Sorting through hundreds, or even thousands of photos right after any trip, sort or small, can be extremely daunting. A lot of the time you’re exhausted, cranky about going back to work, jet lagged, or overall just plain unmotivated. Sure, the thrill of photographing the sights was there, but the thought of going back and organizing photos collecting dust weeks afterwards?
I know I certainly have had more than one mini-trip that has sat on the back-burner for a lot longer than need be. For me, I find sometimes the last thing on my mind after sitting for 4+ hours editing wedding photos to pay the bills, is to continue to sit and go through even more photos. Even if they’re from amazing places.
So why am I writing a post on the complete opposite? Realizing that I’m not the only one who struggles with this, and asking a few photographers as well as pretty organized individuals what their “secret” was to finding that to motivation to stay on task, I’ve compiled a list of different tips you can use as a guideline that I’ve found increases my output in a shorter amount of time while making the process as painless as possible. Let me know what works for you at the end in the comments or if you have any extra photo editing tips to go through a ton of images, I’d love to hear them!
Step 1: Decide on a photo editing program.
I personally use Lightroom to sort, cull images, and do overall tonal adjustments for all of my photos. Unfortunately, Adobe (who owns Lightroom, Photoshop, InDesign, etc) has switched to a monthly billing system which can be a little off-putting to some people (I prefer to pay a larger sum in the beginning and never have to worry about it again.) But at $9.99 a month, it isn’t all that bad. Plus, at the time of writing this, I do believe B&H and other online retailers sell the version earlier to the pay-to-play Adobe subscription at around $150.
With a bit of research, there are plenty of free or cheaper resources out there. You can use iPhoto that comes right with your Mac. I believe you can use Adobe Bridge which is free as well as Google’s Nik Collection. The point I’m trying to make is that, whatever you do, find a program that allows you to go through a lot of images in the most painless way as possible. Lightroom allows me to reject, flag, star, and color code my images so that’s what I’m sticking with.
Takeaway: Find software (free or paid) that allows you to quickly go through a ton of images versus clicking on folders and using the preview feature on your computer. This is not only a huge waste of time, but can overwhelm anyone with a thousand images in one folder.
Step 2: Figure out a method of organizing your images.
I got this one from my friend Nicole that is consistently touring with bands around the US & Canada. She separates her photos by date as well as location, making it easier to go back through and edit on the road in more bite-sized pieces. This is great for someone like me who waits until after a trip to go through two weeks worth of constantly shooting images.
Tip: If you’re bringing your laptop on your trip, try to download everything to your hard drive and delete the images off your memory card that day or every few days as places can start to blend together when you try to look back a month later.
Tip: Don’t want to do the above? I’ve also seen people write their destination on a piece of paper & photograph it at the beginning of each day to be able to go back and remember exactly where they were. After botching the names of the numerous waterfalls in Iceland by trying to recall them from memory, I should probably start implementing this one.
Shooting with just your iPhone? Try to go through each day’s images at night instead of scrolling through Facebook, deleting all the duplicates and rejects to make sorting them later on easier. You can also send them to separate albums or favorite your top picks for later reference.
Step 3: Divide & Conquer
Here’s the hard part, going through all the images. BUT, this should be substantially easier now that all your images are separated into folders. If some of the folders still seem daunting, divide them further by activity or town. Now, get to work. Put on some good music. Make a cup of tea. Star or flag the potential ones and get rid of the ones you know you’ll never want to look at again (duplicates, blurry photos, etc.) Here’s a few different methods I’ve implemented to make this part as painless as possible.
Method 1: Set a timer for 20 minute intervals.
I’ve personally found 20 minutes to be the most motivating time limit for me, and oftentimes set the timer for another 20 a few more times. This allows you to laser-focus for a fraction of an hour versus constantly checking when your hour and a half is up. Figure out what amount of time works for you if you have a hard time focusing.
Method 2: Work backwards.
Whenever I’m stumped on a set of images, I start from the last image in a set and work forwards. I don’t know what it is, but seeing things out-of-order and skipping the “bad” images in the beginning makes me finish a lot faster.
Method 3: Act fast.
My dad never understood why I didn’t spend more time focusing on images as he watched them wiz by on my screen, and the truth is I’d get overwhelmed if I didn’t work this way. I only allow myself a split second to decide on the images I want to keep as well as get rid of the first pass through and will take my time later on.
Step 4: Pare down your favorites even further.
Please tell me you didn’t start off by 5-starring everything. Hopefully if you’re using Lightroom, you went through and gave all the potential favorites a one star. This way, you can pull up all your one star images, go through only those, and increase the rating on the ones that stand out. I usually only have to go through 2 or 3 times to find my favorites, but on especially difficult photo sets, I’ve worked my way up to having to use the 5 stars.
And that should do it! Hopefully at least one of these steps was slightly helpful, making the process of going through a ton of travel photos a bit easier. I’m including some keyboard shortcuts for Lightroom (sorry for anyone else using another software program!) to make your life easier.
Summary: download & delete frequently, separate images by location and/or date, use the starring method in Lightroom, and delete the images you’d rather not have to look at again.
X: Reject an image (this isn’t deleting it, think of it as putting it aside to put into trash
CMD-Delete: Mass removes (leaves them in the folder on your computer) or deletes (puts them in your trash bin) all the files marked with the X, or reject flag.
N: Compares all images selected in Survey mode. Good for if you have multiples you can’t decide between, it can be helpful to have the side-by-side
L: Switches through various viewing methods, great for when you’re in Survey mode and need to focus on just the images selected.
E: Brings you back to library mode
Still having a hard time going through photos? Want more Lightroom shortcuts or editing tips? Let me know in the comments below so I can include them in my next tutorial!
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