One of the questions I get a lot is, “how can I speed up time spent on the computer so I can spend more time actually taking photos?”. So I’m going to show you how to cut hours from your digital workflow by quickly picking the best images and preparing them for previewing.
There are three parts to my own workflow as follows:
- Culling the images or going through them all and choosing the best ones
- Processing the images to what I call preview level
- Full editing and including things like facial retouching, removal of unwanted objects (trash, etc.), and adding final touches like a stylized look.
In this article, I will cover the first two with a video tutorial and summary for each.
Step 1 – Culling images
Learn how to choose your best photos in the shortest amount of time with this pro tip nobody is talking about. If you’ve got 100s or more photos to choose from, this video will cut HOURS from your workflow.
Whether you call it culling, pruning, or selecting, the end result is the same – the BEST photos remain for processing. But, with hundreds or even thousands of photos to go through from a recent street photography shoot, a friend or client portrait session, a recent holiday getaway, or another event in which you took many photos, the process of going through them all to remove the rejects and find your best photos can seem daunting.
In this video tutorial, I’ll show you the first step in cutting hours of time from your editing workflow and show you how to choose the best photos easily and faster than ever before.
Watch and see how I do it.
But before you start the video, tell me how long you think it will take me to cull through just under 300 images to choose the best ones. Put your guess in the comment area below now – then hit PLAY!
PRO TIP: this is called “editing IN” and nobody is talking about it, so shhhh!
So, how close was your guess? Did I do it faster than you thought? Did you get some ideas of how you can go through your images more rapidly? I hope so!
We all want to save time – that’s a no-brainer. So by learning how to cull photos quickly and you’ve already done the most important time-saving – fewer photos to work with in the first place!
Once you’re done culling, move on to the next phase – preparing the images for previewing.
Step 2 – Process to preview quality
This is a step in between the culling and final full retouching of the very best images. I do NOT recommend doing full retouching on all the images, just the few that are chosen as the BEST.
NOTE: Keep in mind that this intermediary step applies anytime you are showing the images to someone else for THEM to choose their favorites. This is usually a portrait or photography session with friends, family, a model, or a client if you do any commissioned work.
So if the images are just for your own personal use, you can skip right to the final editing stage – however, if that is the case I’d recommend really being a lot choosier when doing step one.
What is preview quality?
For preview quality what you want to do is just basic photo editing to make sure the images can be viewed easily. Aim for a level of consistency across the board between the entire set of images.
This is what you want to achieve in this step:
- An even brightness or image density throughout (the exposures all look equal).
- That the white balance is even (the color looks consistent from image to image).
- The contrast level is adjusted so the images have punch, but detail is also retained in the highlight and shadow areas.
Knowing how to edit photos quickly is a great skill to cultivate and as you learn this technique, you’ll be able to edit photos faster and faster as you get more proficient at everything.
I use Lightroom in the example, but this technique can be applied if you are using Luminar AI, ON1 Raw, Apple Photos, Photo Mechanic, Adobe Bridge, or any other image sorting software.
Whether you have a hundred photos to edit or HUNDREDS more than that, you can learn how to save time in the culling process (as seen in the video above), the basic editing process (watch the video below), and ultimately the final post-production step.
In the video below, I demonstrate how easy it is to get your images that are similar to match like the pairs above and below. This is what you’re aiming to do.
Make your guess now
Okay, it’s time to use your clairvoyant skills again. Try to guess how long you think it will take me to process the chosen photos of my lovely model Petal to the level I described above.
Do you think I can do it in under an hour? Or do you think it will take me a lot longer to prepare the 98 images? Enter your guess in the comment area below – NO cheating!
Now it’s time to watch the video and find out. I will demonstrate the level to which I edit on a few of the images, then finish the rest in real-time (I recorded it at regular speed then speeded up the video to hyper-speed).
Well? How did I do? Did I meet or beat your guess?
Step 3 – Final full editing
The final step in my digital workflow is to do full editing and any advanced retouching on the chosen images. These are the best of the best, the ones that may get printed and hung on a wall.
Here is an example of two images I’ve already completed to that level for Petal. She is doing a talk and needed to provide a headshot to the organizers so I did the final editing on these two, including full facial retouching. I used a combination of Lightroom and Luminar AI to finish them.
Compare the two versions of each of these images. The preview-level quality ones are on the left, and the finished images are on the right. The differences are slight but there, see if you can find them.
I will be doing another video to show you how I do the full retouching and complete the rest of Petal’s order soon (she’s just given me her picks). Until then give these two a watch:
- Portrait Retouching Using Lightroom in 10 Minutes or Less
- Photo Editing Challenge Day 4 – Portrait Editing with Luminar AI
- Why the Exciting New Portrait Bokeh AI Tool Will Knock Your Socks Off (I used the new Portrait Bokeh AI in Luminar AI to blur the background a bit more in both of the images above, and more blue in the top one.)
Resources and links
In the two videos above I mentioned a few other tutorials and resources. Here is a list for you to check out:
- Join me on my weekly How to Edit Photo LIVEstream on my YouTube channel.
- Get more information on my Lightroom Develop Presets here.
- Learn how to use Lightroom Radial Filters here.
- Learn how to use the basic sliders in Lightroom here.
- How to use Lightroom Graduated filters.
- Flash photography challenge and articles to learn more about using your flash.
- How to balance flash and natural light tips
Have you picked up a few good ideas and tips on how to get through this phase of your digital workflow faster?
Do you think that using the “edit IN” technique will help you find the best images in less time?
Will you be able to show the images to your friends, family, models, and the world as soon as possible, and spend time in front of the computer screen?
Please tell me in the comment area below how you did with your guesses about my times above, and what you learned in this tutorial.