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10 Tips for Culling and Processing Images with Lighroom

adobe lightroom digital editing software

Working as a professional wedding photographer is very demanding.

Not only a wedding day can last up to 12-14 hours and requires lots of energy and stamina but post-processing the images can take as much as four times the time if takes to capture the images.

It is not unusual a wedding photographer to capture up to 2,000 to 4,000 images on a wedding day.  All the images then have to be downloaded, cataloged into Lightroom or other image editing software, culled and edited.

The culling part is the one which I found to be about 25% of the time required and the one which wedding photographers dread the most. Over the years I perfected the ways to make this process easier and speedier by using few simple techniques.

In this article, I would like to share some of these techniques and methodology.  The tips are generic and not only wedding photography related. I also use them for my portraiture, landscape and wildlife photography images. The techniques are also strictly Lightroom related although there are many more time saving ideas one can use.

I hope to cover these into some of my next blog articles. So let’s start reviewing the top 10 tips for culling and processing images in Lightroom.


1. Establish Rating Methodology

This is the most important time saver you can apply to your post-processing workflow as a wedding photographer.

Having a structured and consistent way to sort through the images and organize them quickly would save you lots of time and efforts. The idea is to cull and rank images only once and then work with the different buckets of images you already ranked. Doing multiple passes through the images is a time drain and can quickly increase your work backlog.

So come up with a ranking on your won, or use the one below and while culling the images in Lightroom. The ranking includes assigning number of stars ( from 1 to 5) and then grouping and editing images based on their rating.

Assigning a rating is as easy as pressing the number corresponding to the number of starts you want to assign to an image. Them use the library filter (Ctrl + L) to filter only the images you need to work on next. Here is a ranking which has been working for me:

0 (no stars): throw away image

1 (one star): keep for later use

2 (two stars): deliver to client as part of the final package

3 (three stars): deliver to client and also use for video slideshow and blog (Example:

4 (four stars): use for personal use (tutorials, composites, etc)

5 (five stars): deliver to client and perfect the editing for adding to portfolio

You can also mark the image as reject by pressing “X” button at any time while in Library mode. Then use “Ctrl + Backspace” to delete all rejected images in bulk

Related: How to Clean up Lightroom Catalog


2. Compare Picks

When trying to decide between multiple similar images and pick one final, it is very helpful to see them side by side. The “Shift + N” shortcut allows you to do that.

Here is how to use it:

  • Select all images in Library mode (click on the first image, hold “Shift” and click on the last image if in sequence. If not, hold down “Ctrl” and click on any images you want to add to the selection)
  • Press “Shift +N” and you will you will open Lightroom secondary display with the selected images
  • Scroll and pick the best one, rate it and mark for deletion the rest

The key is to let go off your desire of keep every image just because you might like it or need it later. If you don’t like it in the first place and you already have the best image identified, forget about the rest. Pick the best and move on. Your time is valuable and there is a 99% chance you will never have the time to go back and look at this “may be” images.


3. Make use of Keywords

Lightroom allows you to add keywords to images so you can later search for them easily.

For example, if you are writing a blog about wedding at Corinthian Grand Hall in San Jose, add “corinthian”, “san jose” and “wedding” into the images. You can later pull all related images and easily pick the images for your blog. Or to send to a potential bride as an example for a wedding you photographed there.

And here is an easy way to find out which images not yet have keywords. In Library mode, open the “Collections” drop-down menu and click on “Without Keywords” menu option. You will load all images without keyword. Go through them and add keywords.

Lightroom Tags


4. Backup your RAW Files

This one doesn’t actually speed up your post-processing but it is a good practice to follow.

During import, you have an option to copy the RAW files to secondary hard drive for backup purposes. I use a portable WD Elements external hard drive to copy all my RAW files during download. If anything happens to my DNG files or computer storage arrays, there is always a RAW file copy to start all over. As a wedding photographer, you cannot afford to lose any RAW file for your clients.

And with storage cost so low nowadays, the effort to have a backup compared to the time and cost it might take to recover failed disk, is well worth your time.


5. Convert to DNG format

DNG is a digital file format by Adobe which reduces the size of the camera manufacturer’s RAW files and saves you space. The savings come from reducing the metadata stored with the raw images, metadata which most photographers never need or use. The savings add up and you can use your disk arrays to store more images.

