Adobe Lightroom, How I Use It To Cull Images

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I love Lightroom for photo editing and organizing.  I currently have Lightroom 4 and am seriously considering giving Lightroom 5 Beta a whirl.  Today I thought I would share how I use Lightroom to cull images after a shoot.  This method helps me get my photo editing done efficiently which is so important to me because I would rather be behind the camera than in front of the computer.

There are many ways to use Lightroom and I don’t think any one way is correct.  If you ask 5 photographers who use Lightroom you will probably get 5 different ways to cull photos with Lightroom.  I am the last person to say “my way is the right way”, I will say it’s the right way for me.  Perhaps, if you find yourself staring at 100s or 1000s of pictures after a shoot and think “what now” this method may help you.  :)

The first thing I do is import the images using Lightroom into a folder on an external hard drive.  During download I assign a shoot specific name to the images and use the image number that the camera assigned to the image when it was shot.  I do not include a sequencing number on the initial import.  If there is any interest in knowing more about that leave me a comment and I will share more specifics in a later post.

Once all of the images are in Lightroom I quickly go through them assigning a rating using Ligthroom’s staring system.  If I like the image I give it one *, by clicking on the number one.  If I don’t like the image it gets no star.  Once all of the images I like are starred I magically make the photos I don’t like disappear by clicking CMD + L (on Mac), now the only pictures that are visible are the images I like.  When I first started in photography I had such a hard time turning away from sub-par images…I would think “I can fix it”, “I can make it better”… Truly that only led to frustration…I was worrying more about fixing images that weren’t good than enhancing the ones that deserved my attention and that I liked.  Don’t worry using this method doesn’t delete the rejected images it just removes them from view so you can concentrate on your good images.  :)  You can always go back and look at the rejected images by clicking CMD + L again.  You can see in the screen shot below, from a recent commercial shoot, what the filmstrip looks like with some images starred and some not before I clicked CMD + L.

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And now with only the one * images

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At this point I begin editing the images in Lightroom.  Here I also unstar images that are redundant or after a second look just don’t “make the cut”. If you have a website, blog or want to share some of your images on Facebook this next tip is helpful to separate those “sharable” images from the entire shoot.  After each image is Lightroom edited if it is one I will be including on my blog I add it to a Lightroom “Collection”.  To do this I create a “Collection” by clicking on the + symbol next to the word  COLLECTION on the left side Lightroom menu.  I give it a specific name, usually the name of the shoot location or event.

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Once the new folder appears in the COLLECTION menu, right click on it and choose “Set as Target Collection”

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After I’ve edited an image and determined that I want to include it on my blog I click the letter B, a copy of the image is added to the Collection Folder.  I also send images that will be included in client’s wedding albums to this folder. Now I can export those images, right from the COLLECTION folder I created, to Photoshop for watermark application, resizing and any final tweaks to make them ready for sharing on my blog. I can also rename the images on export to be more meta-data-friendly when they are on my blog.  From this Collection Folder I also create album page designs using Lightroom’s album creator. Going back to the original Folder, my images were imported into, I can export those with sequence numbers so they are in chronological order for our client.  :)

Once again, I am not claiming that this is the right way or the only way to use Lightroom for image culling but it might help someone.  :)  I hope this makes sense and if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask in a comment below.

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