Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How To Cull & Sort Your Wedding Photos in Lightroom

A sunny day!!!! Oh what a difference a [sunny] day makes. A perfect day for breakfast (rice porridge and green tea in a heart shaped mug) in the garden with my best friends followed by an hour lounging with a good book in a beautiful green park (with nobody else in sight). Ahh!! After soaking up the sun, it was time for soaking some friends with water! 4 soakings today! Then back to the house for a refreshing salad 

Now it's time for culling photos (a.k.a. sorting through and picking out the good ones)! I think I'm looking at about 5,581 photos from Lorraine & Steve's wedding that I plan to get through this afternoon. Sounds intimidating but this is actually one of my favourite parts of the whole wedding photography process. It's the first time I get to sit down and properly look through the images I captured at the wedding and it's kind of the moment of truth. In 5 hours am I going to be wearing a smile or a frown. Will my stomach be jumping for joy feeling proud of the final product or will I feel swallow down the butterflies, embarrassed that I didn't perform how would have liked. Gulp... the excitement of what's to come!

When it comes to culling images after a shoot or a wedding, I upload ALL OF THEM to Lightroom, (a wonderful branch of Adobe Photoshop that is super-duper useful for photographers). Lightroom makes it possible for me to sort through the images, organise them, edit them, export them, and publish them! Here's my culling workflow...

Step 1 :: Import Photos from CF Cards to Lightroom.

Step 2 :: Scroll through the new library of images, viewing them side-by-side so I can compare the best images in a series. This really speeds things up since I don't have to go back and forth. If I like the image and want to give it to the client, I click "P" which means "Pick" and marks the image with a little white flag. Once I've gone through all of the images I can go to the bottom right hand corner of the screen and view all of the 'flagged' images and export them all at once as a neat and tidy group. I aim to pick out/flag  500-700 images for the couple.

Step 3 :: Simultaneously, while scrolling through the gallery for images to flag for the couple, I am also on the look out for images that will be perfect for a slideshow, an album and my blog. I use the Star Rating system to identify and distinguish these images. I aim to pick 80ish images for the slideshow, 100ish images for the album and up to 25 images for my blog. Identifying these photos as I cull saves so much time since I don't have to return to the images and sort through again later.

How Did I Decide on These Numbers?


I want about 80 images for the slideshow because in an ideal world, the slideshow would last about 4 minutes and each image would appear for 3 seconds. 
4 minute slideshow = 240 seconds 
240 seconds ÷ 3 second slides = 80 slides

I pick about 100 images for the album because I like to design 40 spread for my clients. Some spreads have one big image and some have 3 or 4 images in a pretty layout. It averages out to be about 2 images per spread. 
2 images per spread  x  40 spreads = 80 images
I add in an extra 20 images as padding so that I have some options to play around during design. I always end up adding more photos later as I'm creating layouts.
When I first started designing albums I would add ALL of the photos right at the beginning but this took way too much time to upload them and I only ended up using about 80 images in the end. I'm now learning how to spot the 'album worthy' images straight from the beginning.

I only take up to 25 images for the blog because I want to be selective about the work that is being placed in the 'window' of my online 'shopfront.' If I had a beautiful little boutique on main street I would want to decorate the window with the clothes that best represented the style of my shop and the clothes that would attract the clients that I would hope to work with. Same thing goes for my website & blog. I share the images that I feel best represent my photography style and my personality. These tend to be the photos I'm most proud of and the photos that best resemble to style of the weddings I'd like to shoot in the future. I think to myself, what photos would my ideal bride like most?

25 is a good number because it shares enough information but not too much information. Sometimes it's difficult to restrain myself because I want to share ALL of the images because I've become emotionally attached to them. I think a lot of photographers struggle with this. We want everyone to see all of the images that we've worked so hard to create. The problem with this is that people end up glazing over your work because there's too much to take in. Keeping your blog posts shorter (look at the length of this post! geewhiz! I should take my own advice) holds people's attention and your images will be admired with crisp appreciation rather than as a forgetful blur as the viewer scrolls down the webpage.

It's SO difficult only picking 25 images from the stack of 5000 but over the course of a couple days of culling it becomes quite easy to spot the winners. I'll notice myself constantly want to look at or edit a particular group of images and just like runners they break away from the pack. They are the images that I daydream about while riding my bike or walking through the woods. The images that make me smile when I think..."I took that! Woohoo!" — [insert: self-high-five!] hehe 
Step 4 :: Once the images are organised, they are developed a.k.a. edited or retouched and then exported as high-res files or as low-res watermarked images for the web. Step 4 involves lots of more work that I'm not going to discuss today! hehe

So that's how I am currently sorting my images after a wedding. I'm constantly on the lookout for tips that will speed things up and keep life organised! Let me know if you have a suggestion! :D Have a great day all!!