To select DNG as file format, press “Shift + Ctrl + I” to open the Import screen and click on the “Copy as DNG” link on the top of the screen. Lightroom would copy the camera manufacturer’s RAW files into your hard drives first, then would convert them to DNG once the copy is over. The good thing is that while the RAW file to DNG conversion is happening


Lightroom import


6. Learn Lightroom Keyboard Shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts are great time saver for busy wedding photographers. You can save lots of time by memorizing the most frequently used shortcuts for your post-processing workflow.  There are so many Lightroom keyboard shortcuts, but here are few which I use frequently and help me speed up my processing time:

For rating images use: 1-5 buttons to assign stars to your images

For importing images use: Shift + Ctrl + I

For marking image for deletion and moving to the next image: Shift + X

For deleting all images marked for deletion: Backspace

For removing all flags from an image: Shift +U

For turning library filters on and off: Ctrl +L

For displaying image in full screen mode: F

For creating virtual copy of an image: Ctrl + ‘


7. Clean Up the Clutter

Modern DSLR cameras capture digital images in high resolution and file sizes for RAW files can exceed 20 MB each. Overtime this adds up to lots of storage required to store the digital images.

It is not only a good practice but also a cost saving to delete all the images you don’t need or already delivered to your clients and backed up. Here are few simple steps to help you get rid of unwanted images in Lightroom:

Ctrl +L (enable filters)

Go to Library -> Rating and select “None” and “Only”

Select all images (click on the first one), hold Shift and click on the last image

Right Click and remove from Disk images

Remove all images marked for deletion:

Lightroom Files deletion

Press: Ctrl + Backspace . Choose “Delete from Disk”.

If you choose “Remove” Lightroom would only remove the image metadata from its catalog but would leave the digital file on disk. Overtime this would cause orphant files and disk space waste.

Related: How to Audit and Remove Orphan Digital Files


8. Create Smaller Catalogs

Larger Lightroom catalogs tend to slow down the startup time and also pose a greater risk when becoming corrupted. A good rule on thumb is to split your catalogs into smaller catalogs and don’t end up with one huge catalog. Some photographers create catalog for each new client, but frankly this might be way too much overhead. 

A better approach might be not to let your catalog grow with more than 12,000 files. As you deliver the images to your clients, backup the RAW files as catalog or simply export the final images you already delivered on DVD or cloud storage and keep the RAW files you plan to later add to your portfolio. This way you can always create another DVD or USB flash drive for your clients and also have the highest quality digital image to create portfolio images.



Wedding photography business it time intensive and laborious process. Optimizing your digital editing workflow and using time savings strategies would help you spend more time capturing amazing images and less time processing them. 

It doesn’t take much to do that and with employing the techniques listed above you can be more efficient and reduce the time required for editing of your wedding images.

I hope you found this article useful. If so, feel free to share with anyone who is planning to get into the wedding photography or would be interested. The wedding photographer’s community would be stronger and more successful if everyone helps the others to become better photographers.

About the Author:

Trifon Anguelov Photography is a premiere wedding and events photography business  based in Mountain View, CA 94040 and serving clients in San Francisco Bay Area, CA. You can read more about the author and review his portfolio on his website. For complete list of services and to book your wedding, visit his Wedding Packages page.



Instagram – Ditching The Square Only Format

Instagram Logo

Instagram Logo

Ask any photographer or simply anyone who has used Instagram, about the what defines the popular mobile photo sharing app, and the answer without a doubt would be: the square photo format. In the very early days when Instagram started, one can share only square format pictures.

It was a blessing and a curse. Blessing, because it was unique. It also required the photographer to compose and be cognizant of how the image would be cropped into a square before posting it. It was a fresh stream of creativity, which I frankly liked very much.

And it was a curse, because images taken with a DSLR or not composed with square format in mind, would had to be cropped which sometimes didn’t give the best results. Later apps resolved this by wrapping either landscape or portrait images into a square (although the images were smaller in order to fit the format).

This was until today. Instagram announced on their blog that landscape and portrait images would be supported natively. No more cropping or wrapping. Instagram would post the images and would adjust the post to display the entire image without cropping.

More into the original post.

So, I can only see how Instagram adoption and use would increase because of this new feature. There is no doubt, that Instagram’s new owner: Facebook is looking for ways to grow the user base and user engagement in order to be able to monetize it later. Good thing or bad thing? Share your comments or feedback below.

About the Author:

Trifon Anguelov Photography is a Premiere Bay Area Wedding Photographer in Mountain View, CA. Many clients in the entire San Francisco Bay Area have entrusted us with capturing their wedding days.

