THE CULLING PROCESS
Learning to select images, AKA culling, is such an important part of photography. It can be time-consuming and extremely tedious but it’s necessary to create a successful body of work. Selecting the best images can help cut down editing time and can make you feel good about sharing high quality work. This part of photography happens to be my least favorite but I've found some ways to help ease the process and work as efficiently as possible.
1. Start in camera.
Slowing down and being more intentional about each shot usually leads to better results because you're thinking of composition, exposure, posing, and so forth. By focusing on the shots you are trying to accomplish, you'll reduce the amount of "fluff" that you most likely will end up not selecting.
2. Shooting RAW + JPEG.
This is one of my most recent personal tricks that has saved me a good chunk of time. By shooting in both RAW and JPEG formats, I'm able to cull through the JPEGs at a much faster rate than looking through the RAWs. However, there is a chance that this method may slow down the time it takes to write the images on the memory card. In which case, I would highly recommend using high quality SD or Compact Flash memory cards with fast writing speeds to combat that problem. Although if you are slowing down and starting in camera as I mentioned in the first tip, then this may not be a problem at all.
3. Back it up.
I cannot stress this tip enough. Make sure you back up your entire shoot in an external hard drive and on your computer. Be sure to also keep it in your memory card until you're finished with the entire editing process. Accidentally formatting your memory card only to find out you never backed it up is the worst feeling ever. Trust me, I've been there. If this does happen to you, there are programs online that can help you recover those images as long as you haven't shot anything new on that memory card. I recommend EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard but save yourself the trouble and back it up!
4. Take a day or three.
Most photographers are usually eager to get home and start going through the selection process, but I find that I need to take a day or two before I look at anything. Sometimes looking at images too soon can cause me to be overly critical. I’ll start thinking about how I could have done something better or “why didn’t I think of this” and so on. By taking a few days, I help clear my head and come back to my work with an objective attitude. It also excites me to look at my work after I’ve put it away for some time. It’s similar to that feeling of finally getting your film rolls back.
5. Look for the good.
One of the ways that I approach culling that saves me a lot of time is by selecting the images that stand out instead of deleting the bad. It’s fairly simple and allows you to think critically and quickly at the same time. This approach is also a positive one because you’re looking out for the best ones instead of going through all of the rejects.
6. Eliminate duplicates.
There’s a good chance that you’ll have a few images that look quite similar in poses or composition. Eliminate those lookalikes by choosing the best one out of the bunch. By doing so, your shots will each be unique and your work won’t feel repetitive. Less is always more and clients will appreciate that you’ve made it easy for them by narrowing down the best of the best.
7. Step away.
Selecting images is time-consuming and exhausting for those like myself. It’s so important to take breaks from the screen every 20-30 minutes. I am 100% guilty of blowing through an entire shoot without any breaks and it definitely takes a lot out of you. Stepping away helps to refresh your eyes and brain so that you can stay focused when you return.
8. Go with your gut.
Sometimes it’s just a matter of loving it or not. Go with your instinct. You shot those images for a reason and it is truly up to you to decide what work best represents you (and your client).
While I try to incorporate all of these tips into my workflow as much as possible, it’s definitely nice to remind myself to follow my own advice. I hope you find some of these tips useful, let us know if you try them or if you have any of your own.
Is it the weekend yet?