jigawho wrote:

    Thank you Hudson for showing your workflow. I have been using a very similar system for the past few months now. So it feels good to have validation from a Pro photographer like your self. Just being an Amateur photographer, I mark the ones I don’t like or are blurry during the cull process and then use the filter view to delete the rejects. Then make the edits on the ones I like. Like you, I only give a 3 star to my most favorite images.

  12. On September 18, 2018 at 7:48 am dangellner wrote:

    Best takeaway I got from this is… finish culling, avoid being tempted to start editing. I am so bad about that. Adult ADD I guess. Thanks for the great video, this should improve my workflow.

    1. On September 18, 2018 at 1:41 pm Hudson Henry replied:

      It’s so easy to get excited and lose track of the process (no pun intended). So glad to help.

  13. On September 18, 2018 at 8:28 am Richard Zimmerman wrote:

    Thank You, Thank You, Thank You.

    This is just another great video that is helping adopt ON1 as my go-to photo-editing software and breaking free from others that are subscription-based.

    I am adopting your culling and editing processes. I wish I had used your method following a recent 2-hour shoot with over 500 images at a powerboat competition where I ended up with 6 keepers. I also now know to resist the temptation to begin editing before I finished my culling.

  14. On September 18, 2018 at 5:40 pm David Ausman wrote:

    Fantastic. Really helped me learn some useful tips. Thanks so much.

  15. On September 21, 2018 at 4:46 pm olampix wrote:

    Hey Hudson I only recently discovered your videos, and think of all the lost time and frustrations I spent on various post prod programs. You have a great way in understanding my simpleness in photography and I always come away re generated to go out and do some more. Looking forward to more videos and appreciate the time you put in to make it easier for people like me. Cheers

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