To learn more about the wedding photography services we offer and book a wedding or portrait appointment, visit our Wedding and Portrait Photography Site


How To Recover Photos from Memory Card

Wires by Trifon Anguelov PhotographyAsk few wedding photographers what is the biggest fear they have and the majority would most likely answer: Losing the digital images after a wedding. It’s the absolute nightmare as these images cannot be easily recaptured.

Try to replay the wedding so a wedding photographer can capture the images again?
Most likely won’t happen. Imagine how the bride and her family would feel if all of their wedding images have been lost forever. No wonder many file lawsuits against the wedding photographer they have hired and request hefty compensations.

Digital cameras and specifically DSLRs have gained huge popularity and are the most widely used type of digital cameras by professional photographers currently. They use CF (Compact Flash) or SD (Secure Digital) memory cards to capture and store the digital images and sometimes the images cannot be read or retrieved from the memory cards. The reasons and how to prevent this from happening are topics for another blog which I am planning to write soon.
For now we will focus on the question: What are the options to recover digital images from memory card and what is the software or services available?
There are three types of photo recovery solutions currently available on the market:

  • Memory Card Vendor Solutions
  • Independent Software Application Developers
  • Data Recovery Service Providers

Memory Card Vendor’s Solutions:

Many memory card manufacturers offer digital image recovery solutions to the customers who purchased their memory cards. It is part of the post-sales support which differentiate them from the competition and all of these are doing pretty good job on recovering digital images.
Although these are offered by a specific memory card manufacturer for their specific memory cards, they are capable to recover images from memory cards from different manufacturers.
The recovery software is designed for the specific memory card specifications these manufacturers produce and sale, have been tested on the manufacturer specific memory cards and are usually supported by their software development teams.

The recovery software is offered for a specific period for free with the purchase of a new memory card. The software download link and activation code is provided into the memory card package. The only catch is that the activation code is valid for a specific period or time after which am yearly renewal is required at additional cost.

Related: How To Prevent SD and CF Memory Card Corruption

Below are two image recovery software solutions from SanDisk and Lexar which do pretty good job and are affordable considering the sentimental or professional value of the images they can recover:

Image Rescue from Lexar:

SanDisk Pro Rescue from SanDisk:

  • URL:
  • Price: $40 (Standard Edition), $60 (DeLuxe Edition), $250 (Commercial Edition) for 1 year subscription
  • Features: Available for Windows operating system only. Recovers images, video, email, documents or simply anything stored on the memory cards. Supports wide variety of memory cards. Allows you to see a preview of the file to be recovered which is useful if you are looking to cherry pick a file to recover. Formats and securely removes files from the memory card.

RecoveRx from Transcend:

  • URL:
  • Price: Free
  • Features: Offered for both Windows and Apple OSX operating systems. Recovers digital files, documents, audio and video files from all types of memory cards, MP3 music players, USB flash drives, external hard drives and solid state drives. If also offers memory cards formatting and password protection in addition to recovery data files.

Related: How To Repair Corrupted USB Flash Drive

Independent Software Application Developers:

Apart from digital recover solutions by memory card manufacturers, there are software programs created by independent software development companies which are competing into this lucrative market. These software developers have created a solutions capable of recovering photos from all major memory card brands. The cost varies from free to below $100 per activation and their capabilities and user interface friendlies varies.

Software development is a very competitive business, so when considering which solution to purchase or use, check the memory card compatibility and latest updates available before making the final selection and purchase.

Here are few software solutions which do pretty good job on recovering pictures from memory cards:


  • URL:
  • Price: Free or $25 for registered commercial license
  • Features: Can recover a single file only and securely deletes files from the memory card. Setup Wizard is useful to do the initial setup. Can recover mp3, images, videos and documents

Zero Assumption Recovery (ZAR):

  • URL:
  • Price: Free or $60 (single user) / $200 (site license) for commercial license
  • Features: Available for Windows operating system only. It has been around since 2001 and was first used in MS-DOS on 486 CPUs so it is very successful and reliable.

Card Rescue:

  • URL:
  • Price: $40 (single licenses)
  • Features: Available for Windows and Mac operating systems. Recognizes all major file formats (JPEG, TIFF, PSD, etc) as well the RAW formats from all major camera manufacturers (Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, Fuji). The scan for recoverable files takes between 5-20 minutes and the success rate if about 90%.

Photo Rescue:

  • URL:
  • Price: $30
  • Features: Available for Windows and Mac operating systems. Created back in 2001 but has been updated lately which is always good to have more recent version available. Recovery utilizes a Wizard which makes the recovery process even easier. One time license is good so there are no additional perpetual cost after the purchase.

