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Thread: Culling photos: choosing -among hundreds- which to process

  1. #1
    brucehughw's Avatar
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    Culling photos: choosing -among hundreds- which to process

    Hello.

    My photography has evolved from B&W developing and darkroom work, to a decade of snapshots (young family), to (now) a nice Nikon DSLR, decent fixed and zoom lens, and raw files processed with LR4. I just returned from a trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. I have about 600 photos from 12 days of travel. My question: how does one cull such a large amount to 1/10 or 1/5 of this amount, a quantity I'll edit and maybe put in a book?

    I suppose a first step is focus and exposure. If either of these is too far off (especially focus), reject the photo. Then there's the step of finding photos that just hit me, maybe 1 of 25 or 1 of 50. These I'll mark for further work. That still leaves a lot of photos to review and cull. What techniques or approaches have others used to decide which photos to keep for further work?

    Thanks!

    Bruce

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    Re: Culling photos: choosing -among hundreds- which to process

    Hi Bruce, I think you're on the right track with focus and exposure. The only thing I'd add about deciding due to exposure is to keep ones that you're fond of since there's the possibility of future software improving on how much can be recovered.

    Besides those factors I try to slim down the shots that are very similar leaving a shot or two that define the moment I was trying to capture. That being said, I still have a hard time deleting photos and am somewhat of a hoarder so I imagine others will have more tips to offer.
    Patrick

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    Re: Culling photos: choosing -among hundreds- which to process

    I'm sure you'll get lots of advice - everyone has there own way - but this is what I do with a similar number of shots, which I feel is quite manageable rather than the thousands that some photographers have. (Btw I use Lightroom for PP)

    I'm assuming from your post that the result you want is the best photographic record you can get of your trip.

    Copy all the images into a new folder, in my case it's on an external hd.
    Browse through the images using any suitable software, and COPY the ones I am sure I want to work on to a new folder in my Lightroom directory
    I do not cull any at all at this stage in fact I don't delete any until I need the disk space
    I find that copying the ones I know I want, but still having everything available if I need it is a relatively painless process

    Then Import into LR and do my PP
    Ask myself if the set I now have is a good representation of my trip
    If there is something missing, go back to the original files of everything and decide the best that you have, and copy and bring that into LR

    Of course I may do some iteration, and go back to check I haven't missed something, but I do find that making a positive selection and copying not culling makes the process reasonably quick, and just as important for me, enjoyable and low stress.

    Cheers,

    Dave

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    brucehughw's Avatar
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    Re: Culling photos: choosing -among hundreds- which to process

    Thanks, Dave and Patrick. I like both of your ideas. I came across some good ideas in this blog, too: http://lightningfastlightroom.blogsp...ng-in-lr4.html . (Note this link is for a particular entry. The blog itself has the culling ideas.) I've already imported images (i.e., links to them) into LR4, but I think I'll try Dave's approach for the next trip. Question, though: you recommend browsing using any suitable software. what do you recommend for this? My raw images are in Nikon .nef format. Also, browsing might not reveal exposure issues that LR4 will reveal.

    Cheers, Bruce

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    Re: Culling photos: choosing -among hundreds- which to process

    Bruce,

    You could quickly browse your NEFs using Nikon ViewNX2, which is free. (You can also use that software to download your photos from the memory card to your computer.) It has been a really long time since I have used that software, but there is a very handy method of quickly examining your photo at 100% to check for sharpness. If I remember correctly, the software displays a histogram of the image, which will help you check for exposure.

    My culling process is to initially review every image, marking the images that clearly don't make the first cut. I then delete all of the marked images. I review the remaining images that are very similar, examine them at 100%, and delete all but the one of a particular group that I decide to keep. My final round of culling occurs as I post-process the images; every once in a while, I realize while doing the post-processing that an image that I thought was a keeper actually isn't. After all of the post-processing is done, I rate the images, which in your case would be very helpful for determining which ones to include in your book.

    I should add that my download process involves making a backup copy of every original. If for whatever reason I have second thoughts about an image that I have trashed during the culling process, I always have the backup copy available. I don't delete any backups of the originals until I have culled and post-processed everything and stored them in their final resting place.

