Image culling

Once photos have been safely imported it is best to separate the keepers from the rejects in the Library module using either the Grid or Loupe views. At a minimum it is a good idea to mark the images you like best using a one star rating. Do this early on while your memory is still fresh and you already have a good idea about which photos were the most successful.

As for those that don’t make the grade I would advise leaving them as zero star photos. And don’t delete anything unless it’s an obvious outtake. In fact, the only time I ever delete is in the case of a flash failure or accidental shutter release. With disk space being so cheap these days the the cost of storage is less of a concern that it used to be.

More importantly, you never know when the shots you thought were rejects might actually be useful one day. There was a time, for example,  when you might have bracketed exposures in order to make sure you got one perfectly exposed image. Then HDR technology came along, allowing you to make use of all the bracketed exposures to produce an HDR file.

The sunset photo shown below was shot almost ten years ago and was processed using the then current Camera Raw 2.4 profile. You can see how there was some ugly banding around the sun, yet when it is processed using Process Version 2012, I can now achieve a much-improved rendering, thanks solely to improvements in the conversion software.

Here is a close-up view of a sunset,
as captured using a Canon EOS 1Ds
camera. This photograph was taken
back in 2003 and processed using the
(then current) ACR 2.4 profile.
Here is the same image updated
to the latest Process Version 2012.
The image is still not perfect, but
using better processing, it is now
useable, where once it might have
been tossed as a reject.

The moral here is just because an image may look bad or worthless now doesn’t mean it won’t be useful in the future.

Another classic example is a photograph that I used to demonstrate retouching in The Ultimate Workshop book. The model was shot against a busy wallpaper backdrop, and the client wanted me to retouch out all the loose hairs. This could have been extremely tricky to do but for the fact that I had captured a couple of photos of the backdrop only without the model. This lighting test shot that one might have been inclined to discard was actually to prove a valuable asset and was therefore well worth keeping.

I used these images in the Adobe Photoshop for Photographers: The Ultimate Workshop book. This was an example of where the lighting test shot of the backdrop proved unexpectedly useful. By dragging this across to place as a new layer, I was able to sample from this layer to cover up loose hairs around the outline of the model.


The key to working efficiently in Lightroom is to first establish a methodical and consistent approach to how you import your files. You don't have to follow all the advice that's offered here, but hopefully you'll have picked up some tips that will help you refine and improve your current workflow.

Although the Import Photos dialog may seem daunting, it pays to spend some time up front configuring settings that address your organizational needs. You can then save these combined settings as preset to be applied on a regular basis to all subsequent imports. From then on, it should be as easy as inserting a camera card, waiting for the dialog to pop up, selecting your preset and pressing 'Import'.

Martin Evening is an award winning advertising and fashion photographer based in London, England. He is also a best-selling author of instructional titles such as The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Book and Adobe Photoshop CS6 for Photographers.