How to Cull a Wedding with Photo Mechanic and Lightroom

How to Cull a Wedding with Photo Mechanic and Lightroom | Mastin Labs

What’s the one thing that virtually every wedding you’ll ever shoot will have in common? They will all result in a LOT of photos that you’ve got to sift through to find the keepers. If you’re a busy wedding photographer, you’ll cumulatively spend literal days of your life culling those packed memory cards. Any way you can speed up your workflow will whittle down the editing time-toll and gift you with more moments to live the rest of your life, or at least give you time to edit more weddings!

One way you can win back your non-editing life is to use Mastin Labs presets for a snappy-yet-satisfying workflow. Still, there’s something else that will drastically reduce time spent editing before you even touch a slider in Lightroom or Capture One, and that’s a little piece of software called Photo Mechanic.

What Is Photo Mechanic?

Photographers love raw files for the awesome things we can do with them in post. However, the same bountiful data that gives you all that shadow and highlight to work with can bog your computer down if you try to skim through thousands of photos for your initial cull in your raw processor.

Photographers love raw files for the awesome things we can do with them in post. However, the same bountiful data that gives you all that shadow and highlight to work with can bog your computer down if you try to skim through thousands of photos for your initial cull in your raw processor.

Made by software company Camera Bits, Photo Mechanic is a stand-alone program that was designed to help you efficiently cull, rate, and keyword your photos. By using the jpeg preview file that your camera generates so that you can review your photos as you shoot, Photo Mechanic avoids the molasses-like rendering and resource-suck that is a pitfall of post-processing beasts like Lightroom.

While Photo Mechanic does not process images, changes you make to metadata will journey with the photos into your raw processor after the cull, and the process is painless. Assign star ratings to your photos using keyboard shortcuts, and those fast-loading jpeg previews will auto-advance through your pictures as you go. When you make it to the end, you can use the sorting feature to show only the selects, then drag and drop to import into Lightroom. The star ratings come with, and so do any keywords you added in Photo Mechanic.

The Importance Of Culling

Just like a fence is only as strong as its weakest link, your client galleries will suffer if you dilute your strongest work by surrounding it with weaker images. Fired off a burst, and 6 of 10 photos came out pretty cool? Don’t even think of including them all when you deliver to your client. Pick the best one, and that’s it. Of course, there are exceptions to any rule - maybe the sequence really does tell a story better together. But the intention and execution need to work in tandem. Otherwise, it just looks sloppy.

Photographers can get attached to the process and hold their memory over the outcome, but the fact that you had to pull some fantastic feats to grab that spur of the moment shot doesn’t matter to the client. They only see the final result, and if it doesn’t speak, you shouldn’t show it - no matter how proud you are of what it took on your end to capture.

When you don’t cull effectively, you’re passing part of your job onto your client instead of doing it yourself. As a professional, it’s on you to use your trained eye to select only the shots that add the most value for your client. Be decisive and deliver something striking to the people who trusted your eye enough to hire you.

 

The Art Of The Cull

The first pass is for tossing out the obvious duds. These are the shots where you missed focus, where the bride is making an unflattering face, or you caught the groom in mid-chew with a mouth full of cake - anything you can quickly and easily identify as something that isn’t worthy of a place in your client’s wedding album.

The second pass is to pick out the stunners. This is where you go over those bursts and find the one where the bouquet was in just the right place, where the bridesmaid’s face who’s catching it is priceless - you’re looking for the shots that stand out. The ones that stop you in your tracks; that have that certain something that gives you a gut feeling that this it’s a winner. If you can’t tell right away and have to think too much about it, it’s a no.

 

Learning to cull is takes the weddings you shoot from ordinary to extraordinary. Sure, you’ve got to have the photography chops to get the shots in the first place, but knowing what to show and what has to go sets you apart and showcases nothing but your best. And after all, why should anyone see your dingy throw-aways. Let those wedding albums sparkle, and your portfolio too! Anywhere you show your work should be the product of a skilled and thorough cull.