AfterShoot is a clever program that puts all its efforts into doing one thing well: Culling photos. With an AI engine that analyses photos to identify the best photos from a batch, it has the potential to save photographers hours of time. In this AfterShoot review, I’ll be putting that to the test.
I find culling after a photoshoot an agonizing, slow job. I struggle to choose my favorite photos out of the way too many I inevitably take. AfterShoot is a culling program targeted at professional photographers working with large quantities of photos. It promises to be the “fastest and easiest way to automatically select, rate and find your best photos.”
Sounds good to me! Let’s dive in.
- Does what it says, and does it well
- Built-in video tutorials
- Works with Lightroom Classic and Capture One, or other editing software that can read from XMP files
- Allows you to control the memory resources used by the program for the cull
- Keyboard shortcuts for everything
- Even for photos without people, it stacks duplicates and marks blurry photos
- Loupe view for reviewing faces and duplicates is lightning fast
- The AI works best when there are people, especially faces, in the photo
- The price makes it most suitable for professionals with a high volume of photos to cull
AfterShoot review: User experience
The UI of AfterShoot is sleek and modern. The dark rounded-corner look fits with the aesthetic of the latest Windows and Mac operating systems.
When you first open AfterShoot, you will see your albums of culled photos, with a button to add a new album. On the right there is a notification panel which shows much time you have saved using AfterShoot. This is a nice touch that prompts an easy social media blast.
Across the program, the UI is intuitive and powerfully supported by fully customizable keyboard shortcuts. Filtering, sorting and changing views is quick and easy.
To cull in AfterShoot, click the New Album button, chose your folder, and set your preferences for the cull. The options in Set Preferences are pretty self-explanatory. Expand the Advanced drop-down to chose whether closed eyes, blur and duplicates are detected. Change Stars/Colors is important for customizing your workflow.
Click the Start Culling button and the software starts its magic. When finished, you get an email notification, which is helpful.
How does manual culling compare to culling in AfterShoot?
I culled the same album manually and in AfterShoot as an experiment, and after my first pass I had selected 203 photos of the 366 in the album, compared to 196 selected by AfterShoot. When I compared the two sets, there were slight differences. Generally this was where I had chosen another duplicate in the same stack.
I found that the AfterShoot Selected photo is generally the sharpest on faces and eyes of the duplicate stack. I chose duplicates essentially at random: For example, I picked the first one I saw.
My camera (or me) struggles to grab focus sometimes, and as a result I often take two or three photos “just to be safe.” Having AfterShoot find the best focus of these copies is appealing and will save a lot of time.
AfterShoot is promoted as being best for “Weddings, Events, Portraits and Journalism” or any photoshoot that “involves humans.” However, when I tested it with flatlays, some macros, photos of my yard and so on, it stacked the duplicates and picked one from each stack. So I wouldn’t discount it for product, landscape or architecture photography, either. Other users in these niches are reporting success, so use the 30-day trial to give it a go yourself.
Features that AfterShoot needs to add
After the AI culling finishes, AfterShoot prompts you to review everything. You can change which one is Selected from stacks of duplicates, and check the focus on faces in the lightning-fast Loupe view.
However, there is no way to combine stacks of duplicates after a cull. As I wrote this AfterShoot review, I found that AfterShoot occasionally left photos separate that I would have called duplicates. It would be useful to combine these stacks so that just one photo is selected as best. I contacted support to confirm that this feature is not supported. The solution they gave is to run the cull again, with stricter rules on duplicates in Set Preferences.
Another option I would like to see is nominating how many photos I want selected from the set. The Set Preferences dialog has some control over this: Grouping Duplicates can be set to Lenient, Moderate, Strict or Extreme, and Selections in Duplicate set can be set to More, Moderate or Less. However, it would be great to say: “I want 30 images” or “between 30 and 40 images.” This would help photographers who deliver packages with set photo quantities.
