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.

43 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
    Nikola

  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!

    Kenny

  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
    marc

    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

  16. On September 23, 2018 at 12:45 am Magnus Wilson wrote:

    Hi,

    I get encouraged I’m on the right track by watching this great video. As my time available for photographing is slowly decreasing for every year, but I still really enjoy carrying my camera around and I do take more photos with a higher keep-rate, the culling and star-rating process need some attention. The way you put it, reserving higher star rating for the future, I can really relate to. I see a huge improvement over the past 10 years, and my 5-star is no longer really 5-stars…

    However, I have 3 issues with my culling process in Raw (which in most strategies are very similar to yours). I’ve just this year abandoned LR completely, except for the slideshow, keywording and filtering on keywording function which I really miss in Raw. I’m so used to using hierarchical keywordings, so right now, my batch of 100% ready-photos are piling up :-(. The editing and culling works fine, but keywording I still find too slow in Raw (due to lack of hierarchical keywords). Except for the Who, what, where, when, and why, I have a group called Workflow, in which I put status for each picture, temporary comments and labeling, where I’ve posted the “ready-results” etc. This makes my editing flow almost 100% interruptible and re-start-able with a minimal start-up/close-down time.

    So,
    1) with a 45Mp camera I still like to crop some of my “poor pictures” to discover a lot of “Hudson 2-stars”. Compared with LR, such cropping process takes a bit too long still (waiting for dual screens which might reduce the need for immediate cropping since I can use a full screen for viewing, still maintaining the grid on the other screen). Optimally I would like to see a crop tool within Browse, but I can relate to that being personal and a bit quirky, since it does break my rule of never editing in the culling processes. But no rules without exceptions, hey?

    2) I have two modes for my photography (as a serious amateur with single jobs at times). One is my Portfolio, which I pretty much agree with your reasoning. The other side is for family memories, which tends to “save” more of the “Hudson – no star rating” photos. Looking at my history, I’ve slowly progressed into using a 3-star rating for these kind of photos. After watching this movie, I tend to think I will use an additional color coding to mark these 0-star photos instead, so I don’t forget to go through them one more time, after the other obvious ones are dealt with. For me, going on a trip, these personal mementos could amount to 30-40% of my keepers. This would then also allow me to save the 4 and 5 rating for the future, and update current 140000 pics in a year-by-year process, spend 1hour going through each folder at a time.

    3) I seriously miss the slideshow. For me it fills 3 important purposes
    a) Catch a 3-min break in the culling process, and get an overview in full size to make sure I’ve gotten all photos I want from the photo shoot (run as 1-seconds), filter on 1,2, and zero stars
    b) To reflect and improve from shoot to shot, as well as within a shoot (if it contains many different situations/locations). I normally select random order, 6-months back, at 3-4 seconds. This gives me both the joy of memory lane, plus the fact that I get better at judging compositions. I often end up changing a few compositions through this process, especially creating new versions that are more close-up and intimate, focusing the picture and making it more interesting.
    c) To sit down with clients/family to get them involved in my critique process, but here you can almost as efficiently just use filtering and filmstrip mode, but I seriously miss the dual-screen support for this phase of the process, to get as large photo as possible.

    These are my 5 cents…thanks for great videos and keep them coming. I get inspired and learn small bits and pieces with every film.

    BR /Magnus

    1. On September 25, 2018 at 12:54 pm Hudson Henry replied:

      Hey Magnus,

      Great comments. Thanks so much for taking the time to share!

      I often put the family images in the 1-star & 2-star images too. I just keep them in different folders and keyword them with names if they are 2 stars.

      Often serious shoots and family shoots are in different folders, but when they intermix, I’m fine with the 1 and 2 star images of family and pure photo work co-mingling. Even with family shots I find it’s better to cull pretty aggressively to find those truly worthy of editing, sharing and printing. I’m with you though. I do leave more unstarred family shots that never get deleted in case I want to roll down memory lane later.

  17. On September 24, 2018 at 10:05 am Jean-Pierre Goetz wrote:

    Thank you so much for this video. Sure, you seem very much more defined and sure than I am but I definitely like the way you select and keep ‘system’, From today onwards, I will use the 1 and 2 stars or no stars to keep. Perhaps for the first few ‘cullings’ I will not delete as fast as you did.
    I also enjoyed the changes you mdae to the picture … I am learning a lot.
    BR/Jean-Pierre

    1. On September 25, 2018 at 12:55 pm Hudson Henry replied:

      So glad to help Jean-Pierre. Step-by-step is the way. The longer you do it, the faster you get. Taking care to not get rid of something special is always important.

  18. On September 25, 2018 at 3:05 pm Melissa Emery wrote:

    I think you have just save me a huge amount of time wasted on trying to get my losers to look better before giving up and just tossing them! Thank you.

    1. On September 25, 2018 at 6:20 pm Hudson Henry replied:

      Ha! Well make sure you’ve got what you need before you actually hit delete. :-) You’re welcome.

  19. On November 15, 2018 at 11:17 am Steven Musco wrote:

    Thank you for your video. Outside of family, etc., I shoot sports. Even though I have used On1 for multiple years I usually use it as a plug in to photoshop/lightroom for removing objects, fine tuning. I use photo mechanic initially then go to photoshop/on1 during an event because of time constraints then lightroom/photoshop/on1 afterwards to complete my galleries. I usually tag my photos in camera during an event to increase my speed as I usually have a very short time to process/upload 5-8 pictures after a period/half/quarter depending on what sport I’m shooting. Could you tell me if On1 recognizes my camera tags (like?) with it’s filters? I usually cull my photos fairly quickly using a single color then delete those I want while in lightroom. I shoot Canon. Just upgraded to Raw 19, difficult mid season to learn it and switch. Confusing at times using multiple software programs. I keep saying I do it the hard way but it’s carried me along way so far.
    Steve

  20. On November 15, 2018 at 10:08 pm Hudson Henry wrote:

    Ha, I’d wait till post-season to do much horse switching. I’m not sure if RAW recognizes Canon in-camera image tags… That’s a good question for Plus Priority Support.

    With that workflow (sports), I’d probably keep culling in Photo Mechanic for the speed and mark selects in that process before opening the folder in PR’s Browse to refine and edit. Whenever I shoot sports or wildlife I look for the speediest way to cull out the junk and identify the interesting before I bring anything into the editing process.

  21. On November 16, 2018 at 7:24 pm Jim Larson wrote:

    This is very helpful, Hudson. It is great to see workflows from someone who has been doing this for a long time. Your experience has made us all more efficient in the use of our time.

    Thanks again!

    Jim

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