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    Re: Culling photos: choosing -among hundreds- which to process

    Question, though: you recommend browsing using any suitable software. what do you recommend for this? My raw images are in Nikon .nef format. Also, browsing might not reveal exposure issues that LR4 will reveal.
    Mm, perhaps I was a bit glib here. I've rather stumbled my way to my current set of software, and on the way picked up a copy of ACDSee14. It does the job superbly (i.e. it moves easily from a thumbnail view to full screen, with a Save As option), but it's really a photo editing package and at $50 a bit over the top for what you are looking for (there is the odd much cheaper earlier version on eBay, though). I'm a Canon shooter, so I don't know what bundled Nikon software might help. Perhaps some other kind soul can suggest something, key being handling .nef

    Looks like Mike answered whilst I was typing!
    Last edited by davidedric; 3rd January 2013 at 03:17 PM. Reason: Another's post!

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    Re: Culling photos: choosing -among hundreds- which to process

    If in doubt, keep it.

    600 photos is not a lot:

    600 x 25MB/photo = 14.65GB

    Checking my local IT store:

    Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB SATA 3 = 71 = 6.93p/GB

    So your 600 photos cost 1.02 to store. This is a good drive. Cheaper options are plenty.

    What I usually do is import all photos into Lightroom. Delete the poorest option from duplicates (I shoot lots of duplicates). I also delete missed focus shots if I do not think that there are features in the background to be usefully cloned into other photos.

    I then label good shots with the star rating. I use 1 or 2 stars. (I'm saving 3, 4 and 5 for when I get good at photography.) I also keyword all my images with a few words to help me find them using metadata searches.

    Note that a nice feature with the latest Canon cameras is that I can rate my photos in camera whilst still out shooting. I often do this for a few selected images when between shoots at a situation, on the bus, back in the hotel, etc. These then become the images that I look at first when I have just imported into Lightroom.

    If I want to remember a trip or shoot then I can make collections from sets of photos. Currently I have over 20,000 photos and my catalogue is very manageable and my full back-up about 200GB.

    Alex

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    Re: Culling photos: choosing -among hundreds- which to process

    Hi Bruce,

    As LR has good tools for selecting, rejecting and starring photos, I use these to weed out the photos I don't want to keep. I import everything off the card into a subfolder of a "triage" folder in LR; that is the area in which I do the selection and initial PP. (When that is complete, I then move the folder to its permanent location in LR. Doing this ensures that I don't import photos and then forget about them - more on memory later!)

    I do much the same as Patrick, rejecting obviously bad ones and keeping the best of a set of similar photos. LR's compare and survey views are good for this, and using a large second monitor (or the TV while mine is getting repaired) helps a lot. When in doubt I keep the photo. I use star ratings to select those that I want to publish to my online web site, or to show in LR collections. I sometimes stack similar photos, perhaps taken with exposure bracketing, in case I want to come back to them and work on them. (I also stack various edits of virtual copies, but that's not related to your question.)

    I eventually delete all rejected photos. I sometimes go back to the photos a while later and reject some more, after my emotional attachment to them has waned and I can be more objective. I have never missed photos that I have deleted, but then my memory's pretty bad so that helps.

    Tony
    Last edited by Tony M; 3rd January 2013 at 04:34 PM. Reason: corrected spelling

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    Re: Culling photos: choosing -among hundreds- which to process

    Quote Originally Posted by herbert View Post
    I then label good shots with the star rating. I use 1 or 2 stars. (I'm saving 3, 4 and 5 for when I get good at photography.) I also keyword all my images with a few words to help me find them using metadata searches.

    Alex
    Might be time for me to start thinking about that rather than serial searching through all my randomly-located folders hoping to locate a vaguely remembered image that was never re-named from e.g. "IMG12345.X3F" :-(

    Can it be done in most Editors (I have PSE6) or even just the Operating System (I have XP Pro SP3)? I also have EXIFtool, so I can edit EXIF data, FWIW.

    How do you "metadata search"?

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    Re: Culling photos: choosing -among hundreds- which to process

    I like the idea of creating a duplicate set and saving as an untouched backup. As far as organizing goes, I try to create a folder for each days shoot named with both the location and date and from there I create a sub folder of shots to be edited (much like what was stated above).

