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5 Tips on How to Cull Your Photos to Make the Best Ones Shine

5 Great Tips on How to Cull Your Photos to Make the Best Ones Shine | OrganizingPhotos.net

As Professional Organizers, we’re always looking to declutter our lives. Getting rid of what we don’t need. It’s a big part of the organizing process, and a cathartic one at that. In Photo Organizing, the word “declutter” doesn’t really have the same ring to it. It’s hard to delete photos of your family… because they’re not really clutter, are they? So we use a different word: Culling. Culling our photos means that we select the best and delete the rest. Here to show us how that’s done is my amazing colleague Selin Tagmat of Mind Your Photos. Enjoy the read!


Ready to Cull?

Whether you’re a casual photo shooter, a hobbyist, or a pro photographer, culling is a crucial part of your photo organizing process. Culling means basically going through your photo collection and narrowing it down to best images you want to edit and use. It saves time when organizing and editing your photos by bringing forward the best photos in your collection and getting rid of the rest, so that you can enjoy your memories to the fullest.

Without a doubt, culling is a mentally and emotionally challenging task. We all have a hard time pushing the delete button when it comes to our memories, but life shouldn’t be that hard, so with these tips, we hope to help you achieve an efficient culling process! Let’s get to it!


5 Great Tips on How to Cull Your Photos to Make the Best Ones Shine | OrganizingPhotos.net

I’m a Perfect Pinnable!


Tip #1 – Develop Good Photo Habits (Shoot Responsibly)!

Nowadays with a camera in our pocket, we are sometimes a little too excited. We tend to capture everything, take photos one after another and then feeling overwhelmed with our digital photo chaos. This is the main reason why culling becomes a challenge. It takes so much time to select the best shots later. Putting it off isn’t the solution. That’s why it’s worth to review how you take photos and set healthy habits up front.

Here are a few points to consider:

  • Whenever you grab your camera to take photo or a video, have a moment of awareness about what urges you to record that moment. Is it worth?
  • Go through your camera roll and take a glance at what you have captured over the last month. Which photos are really of value to you and which others are rather creating noise in your collection?
  • Be aware of recurring habits such as obsessive photo taking moments and excessive multiple shots. Maybe even those grocery reminders?

Just becoming aware of your habits will reduce the clutter in your camera roll and reduce your culling workload. Get inspired with my bullet journal exercise to track and set your photo habits!


Tip #2 – Set Your Culling Criteria

Your culling process will be faster if you already have a criteria in mind on the types of photos you will absolutely let go of. Here are the top 8 types of memories you can delete from your photo collection right now:

  • Out-of-place photos such as random screenshots, reminders, images downloaded from web, social media and instant messaging
  • Mistakes, blurry, overexposed and underexposed photos
  • Bursts and photos similar to each other
  • Duplicates and thumbnails
  • Unflattering and poorly composed photos
  • Live photos (if you have an iPhone with this feature)
  • Too short and accidental video clips
  • Shaky videos

These are generally the kinds of photos cluttering your photo collection that aren’t worth keeping.


Tip #3 – Culling Your Photos Right on the Phone

Deleting your photos is way easier when they’re still on your phone and when your memory is still fresh. And what’s more, you can do the culling anytime and anywhere when you have them on your phone. Once they’re transferred to your computer, you will need the extra step of sitting by the table, turning on your computer and browsing through your photo collection.

Use shortcuts and automated solutions as much as possible for culling the kind of photos that don’t need much judgment:

  • If you have an iPhone, you can delete bursts and live photos easily by finding them in their dedicated albums in Apple Photos.
  • You can use an app like Duplicate Photos Fixer for removing duplicates and similar photos on your iPhone and Android. This app is also available for MacOS and Windows.
  • Adjust your phone settings in such a way that it limits the clutter – from burst photos, live photos, and incoming media from your instant messaging apps (like Whatsapp).


Tip #4 – Select Good Photos Rather than Deleting Bad Ones

Once you transfer the photos to your computer, I recommend you to focus on selecting good photos rather than deleting the bad ones. This will keep your motivation up by limiting the decisions you have to make. Frankly speaking, often we have more photos to delete than to keep, and turning the negative into a positive will speed up the culling process.

All you need to do is to tag your good photos and leave out all the rest (the ones that fall within your culling criteria). You can use colors, stars, or other labels to tag your good photos. Then it’ll be a matter of seconds for you to filter your good photos with the help of these tags and move them into a specific folder for later editing. For the rest, if you want to be on the safe side (and if you’re not ready for the delete button), keep them until you’re done with the editing of good ones and then batch delete after that.


Tip #5 – Choose a Culling System and Stick To It!

