Culling Photos with Vision

Last week I talked about the importance of vision to our photos. I also mentioned we may lose that vision even as we start to cull our images. Vision is the driving force behind why you took the photo. So how you shoot, the style, the processing, and the result should all flow from your vision. Your vision should direct every decision you make and that includes when you cull your images. 

I promised last week that I’d explain how I cull with my vision in mind.


At times I’ll shoot many frames of the same thing, searching for the best shot to represent my vision. If I have a Lensbaby on my camera, it’s even more. I end up with way too many photos.

I do want to say, I’m not spraying and praying. Instead I shoot with intention, but I try several perspectives, apertures, or move clutter (ahem). I used my Lensbaby in the video below. I don’t pose my girls and they move a lot, so to focus manually on them is tough. I shoot on continuous, and yes at times pray, to ensure I get what I want in focus while also staying true to my vision. As you’ll see in the video below, using a Lensbaby was the beginning of my vision. I have a lot of photos, and many that are repeats but that’s ok to me.

The thing is, we have to cull all those photos. Culling for some of us doesn’t happen for a little while after we took the shots. In that time we can forget our vision, usually if its not strong. This is why a strong vision or purpose is important to begin with. Or you can keep notes so you don’t forget.

When it comes to peeking at our photos on our computers, it is overwhelming. I say overwhelming because it seems an endless task to narrow down your photos to only one. Too often I have 500 photos that I need to narrow down, and to think I used to process them all! It’s stress inducing. But it doesn’t have to be. I’ve got some tips and a walk through below on my culling process. I hope it helps you understand the importance of vision and give you ideas for a process. I’ve also made a video for you to actually see my process as I cull shots taken with my Lensbaby at the beach last week.

Import Those Photos!

On import I do a quick once over of my photos in the grid format in Lightroom. If any are too dark, blown or obviously blurry or a junk shot, I don’t import it. But it has to be obvious from the grid view. Otherwise it gets imported. Yes, this takes up space on my external hard drive, but I don’t like to take a chance of deleting one that I might like later. 

Lightning Round

When you cull the first time, go quickly through your photos. Lightning fast, I keep my thumb hovered over the right arrow and my pointer finger over the number 1. I scan through each photo, rating those I might keep with a 1 star and skipping over those that I’m sure I don’t want. If I second guess, I keep it anyway. I can always throw it away. Use your first instinct only. 

Second Course

I take a break after the first culling. I know I have duplicates and some that are not good, but I always make a second round with fresh eyes. This second round I go slower and may at times start processing a little to get a better feel for an image. But I’m not full on processing them yet. The second round I often focus on technical issues with my images and at times on my vision. The second round is the beginning of letting some photos go. It’s hard but you’ll be happier that you didn’t keep it.

Processing and Vision

After I take another break, I begin processing my photos. I’ve narrowed them down to a few and now focus on creating photos with my vision in mind. It is here, as I process them that I may find a photo doesn’t reflect my vision well, or it’s just not working. This round is where my dearly loved darlings get killed off. It’s difficult. I may even process two similar photos and still struggle with deciding which to use. But here is where I must be ruthless. Here is where I call on my vision to decide which photos I want to process and share. 


An important point I want to bring up is you shouldn’t be afraid of the process. It goes faster than it sounds, especially since you aren’t processing the majority of your photos. Save all your images if you want, and those photos you let go, may have a jewel among them at a later day. A later day when you have fresh objective eyes with more experience and quite possibly a different style. Don’t be afraid to give up on the photos that don’t make the cut. You can always resurrect them. Don’t have fear in rejecting them. 

As you go through this process, don’t worry about what other people think, want or do. Don’t even think about other people, their photos, or what they may think of you. Do it for you. You are the only one that knows your vision and what you love. You are the only one that can create your art from your heart and soul. Have confidence in what you choose and trust your gut, what you love, and most importantly your vision. If you do this, you will keep your heart and vision in your photos.

Here’s the video I promised!


Culling Video from Kathleen Scott on Vimeo.