As a guideline, with Grouping Duplicates and Selections in Duplicate set both on Moderate, approximately half to two-thirds of the images end up marked as Selected. The Amount of Highlights can be also be specified (none, 5%, 10%, 15% or 20%), so you could use this as a workaround by customizing your Stars/Colors and doing some basic math on your total photo count.
Exporting culled photos from AfterShoot
After you have reviewed AfterShoot’s cull, you get options for what you want to do with the files.
Exporting by moving or copying the photos to a folder is useful for easy deletion of rejected photos later. Most of my albums were already in my Lightroom Classic catalog, so I simply grabbed the new metadata (see below) without having to do anything else in AfterShoot.
When I tested the one-click Export to Lightroom Classic for photos not already in my catalog, it was very pleasantly one-click! Lightroom Classic opens with the import Select a source dialog box, open to the right folder, ready to go.
Using AfterShoot with photos already in Lightroom Classic
AfterShoot is designed to work by culling first, then exporting into Lightroom Classic or Capture One. However, I had just as much success culling photos that were already in my Lightroom Classic catalog.
To do this, first make sure Lightroom Classic is writing metadata to sidecar files (XMP files), by going to Edit > Catalog Settings > Metadata. Here, enable Automatically write changes into XMP. You only need to do this once per catalog, not every time you plan to use AfterShoot to cull.
Then, import your files and cull in AfterShoot as per usual. Make sure the setting Overwrite existing colors/stars is unchecked on the Set Preferences window, to preserve anything you have already done in Lightroom Classic.
After culling is finished, read the new AfterShoot metadata in Lightroom Classic. Lightroom Classic puts a warning icon on the photos to prompt you to do this. To read the new metadata, you simply select all the photos in the grid view of the Lightroom Classic Library tab, then click Metadata > Read Metadata from Files.
You will get a warning that the metadata will be overwritten. I found that photos I had Flagged in Lightroom Classic remained Flagged, and the stars and color labels were updated. My previous work on the photos remained untouched. Other metadata was not affected (captions, creator, etc).
AfterShoot review of performance
My computer’s performance with AfterShoot is not indicative of the expected performance. With the System Resources set to Medium, it takes about 10 minutes to cull a small batch of around thirty photos, around half an hour for a medium batch of a couple hundred photos, and several hours for a full-day wedding shot on two cameras with 2,000+ photos.
When I contacted support about duplicates (as mentioned earlier), they said at most it should take 30-40 minutes to cull 2,000 photos. This is a quirk with my machine (it runs slowly at the best of times). My colleagues who use AfterShoot have also reported much faster times getting through large batches.
Reviewing the selections is fast and responsive. The most recent update has improved this further. Loupe view now opens even faster to let you inspect faces and review duplicates. It’s much faster than zooming to 100% in Lightroom Classic to check face sharpness.
I love that cycling through photos in the Loupe view is also lightning fast. No waiting for previews to generate. The keyboard shortcuts (fully customizable) make it a breeze to switch out selected photos if you disagree with the AI’s choice.
AfterShoot — Final thoughts
I am genuinely impressed with AfterShoot. It’s going to be an important step in my workflow going forward. I have tried other programs to cull photos manually before importing to Lightroom Classic, as I find culling in Lightroom Classic slow, but none of them have the speed and AI features of AfterShoot.
The support team are responsive, and regularly release tweaks to the UI and new features. They are listening to users and adding new tutorial videos with updates too.
The price, however, makes this a good choice for professional photographers who are shooting high volumes of photos. For wedding, event and portrait photographers this would make a huge difference to speeding up the post-production workflow. At time of writing the cost is $14.99 billed monthly, or $119.88 billed annually. As a comparison, that puts it on par with the price of an Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan (Lightroom Classic, Lightroom and Photoshop).
For a program that only does one thing (albeit very well), it is probably not worth the investment for photographers shooting occasionally. It may be something to buy a month’s subscription of when you do have the occasional shoot, rather than a yearly investment.
For photographers drowning in photos, however, AfterShoot promises to be a timesaver well worth the investment for the hours of work (life) time it gives back.
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