Use a culling system that works best with your knowledge level and use the same system each time, so you can get comfortable and familiar with it. Whether you’re using folders or a software, this helps your whole photo collection have a “common language.”



Beginner? Cull Natively

If you’re a beginner, a good place to start is using native tagging and rating features of your operating system. In MacOs, you can use the custom color tags to mark your best photos. On Windows, you can use the star rating feature.

Try using one color or rating for all the photos you want to keep. If you want to differentiate between the photos to keep for an album and photos to print, for example, then you can use two sorts of tags. However, if you start using different colors and number of stars, then decision and organizing process will become challenging for you. Keep it simple as much as possible.

Once you’re done with color tags or star rating rating, filter your photos to display only the ones you marked. You can then move all these photos on a different folder and you’re free to delete (or archive) the rest.

Here’s How to Cull Natively in MacOS:

Open your finder so you can see your folders and files, then set up and use the color tags to mark the photos you like. If you’re not familiar with how these customizable color tags work, be sure to read this article before you get started!


5 Great Tips on How to Cull Your Photos to Make the Best Ones Shine | OrganizingPhotos.net

On a Mac, you can assign a color class on your photos by simply tapping a photo with double finger and selecting your color.


5 Great Tips on How to Cull Your Photos to Make the Best Ones Shine | OrganizingPhotos.net

Then you will see the tags in the finder view next to your file information.


5 Great Tips on How to Cull Your Photos to Make the Best Ones Shine | OrganizingPhotos.net

Click on the color tag from the left sidebar to view the photos you want to keep. Then you can move it to another folder to work on editing.


Intermediate + Pro Level? Cull with a Software

If you’re more of an intermediate or pro user, your probably already have a favorite software that you’re using. If so, look for the most efficient ways to stay within that system when culling. If you don’t have a favorite way yet, we highly recommend using a fast image browser like Photo Mechanic or a more advanced photo management tool like Adobe Lightroom.

On Photo Mechanic you can cull and sort your photos by tagging, color classing, and rating, while on Adobe Lightroom, you have flagging, color labelling, and star rating options. You could even cull your photos quickly with Photo Mechanic and then import them to Adobe Lightroom for powerful editing if you enjoy and use both system. If you adjust your settings, you will have a smooth transfer of your tags, color classes, and ratings from the former to the latter. See Photo Mechanic’s external compatibility with Adobe Lightroom here.


Here’s How to Cull Your Photos with Photo Mechanic:

Open the program and set up your workspace with your selected folders and files. Once you have all the photos you wish to look at on the contact sheet, you’re ready to start.


5 Great Tips on How to Cull Your Photos to Make the Best Ones Shine | OrganizingPhotos.net

On the contact sheet, click on the bar below the file name (or tap with double finger) and select the color class you want to assign your photo. The bar will take that color once you assign it.


5 Great Tips on How to Cull Your Photos to Make the Best Ones Shine | OrganizingPhotos.net

If you prefer using star ratings, you can directly click on the stars on the bar below the file name and select the number of stars.


5 Great Tips on How to Cull Your Photos to Make the Best Ones Shine | OrganizingPhotos.net

For tagging a photo, just tick the small checkbox at the right bottom of the photo.


5 Great Tips on How to Cull Your Photos to Make the Best Ones Shine | OrganizingPhotos.net

Click on “Edit” from the main menu to filter your photos by tag, color class or rating.


Now that you know how to cull, go rock it!

Hope these tips will make you feel motivated and inspired about culling your photos effectively and making your best photos shine in your collection. Keep up the good work in decluttering and enjoy your memories to the fullest!

What Say You, Readers? Do You Find it Hard to Press Delete?


Featured Photo Courtesy of Selin Tagmat


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  • Lesley
    November 1, 2018 at 3:01 am

    Great post. And timely for me as I’m just going through culling my collection on Apple photos. I do the whole lot in Apple photos. I find it has everything I need. My collection is now 10,000 photos, which my son said I couldn’t have possibly handled with a physical collection. He’s right!

    I love your tip to control urges to over take photos, from the start. We just travelled through Europe where people were going berserk at tourist attractions taking photos. I found myself doing that myself because of the others around me. I did pause me to wonder if those people I saw, actually do anything with their photos afterwards. I suspect not…

    • Caroline Guntur
      November 1, 2018 at 9:33 am

      Haha! Thanks for sharing, Lesley! I tend to wonder if people who take those that many photos at the attractions ever really get to see the attractions. It’s like a frenzy trying to get the perfect shot so you don’t miss anything, but then you end up missing the whole experience anyway because you’ve deferred it and then never look at those photos. Right? I see the same thing happening at concerts and other events. Fascinating!

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