How to Cull and Edit Wedding Photos Quickly

Time is money. It’s nothing we don’t already know, but it’s probably why you’re interested and wondering how to quickly select and edit a marriage. Maybe you’re overwhelmed with work during wedding season or your clients are asking for a faster turnaround.

Being able to select and edit a wedding quickly will allow you to get out from behind your computer and start filming. I’m not suggesting that you compromise the quality of your work, but rather find ways to be more efficient in your business.

How to Select and Edit a Marriage Quickly

I’ll walk through a 4-step process with some tips and tricks to improve your editing speed without sacrificing quality.

Step 1: Do it right behind closed doors
2nd step: Slaughter
Step 3: Reduce
Step 4: Edit

Step 1. Doing it right behind closed doors

If there’s one singular thing you can do to reduce the time you spend editing your photos, it’s to get the photos right the first time. Sure, our editing software can fix something that’s underexposed or out of frame, but that doesn’t mean it should. Your goal might be to take the photo right the first time so you don’t have to edit it.

What if you had to show your unretouched photos to the world? I am not talking about all the photos you have taken, but more specifically the photos you deliver. How are they different from the final version?

Another way your shooting style can impact your kill is your patience while shooting. If you take random photos everywhere, it can be very difficult to cull your photos and remove duplicates. Conversely, if you stick with one shot until you nail it, then when you go back and eliminate you can quickly find the best shot in a cluster.

This brings us to culling, which means reducing or controlling the size of something. There are different schools of thought regarding the number of photos you deliver to your client. I think it’s important to provide your strongest images that cover everything important without miscellaneous duplicates.

You don’t want your client to be overwhelmed with decisions when trying to decide which photos to print or put in their album.

Step 2. Selecting Your Wedding Photography Images

Therefore, the first step in quickly editing a wedding is to reduce your images from thousands to hundreds. It’s hard. It is especially difficult if we are married to our work.

Slaughter is a challenge as you make thousands of decisions and you need to make them fast otherwise it will take forever. Tilt should be attached to every photo because of the intention you had when you took it. Instead, the goal is to focus on how the actual photo turned out.

Slaughter Mindset

The first step is to have a target frame count, this will help you learn to be rough with your cuts. If you can only pick one out of 10, you’ll be less attached to that mediocre photo. It may take some practice, but once you do it a few times you will get better.

Next, you need to adapt your mindset to the fact that your client will focus on the photos you deliver, not the ones you don’t. So you need to release and let go of the mediocre images and instead focus on the strong ones. If you make it through the showdown and fail, you can always go back and take more, but chances are you won’t.

Another mindset hack is to think about the customer and what you know about their preferences. If they like candids, your set of images may be heavier, while if they like details, it may be more detailed. In general, avoid similar and duplicate photos as it is your job to provide the best images.

And finally, you may need to make sure you did it right. Looking at all your bad photos can be disheartening, and you might start picking on some mediocre ones because you’re worried you won’t have good ones. Avoid this pitfall, select only the best photos and you can always go back and take more (but I bet you won’t have to.)

Slaughtering process

As for the process, you’ll want to have a system for indicating which photos you select. I quickly select in Photo Mechanic then edit in Lightroom. I use star ratings to select photos in Photo Mechanic, then read that metadata in Lightroom.

Wedding photos uploaded to Photo Mechanic.

First, decide in which order you want to select the photos. Some people like to go back and forth in the order they took the shots while others like to go forward in hopes of seeing their strongest images first. Another strategy is to select by lens, a method I highly recommend and works well for me, especially since I’m shooting with my husband and selecting all the images at once.

Another effective strategy is to cull from a grid view, especially if you have image clusters from shooting through the moment in a photojournalistic style. You can look at the grid of multiple images from the same moment and select the best one. Remember that culling is a quick and dirty instinctive first pass and you can always take a different version of a shot later if you notice a little detail is wrong.