Card Recovery Pro:

  • URL:
  • Price: $50
  • Features: Available for Windows OS only. Created back in 2002 and can recover multiple file formats: images, audio, video and documents from digital cameras, memory cards, mobile phones and iPods. It supports RAW digital image formats from all major digital camera manufacturers including Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fuji, Olympus, etc.


  • URL:
  • Price: Free (although donations are accepted and help the developer’s of the project)
  • Features: Available for both Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems. It’s an open source software released under GPLV v2+. It recognizes more than 440 file formats (check the documentation for full list) and has been tested with major camera models.

Photo Recovery:

  • URL:
  • Price: $39 (Basic) or  $78 (Platinum Edition)
  • Features: Available for Windows and Mac operating systems. Recovers RAW files from all major digital camera manufacturers (including Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fuji, Pentax, Sigma, Olympus, Panasonic, etc). The company claims their software can recover digital images even from formatted memory cards which is impressive and has 30% improved files scan.

Data Recovery Service Providers:

Apart from the photo recovery software a photographer can use to recover images on its own, for those who don’t have the time to recover images or are able to recover the photos by using the applications above, there are also photo recovery services. These services are specializing into data and image recovery from data storage media (hard drives, memory cards, USB sticks, etc).

The advantage of using these services is that they have perfected the recovery process and have proprietary software and technicians able to recover photos from memory cards. They work with both government agencies, corporate clients and individuals and can deal with various types of data loss reasons. Their services are fairly priced considering the value they provide. The cost varies but it’s generally below $60 for a memory card. Considering the value of wedding images on a single 64GB memory card, this is very affordable.

Here are two photo recovery services a photographer can use:

  • Tekserve ( in New York City, NY is a service provider and provides data recovery services. They have been in business since 1987 and are Premiere Apple Service provider. The company is offering free estimate for the recovery cost and guaranteed their services by no charge policy for data that cannot be recovered. Rush service is available and this is a real time saver for any emergencies.
  • Flashback Data Recovery ( in Austin, TX. They do data recovery for the FBI, but anyone can use their services. Free estimates are available online and it’s simple as filling an online form with the data recovery request and receiving an estimate within 1-2 hours. And if you lost images from your computer’s hard drive or external storage array, they have Class 10 clean room to repair the hard drive before attempting to perform the recovery. They also have No-Data, No-Fee policy so you would only pay for their services if they are actually able to recover your data.
  •  1st Data Recovery ( with locations in USA, Canada and UK and 22 years of data recovery experience offers support for lost data on: hard drives, RAIDs, NAS arrays, data tapes, digital camera memory cards and sticks. Supported files are RAW, JPEG, TIFF, PCX, DWG, etc. They event support recovery of data from dead, deleted, formated, corrupted, fire and water damaged hard drives, removable media and data tapes. Check their FAQ section for types of recovery they perform, but the list looks impressive.
  • Data Recovery ( has four clean-service full-labs in USA and Canada. Founded in 1998 is has long history of data recovery and currently has Class 100 Data Recovery Clean Room. You will get 24×7 support and assurance that your data will be recovered. The proof?  NASA, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft are just few of their clients. Not only their can recover photos from a memory card but all sorts of files from a single hard drive, arrays, iPhone or laptops. Online chat and recovery request available for your convenience.


I hope that, you as a photographer or simply an owner of digital camera would never need to recover your pictures from a memory card, but in case you have to do it, you have a good guide on what options are currently available to you. The data recovery is a field in which many software companies specialized for many years as well there are many new entrants who are trying to establish themselves.

I am not sure after 2-3 years these same companies would be still offering digital image recovery solutions but one thing is for sure: With the rate of which consumers generate pictures the amount of memory cards and photos being captures has exploded over the past 5 years. Even as the Wi-Fi enabled cameras and cloud storage solutions for digital photos are getting available and more affordable, the memory cards are here to stay for at least another 10 years.
If you found this information useful  and think your friends could benefit from it, please share it by using the multiple sharing options on the bottom. Agree, disagree, have comments or feedback? Think I am missing a point or two or three? Drop me a line in the comments section and I will consider adding it (with full credit to you, of course).

About the Author:

Trifon Anguelov Photography is a premiere wedding and events photography business  based in Mountain View, CA 94040 and serving clients in San Francisco Bay Area, CA. You can review his current Wedding and Events Portfolio and Book an Online Appointment for one of his services.

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Is Using Photoshop To Post-Process Photos Cheating?

