Culling Workflow


Today’s Question: What is your workflow for culling through images before or immediately following importing images into Lightroom?

Tim’s Quick Answer: My preferred workflow involves importing photos into Lightroom immediately in order to have a more streamlined workflow, and then use star ratings as a first tool for identifying favorites versus outtakes. I then perform additional updates to metadata to further refine the management of my photos.

More Detail: While Lightroom is not the fastest tool for downloading your images or rendering previews of those images, I prefer not to use tools outside of Lightroom for my initial download and image review. While other tools may enable me to download faster or review photos faster, I feel there is also a risk that this type of “hybrid” approach creates some risks of making mistakes from an organizational standpoint (such as forgetting to import some of your photos into Lightroom later). It also adds additional steps that may cause you to lose many of the benefits you were otherwise gaining. In short, I prefer to keep my overall workflow as streamlined as possible.

Once I’ve downloaded my photos as part of the process of importing those photos into my Lightroom catalog, I use star ratings for my initial review of keepers versus outtakes. For my first pass I simply add a one-star rating to all images I feel deserve to be ranked among my favorites, and I leave no star rating for images that I feel are outtakes.

After this initial review, I try to allow a bit of time to pass (if possible) to help ensure I’m not reacting with too much emotion to my photos based on the experience I had when capturing them. I will then review the images I assigned a one-star rating to, and consider “upgrading” my real favorites to a two- or three-star rating. At this point a two-star rating to me means the photo is one of the best from that photo outing, and a three-star rating means it may be one of my best photos overall. Later, after working to optimize my photos and perhaps getting feedback from others, I might upgrade some of my very best photos to a four- or five-star rating.

Somewhere along the way you might want delete the photos that don’t have a star rating, since they represent outtakes. I personally tend not to delete my outtakes, for purely emotional reasons that I fully realize are irrational. I just don’t want to risk deleting a photo I might later wish I had, especially since storage is relatively cheap and I can easily filter my photos by star rating so I don’t see the outtakes unless I want them.

If you’d like to see my organizational workflow in more detail, you can get a 50% discount of the “Tim’s Real Organizational Workflow” video course through the GreyLearning website by following this link: