Most folks wouldn’t believe me if I said I was never daunted by the culling process of photography. In college, I was a Communications in Journalism major. And so culling images and being ruthless with my own work came to me after a while. This was one of the best abilities I took away from school. These days, most photographers don’t go to the nurturing environments schools offer, but there are a few ways to make culling images an easier process.
The AI Options
The entire staff here has used the AI options for culling images. But AI doesn’t necessarily help. AI options work on culling images by checking focus, compositions, etc. However, AI isn’t trained to understand moments and the nuances of what’s happening in the images. Put bluntly, it can’t understand human emotion and connection to the moments. With that said, AI is great if your autofocus isn’t all that great, but autofocus on modern cameras is perfectly acceptable these days.
So let’s move past the AI options.
Shoot Fewer Photos at a Slower Frame Rate, or One at a Time
Culling images starts at the source. Ask yourself, why you do need to shoot so many images at once? I know photographers who shoot 20 frames a second for portraits. Why? Because they don’t know what they’re going to get and want to figure it out later on. But this is a waste of hard drive space.
Here’s an idea: shoot in the low continuous shooting setting. Otherwise, only shoot one frame at a time. This is perhaps the most important thing shooting film teaches you that digital photography doesn’t truly help photographers understand.
An even better idea: shoot one single frame. Get the shot in a single frame and be content with that. If you still like what’s happening in front of you, hammer the shutter, but it will net fewer frames with one of them guaranteed to be great.
Nail the Autofocus
Modern cameras have all sort of AI and face detection already built into them. Combine that with the ability to select the autofocus points yourself, you should be all set. But here’s another tip: turn off the exposure preview. Exposure preview can negatively affect the autofocus performance and make culling images more annoying.
Review In-Camera and Add a Star Rating
Whenever I get downtime or commuting home, I look at the images on the back of the camera. From there I can check things like whether or not I like the photo. If I like the photo, I check the focus. If all that works out, I add a star rating. On import, Capture One or Lightroom will let me sort by star ratings, but I’ll import everything just in case. But then I’ll choose only the starred photos and flag them accordingly. Only then will I work on the flagged photos.
Combine all this together
In summary, to make the process of culling images less painful, start with better photography habits. Shoot fewer frames. When you really need faster performance, hammer the shutter or shoot in low continuous burst. On top of that, make sure your autofocus is in tip-top shape. Further, turn off exposure preview and learn to expose the scenes better by reading the light meter. Finally, rate your images in-camera before importing them. This will make the post-production side of culling images much easier.