    It might be worthwhile to read up on how to create a portfolio to get you thinking of the images as a group? Here is a link that might help: http://www.luminous-landscape.com/co...tfolio-8.shtml

    I would be interested to see some of your shots when you get through this first hurdle.

    Aloha,

    Shane

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    brucehughw's Avatar
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    Re: Culling photos: choosing -among hundreds- which to process

    Shane,

    thanks a lot for that link. He has some very helpful ideas, ones that go way beyond the mechanics of software. Good stuff.

    thanks again, Bruce

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    Re: Culling photos: choosing -among hundreds- which to process

    Since you have Lightroom the culling process is very simple:

    1. Import all your photos into Lightroom.
    2. Make a Collection of those photos.
    3. Within the Collection flag each photo. For photos you want to delete press the "X" key. Made a mistake? - press the "U" key.
    4. Use the Delete key to remove all photos with the "X" flag. This only deletes the photo from the Collection. Your original is always available.

    This system is very fast. You can then take your time with the remaining photos.

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    Re: Culling photos: choosing -among hundreds- which to process

    I was puzzled with the whole process for about a year until I discover that Lightroom was all I needed. I found out there is a batch of tools and methods to import and organize photos in LR which are really handy and ergonomic. Until I become comfortable with the LR organize process the whole procedure seemed cumbersome and confusing but after I used to it I can't live without!

    Don't forget that this exactly the reason LR were created in the first place! The develop module is just the same as Adobe Camera Raw in Photoshop, no differences, the import and organization part was the new big thing.

    In short my suggestion since you already have LR is to follow few tutorials in youtube or elsewhere to get the whole picture about how LR can be used for importing and organizing files and try to adopt your work flow to the program. I think that's what many professionals did so at least give it a try.

    What I do is place the photos to there final place while importing, convert files to dng, rename them, make a double copy simultaneously, and (VERY important) insert tags. After that I scan the photos while rejecting the really bad ones (which I lately delete all together ) and flag the good ones as pick. I then apply a filter to only see the flagged as pick ones while browsing so no to get confused by the hundreds of photos that are still there. The comparison feature is handy to select the one (or few) of various similar photos. And last it is very ergonomic to group the different versions of the same picture which can be done automatically, e.g. different jpg of color, BW, different crops etc. Of course the initial RAWs is always there "untouched" (via not distracting editing). You can then create collection (portfolios) without duplicating the photos, slideshows, photobooks etc. I also found fantastic the "export to" plug-in to upload my images to the photo hosting site I use (zenfolio).

    Hope it helps.

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    brucehughw's Avatar
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    Re: Culling photos: choosing -among hundreds- which to process

    Miltos,

    Thanks very much to you (and all the others) for the great suggestions. I have a LR4 book arriving on Friday, and I'll give the organizing / library / collection material a close read.

    thanks again, Bruce

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    Scott Stephen's Avatar
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    Re: Culling photos: choosing -among hundreds- which to process

    Quote Originally Posted by benm View Post
    Since you have Lightroom the culling process is very simple:

    1. Import all your photos into Lightroom.
    2. Make a Collection of those photos.
    3. Within the Collection flag each photo. For photos you want to delete press the "X" key. Made a mistake? - press the "U" key.
    4. Use the Delete key to remove all photos with the "X" flag. This only deletes the photo from the Collection. Your original is always available.

    This system is very fast. You can then take your time with the remaining photos.
    Exactly. I save every camerafull of shots as a collection and I import everything, even the clearly bad ones. It is just so much easier to delete things once they are in Lightroom than trying to cull them out before importing them. Just put an "X" on all the bad ones, enable sorting, sort by flags (rejected) and bam. All of them are gone in one go. I do this in stages, deleting the OOF and over/underexposed shots and the ones with eyes closed or weird facial expressions, etc. On later passes, I get rid of sucessively more and more. Also at the same time, you start "flagging" the good ones by hitting "P". I find it helps to wait several months, then go back in and see if you would like to reject more. It is harder to delete them when they are newer.

    I catalog by year, and then by batch. Every shot I take in 2012 goes into its own folder on my external hard drive named by upload date and description: "2012-09-27; soccer and zoo" or something like that. At the end of the year, I put all of these folders into a big file on my external hard drive called "2012 photos" and then start new folders in a new big file for 2013.