Trifon Anguelov Photography - Octopus Is a photographer using Photoshop to create composite images or alter digital images cheating the viewers?

This is the question which comes so many times on photography related forums and blogs, topic of so many Facebook discussions and debates. I have been hearing this question so many times while talking to photographers and decided that this deserves a dedicated blog entry.

So let’s first start by explaining what the argument seems to be all about. A photographer captures a digital image, then downloads the picture into his/her computer and starts a digital post-processing in Photoshop. This might include replacing the background of the image, adding additional light sources which were not in the original image, removing subjects or objects from the image, adding objects into the image from another image, combining exposures, etc. All form of digital editing used by nowadays photographers.

On one side of the debate there are the so called “purists”: photographers who believe in pure documentary style of photography and that the main purpose of a photographer is to capture the reality unaltered and unmodified. No changes to the digital images after being captured whatsoever. On the other side of the debates are the “artists”: photographers who don’t like to be constrained from what the reality has to offer and like to add their own vision and touch to each image. They believe that reality is fine by itself but the role of the photographer is to use the reality and communicate the photographer’s vision by altering the digital images.

Each side has their logic behind their choices of course. The photojournalists are trained to capture the events as they unfold, set the stage and wait for the moments to happen, communicate the truth about the moment and emotions as they really happened. While the artists are creative minds, which are bored to death to see the same images of the same subjects or objects over and over and need to express themselves, not just capture the reality.
For me, I am more of the mix from both. Capture genuine moments and emotions and use all tools available to enhance the image and bring the viewers attention to the focal point if the image. A picture needs to have a story with both interesting subjects or objects but also with refined post processing to make an impression.

Why I think so. Simple. Ask yourself: Is adding special effects to movie cheating? Don’t we all enjoy the movies with special effects exactly because they invoke certain feelings by enhancing the main story?
Is painting the walls of our homes cheating, or dressing in different clothes every day cheating? We were definitely not born with clothes or our the walls of our homes didn’t come painted with the colors we like. Are women dressing their hair and putting make up cheating? The examples, go on and on.

The point is that photographs need to be genuine and not fake. The photographs are intended to documenting the reality and it is what the photographer should do but in the same time a photographer need to be able to inspire the viewers, provoke their feelings and generate ideas. Adding digital effects or altering digital images is not a sin but a creative process in which the photographer creates their own masterpieces from what seems to be everyday reality. It’s what differentiate one photographer from another photographer. It’s what makes one picture to look different and communicate different ideas from another.

Agree, disagree, have comments or feedback? Drop me a line in the comments section and if you like this post, share it with your friends so they can also benefit from information.

Written by Trifon Anguelov

Trifon Anguelov Photography is a premiere Wedding and Events Photographer, Mountain View, CA
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How to Display Camera Focus Points in Lightroom

Trifon Anguelov Photography - Chairs Every photographer knows that modern cameras use multiple focus points to allow a focus point to be selected before capturing the images. The number of focus points vary from camera to camera and the more expensive and sophisticated a camera body is, the more focus points it has. There is a dedicated auto focus sensor in each camera to allow the proper focusing. More advanced cameras even allow the photographer to group multiple focus points and let the camera select which focus point from the focus group to use for best focus.
And finally there is an fully automated focus point selection mode in which the camera selects and tracks a focus point continuously. So many great options and capabilities in modern camera bodies.
In post-processing when the images are downloaded and processes however, the focus point information (the location where the focus point was actually locked while capturing the images) is not easily viewable. Especially, when using Adobe Lightroom digital editing software. In the past a photographer had to use third party tools to load the images in order to see the focus points. But now there is a FREE Lightroom plug-in which allows to do that in Lightroom.
It’s supported on both Apple OSX and Microsoft Windows OS and easy to install. Just visit: for installation and usage details.
I have tested it last night and works as expected. You have to be in “Library” mode in Lightroom and you need to scroll down to the very last menu option on the bottom “Plug-in Extras”. From there select “Show Focus Points” and voila, you will see where exactly your camera has focused.
Knowing the focus points helps you in a multiple ways. First, it allows you to see if you completely nailed the focus during client sessions. Second, allows a photographer to adjust and correct its focusing techniques and see the results in post-processing. So if you ever wanted to see the image focus points in Lightroom, now you have a free, easy to install and use solution.

Agree, disagree, have comments or feedback? Drop me a line in the comments section and if you like this post, share it with your friends so they can also benefit from information.

Trifon Anguelov Photography
Wedding and Events Photographer