Streamlining your photography workflow with efficient photo culling

In an ideal world, every photograph we take is perfectly in focus, and our subjects never have to blink. It’s safe to say, though, that this level of perfection is almost never achievable. After every shoot, there will be files that are not up to you or your client’s standards. This is where photo culling comes in.

Photo culling is simply the process of choosing the best images from a shoot that will be edited and eventually delivered to your client.


What is photo culling and why is photo culling important?

We do this for several reasons, with the primary goal being to sort out any photos that are undesirable. Maybe they’re under or overexposed, or perhaps there are duplicates of the same scene. Photo culling helps you eliminate these unwanted shots, setting the stage for a more efficient post-processing workflow.

Starting your post-processing with photo culling is always a good idea before beginning any other corrections. Getting rid of these unusable shots first will help keep your workflow organized. This way, you won’t have to sift through the good and bad shots in the middle of editing. Knowing that any photo remaining in your gallery is one that needs to be edited will save you tons of time, and you’ll be able to easily batch-edit your gallery, making corrections a breeze.

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© David Coleman

Features for efficient photo culling

Now that we understand the importance of photo culling let’s look at some common features among editing tools that make the culling process straightforward.


By using the tagging method, you can assign a flag to the images you want to keep for future editing. You can simply tag the photos you want to keep with a flag and assign a crossed-out flag to those you want to reject. Consider using keyboard shortcuts to make this annotation process easier.

Color Coding

In most photo management software, you can apply color tags to your images to designate which ones you want to keep or reject. Unlike flags (either crossed-out or not), it is often possible to choose from 5 to 6 colors to annotate the photos. This allows you to create a code where you indicate which photos to delete, which ones to edit, which ones are already perfect, etc.

Star Rating

You can also cull using the star rating system. You can assign a number of stars to an image, one star up to five stars. The plus side to this process is that you can create this rating system to be as unique and specific as you need it to be. One star could be a low ranking, and five stars could signify a top pick, or you can assign a number of stars to signify a purpose for the photo, such as for a social media post, marketing campaign, and so on.

Tools for efficient photo culling

Here are three tools that can help you streamline your photo culling process:


Peakto allows you to gather all your photos in a single interface. You can create albums to select the images you want to keep or tag them to organize them. Peakto enables you to delete the images you choose to remove from your folders. From Peakto, you can access the photo editing apps of your choice. Peakto will preserve the link between the original version and the modified version of your photo, even if you use multiple photo editing apps such as Lightroom, Luminar, Capture One, DXO, or Pixelmator.
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Peakto's Interface. Photos by ©Toa Heftiba

Adobe Lightroom

Adobe Lightroom can almost do it all. In addition to offering a multitude of photo editing tools, the library modules where culling and organizational tasks take place are intuitive and customizable. Flagging, color coding, and star rating features make Lightroom a great tool for professionals and amateurs alike. A bonus tip for using any of the above rating methods is the Auto-Advance feature. Activating this feature saves you the need to click to the next photo. When you make a rating decision on an image, Lightroom will automatically move on for you.
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Photo Mechanic

Photo Mechanic is known for its speed and efficiency in photo culling. It’s especially useful when sorting through a large gallery, as it eliminates the lag time experienced in some other software when moving from one photo to the next. Photo Mechanic allows you to work through RAW images using embedded JPEG previews and offers star rating, color coding, and flagging features.
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In conclusion, mastering the art of photo culling in photography is essential for maintaining quality, saving time, and delivering outstanding work to clients. By utilizing efficient photo culling tools and techniques, you can ensure that your post-processing workflow is organized and productive, allowing you to focus on what you do best—capturing and creating remarkable images.
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