    I also keep an "Exports" file on my HD. Any time I export processed shots as JPEGS for some use (printing or making a calendar or making a scrapbook or uploading to Facebook or CiC, I export it to that file, again with a date and descriptive name.

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    brucehughw's Avatar
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    Re: Culling photos: choosing -among hundreds- which to process

    Scott,

    Thanks for the great tips. When you rename a folder (e.g., 2012-12-31 NYC), how do you tell LR to use this folder instead of the original one? My understanding is LR is in essence a database with editting capabilities. It contains links to files, so we need to be careful about changing folder names, yes? Also, I know about flagging with X and P. X is simple: you delete them. What do you do with the Ps? Put them in a collection for further work? Lastly, if you delete a photo from a collection, you haven't actually deleted it from LR, correct? So your culling via OOF and exposure only removes photos from the collection, not from the library.

    Thanks again, Bruce

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    Re: Culling photos: choosing -among hundreds- which to process

    Bruce glad to help.


    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Stephen View Post

    Just put an "X" on all the bad ones, enable sorting, sort by flags (rejected) and bam. All of them are gone in one go.

    I catalog by year, and then by batch. Every shot I take in 2012 goes into its own folder on my external hard drive named by upload date and description: "2012-09-27; soccer and zoo" or something like that.
    Scott try pressing control+Backspace to delete all rejected photos (X) in one step, no filtering to only show the rejected is needed. You can review them before deleting.

    The reverse date tip is also great, I use it all the time since every now and then I search for something in windows explorer. Like that the folders are always in the correct order.

  18. #18
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    Re: Culling photos: choosing -among hundreds- which to process

    Here's a link to an article that appeared in dpreview.com recently about Lightroom's catalog system that goes along with what other's are recommending.
    http://www.dpreview.com/articles/225...htroom-catalog

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    Re: Culling photos: choosing -among hundreds- which to process

    The file-naming convention and folder hierarchy that you use are critical to the success of much of the stuff being discussed in the thread. I strongly urge at least considering the best practices being recommended by the American Society of Media Photographers at their website: http://www.dpbestflow.org/links/38

  20. #20
    Scott Stephen's Avatar
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    Re: Culling photos: choosing -among hundreds- which to process

    Quote Originally Posted by brucehughw View Post
    Scott,

    Thanks for the great tips. When you rename a folder (e.g., 2012-12-31 NYC), how do you tell LR to use this folder instead of the original one? My understanding is LR is in essence a database with editting capabilities. It contains links to files, so we need to be careful about changing folder names, yes? Also, I know about flagging with X and P. X is simple: you delete them. What do you do with the Ps? Put them in a collection for further work? Lastly, if you delete a photo from a collection, you haven't actually deleted it from LR, correct? So your culling via OOF and exposure only removes photos from the collection, not from the library.

    Thanks again, Bruce
    Bruce:

    I came up with my kind of rigid little system because I didn't like the "automatic" way Windows and LR seem to try to work together. I ignore the little window that comes up every time I plug the card into my computer and I just do it the simple manual way.

    I create the folder on the external hard drive first. Then I just dump everything on the card into the waiting folder (and delete the card). Every "camerafull" therefore gets its own folder. From there, I go to LR, and on the Library module I click "Import", then search through the possible sources for my hard drive, then I go to the new folder with the new pictures and click on it. LR "checks" each one by default, so I just Import All, because it is so much easier to delete from within LR. That is why I am careful to have that folder already named the way I want to keep it before I import it, because that is how LR will recognize it from then on. I am never changing the name once I have imported it.

    "P" is "Pick", which "flags" the image with a white flag. (Maybe they should have called it "Pick" instead of "Flag" but I think that is a leftover word from a previous version. I leave them in their original folder with the flags on, so I can later come back and sort by "flagged only" in that folder and see only the good ones.

    As for deleting, LR gives you 2 choices. You can delete from LR only, or you can "delete from disk". I go ahead and delete from disk. I think LR is a great tool for organizing, but there is still no substitute for deleting useless junk!

    One of these days, I may go back into all my folders/collections and add in key words (people's names and maybe holidays/occasions or activities) so that I can search for things in new ways, but I have never gotten around to that.
    Last edited by Scott Stephen; 3rd January 2013 at 10:43 PM.

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