If I can’t tell which image is best very quickly, I’ll usually quickly highlight a few versions of a shot knowing that it’ll be quicker to scale it down on my next pass. This leads us to reduce the photos. Close Photo Mechanic, open Lightroom, update the metadata, then get up from your chair for a snack or bathroom break.

A wedding photo in Adobe Lightroom.

Step 3. Reduce your images to the best of the best

Now is the moment of truth. Filter your images by the number of stars you used and see how close you get to your target number of images. The first few times you do this you might be way off, but as I got more ruthless with my slaughter, I got more accurate.

If your frame count is way off your target, it could be because you weren’t picky enough or under some circumstances where you might have more frames than usual, like a big wedding party or lots of combinations of family photos or more details than usual. Do not hesitate to take this into account.

Reduction process

Now is the time to reduce your frames to a manageable number of frames. This is where I personally like to filter by objective. I start with the goal with the fewest frames, then I celebrate checking that goal off my list and so on builds momentum. I also use the grid view to quickly find areas that I know need to be reduced, such as when I entered duplicates because I couldn’t tell which was better.

After getting rid of the duplicates by objective, I go back to the whole collection and look at the different sections of the day. If I’m obsessed with first dance photos, I’ll look at all first dance photos and choose the best ones. Then I’ll do the same for all other sections of the day until I’m close to my target frame count.

If you are working with a second shooter and have not yet combined images into your selection, you will definitely want to do so at this point to ensure a balanced image gallery.

It’s time for another stretch break while you render previews of your selected image collection. I know the software timeout is frustrating, but honestly, you should still get up from your computer and rendering hundreds is faster than thousands if you didn’t use Photo Mechanic in the first place.

Step 4. Editing Your Wedding Images with Tiering

Now it’s time to edit. If you create a basic preset for your files, you can apply it in batches to the entire image for an instant enhancement to match your style. As a bonus, you can even do this before loading previews!

To give you an idea, our basic preset applies a fast tone curve for medium contrast and simple slider adjustments like a slight increase in exposure based on our tendency to shoot a bit dark on our mirrorless cameras. Other sliders bring up shadows and saturation and you can also apply a lens correction profile.

Now, if you’ve done a good job of taking the footage correctly in camera with proper framing and lighting, the edit should be pretty quick. Again, you can decide in which order you want to edit either by objective, by section of the day, or directly. Again, per-lens editing works great for us depending on how we’re shooting, but it might not be relevant for you if you’re shooting with a zoom lens and no second shooter.

As I mentioned before, we use a snowball method to increase our motivation by eliminating one photo goal at a time.

Sometimes certain sections of the day will require more editing depending on the lighting conditions or if there was a super cluttered background, for example. If this happens you will be slowed down in those sections fixing exposure etc.

Prioritize your changes

The last thing you need to do is filter your images on highlights. When selecting and reducing, I use 2 stars for initial selections but eliminated during reduction, 3 stars for selections, 4 stars for ones that look pretty good, and 5 stars for ones that I like. Then, while editing, we can filter out 4 and 5 stars and select the best images for the client’s blog, album, and gallery highlights section.

These are the images we spend the most time on because they are the ones that will end up being printed and shared.

Conclusion

The key to eliminating and editing a marriage quickly comes down to having a system and then implementing it without emotion. If you follow a system, you’re less likely to get attached to too many pictures or get bogged down in perfection. Cut down quickly and spend the majority of your time on a few select images.

Here are some other tips to speed up your process:

  1. Import and save right after shooting so your images are ready for selection the next day.
  2. Turn off distractions like email, phone, or Netflix. You may be able to listen to music or a podcast, but only if it helps you focus on the task at hand.
  3. Write a to-do list of shots you need to edit on a whiteboard with checkboxes to delete, reduce, edit, deliver, or anything else in your workflow. It’s satisfying, rewarding and motivating to check things off a list.

About the Author: Brenda Bergreen is a Colorado wedding photographer, videographer, yoga instructor and writer who works alongside her husband at Bergreen Photography. With their mission and mantra “Love. Adventurous. They are dedicated to telling stories of adventures in beautiful places.

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