We shoot digital. We shoot a lot. Often way too much.

Hey, that’s the beauty of it, right? One shot or a thousand shots cost the same if your memory card is good. But is that really true?

Aside from the fact that I remember my fashion editorial days, when we shot three rolls of film for every image, if not four. That’s between 100 and 140 shots per image, not so different from what we do today — but I digress, although this is probably a good topic for another post.

The point is if we have to spend hours culling our images, are those extra shots really worth it? Sometimes yes, they are, so why not find a way to cull faster? And here we go — a few quick tricks to speed up your culling and never have those quick-burst guilt pangs again.

Before import: Create a metadata preset

lightroom, metadata preset

Before you import your images, create a preset that you’re going to use for every card download from now on.

Include your copyright details, and assign one star to every image. Call it 2019, and then make a copy of this to update every year.

On import: Assign the 2019 preset and create smart previews

Ideally, keep the LR catalog on the internal drive and store the images on an external hard drive. You will thank me later. 

Assign the 2019 preset, and click on the Smart Previews checkbox. 

When the images are imported, eject the hard drive. Ta-da! You’ve just sped up Lightroom, because it doesn’t have to revert back to the original image every time you switch from one to another. It now works on those wonderful smart previews you’ve made, which are waaaaaay faster to load. On your way now.

lightroom, import window, smart previews, previews,

Next hero move: Caps lock

Click on the Caps Lock key. This will automatically take you to the next image as soon as you assign a rating to the one before. Easier done than explained — bear with me and you’ll see it happen. For now, just click that shift lock and make sure it’s on.

The true superpower: Hold your fingers on the number keys

As you click on a number, Lightroom will automatically assign that rating to the image, and having your the Caps Lock on will pull up the next image without you having to click on it or use the arrows. Magic!

Now for the real boost: TWO is for keepers

All your images have one star now. All you have to do is start with the first image and click either ZERO or ONE or TWO.

ZERO is for the blurred, bad images you want to delete. I don’t bother with marking photos as rejects (hitting the X key), as it doesn’t make my workflow faster. I can later filter search all the zero rated files and delete them just as fast.

ONE is for what you want to keep but it’s not great. TWO is for the keepers — the ones you will want to process.

lightroom, star rating, stars, three stars

And that’s it! You’ll be amazed at how fast you can do this. Two fast runs is usually all it takes to cut things down to a fifth of what you have. A wedding takes me half an hour to an hour at the most, and is actually quite fun.

When I edit, I give three stars to the edited ones, and leave at two the ones that are good but didn’t quite make the final showreel. That way, they can be easy to find again if I need them. And the best of the best gets four stars, the ones I want to find again for the portfolio. You know them when you see them.

Oh, and while you’re at this — editing on smart previews is also waaaaaay faster than doing it with files connected, so you might just want to get cracking and finish it off in one go. Inspiration hits best when things go fast ad easy.

At then end of all this, re-attach your hard drive and all the work gets re-connected to your original files. More magic!

Now be a darling and let me know if you try this and how it works for you. And if you have any other tricks to warp-speed your culling, comment below!