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: http://www.trifonanguelov.com/Featured-Clients/Weddings)
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.
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
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:
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.
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.