6 Best Photo Culling Services
By Anete Lusina
Culling hundreds, if not thousands, of photos, is a tedious and time-consuming task. After you have spent hours in front of your screen, you can soon become "image blind." This is a familiar feeling to most wedding and event photographers.
But, you can now use different photo culling services and software that make the job easier and faster. You will also have more time to focus on other aspects of your photography and business. Take a look at our selection of six popular culling software choices, some manual, and others AI-powered.
Wand Plugin for Lightroom Classic
Do you shoot high-volume and people-based photography? Do you already use Adobe Lightroom for your photo editing? If so, Wand Plugin is a great choice to get all your photo culling done in Lightroom. You don't even have to download any third-party programs, and Wand is available for both macOS and Windows.
The tool's AI does the culling for you and separates the weakest shots from the rest. With one click, Wand Plugin reduces your initial image batch by 30-50% on average. You can select Wand to cull during the first file import or apply it on images already in your Lightroom catalog.
The tool picks out near-duplicates and images with technical mistakes, like wrong exposures or if your subject has eyes closed. Wand also looks at facial expressions and significant faces that appear in your gallery to analyze the photos. All photos that Wand determines as rejected receive a purple color label.
The plugin also adds filters and keywords to both rejected photos and those with technical issues. Even though an image may be underexposed, Wand knows it doesn’t automatically mean you want to remove it. For that reason, you can use the different filters and keywords to scan which images are keepers and which are not. If you want to see the rejected photos alongside the successful ones, you can do that, too.
The plugin's seamless integration into Lightroom makes for a non-disruptive workflow. Wand doesn't clutter your workspace with extra tools or unwanted features, leaving you focused on your photos.
A bonus for photographers and editors who don't have access to original files is that Wand can also use Lightroom's Smart Previews to do the culling! Also, the plugin culls using cloud services so you can continue working on your device with no interference.
Photo Mechanic is fast to ingest and render images. Before alternative AI-based culling tools, Photo Mechanic was, arguably, one of the go-to software choices for browsing, managing, and selecting images.
In Photo Mechanic, you can make your way through hundreds of images very fast — tagging, sorting, and key-wording as you go. Once you have made your final selections, you have to import them into your photo editor of choice.
For a first-time user, the software may appear complicated. It also takes time to revise a workflow, learn shortcuts, and understand the user interface.
No doubt, Photo Mechanic is an extensive piece of software. Yet, some features are also available on Lightroom. For example, geotagging, image comparison side by side, date and time synchronization, web upload, and keywording.
For photographers who want to cull and review each image in great detail, Narrative Select has several AI-powered tools for that. Narrative Select has features, like a close-up panel, to check subjects' eyes and the image focus, convenient for group shots.
Yet, you still need to make the final decision and tag which images you want to pick as "good" ones. The AI tools merely supplement the culling process to help you spot which images are keepers and which aren't. At the same time, inspecting each image in great detail may slow your photo culling.
Narrative Select has also introduced an Image Assessment feature. It instantly hides the worst images, reducing the collection of photos you need to cull by 20-30%.
At the moment, Narrative Select is only available on macOS. The software has a minimum system requirement of the High Sierra operating system and requires at least 1GB free disk space.
Also empowered by AI automation, Aftershoot is stand-alone software. Unlike Narrative Select, it culls photos for you. You select the parameters for culling, and the software places photos in corresponding folders, such as duplicates, blurry shots, closed eyes, and others.
The software also assigns several color labels and ratings to all images. But, you may find this cumbersome if you need to use filters to further sort and arrange your pictures in Lightroom. Aftershoot also doesn't support file renaming, unlike Photo Mechanic.
If the AI has rejected some images you want to keep, you have the option to go through all selections and change the labels yourself. Once you've done that, you can import your photos into Lightroom or Capture One or export them to a destination folder on your device.
If you have thousands of files to go through, your computer resources will likely take a hit while you wait for Aftershoot to cull. During this time, you may not be able to use other powerful programs on your device.
ACDSee's products, like Photo Studio Home 2022 and Photo Studio Ultimate 2022, offer digital asset management tools alongside photo editing. ACDSee is a powerhouse that combines it all under one roof, from viewing to culling, editing, and organizing your photos.
Although ACDSee has recently introduced several AI-powered features like facial recognition to speed up file management, you still have to filter and cull your files manually.
Because the software has both culling and editing tools, you would likely migrate your workflow and images from Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. Otherwise, you risk the culling and editing process becoming longer, switching between the different programs.
Although most of ACDSee's products are Windows-only, the company has released a lighter version of its software for macOS, too. Unlike Lightroom, ACDSee offers its software for a one-time fee.
Human Outsourcing Services
Not so long ago, photographers' only option to outsource culling and editing was to hire a third-party professional or an agency. This model became popular in the early days of digital photography. Since then, photographers have had access to editors worldwide.
Most human outsourcing services use a pay-per-use pricing model. Although the business generally applies discounts for large volume orders, the fee is still not accessible to everyone. Unlike automated tools, human editing services often have slow turnaround times. The delay is even more prevalent during the peak wedding seasons.
Understandably, photographers are faster to warm up to another person doing the culling and editing instead of relying on technology. But, that also means you have to invest time in clear communication with your editor. Doing so helps both parties better understand your needs and style.
You also need to consider that if your editor suddenly leaves the position or cannot take your order, you will have to find a suitable alternative at short notice, which can be stressful.