A Faster Way to Sort Through Large Batches of Raw Images

Culling a large set of raw photos can take a particularly long time as you wait for Lightroom to render previews for all the images, but luckily, there's a faster way to do it. This quick video will introduce you to programs dedicated to exactly this task.

Coming to you from David Bergman of Adorama TV, this great video talks about dedicated image ingestion programs and how they can make a big difference in the amount of time you spend culling images. The problem comes when you have to wait for Lightroom or your image-cataloging program of choice to generate previews from all your raw files into actual images that can be displayed. Dedicated ingestion programs like Photo Mechanic are designed to alleviate this exact issue, offering you lightning-fast previews and basic abilities like ratings, tags, and adding metadata. This allows you to make your selections before you bring them into a program like Lightroom, drastically cutting down on the number of files for which the program has to generate previews and saving you lots of time. If you're someone like a wedding photographer who comes home with thousands of raw files, such a program is invaluable. Check out the video above for more!

Lead image by Bruce Mars, used under Creative Commons.

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23 Comments

Tim McGlynn's picture

If you're not a professional, you may not want to spend $150 for Photo Mechanic. I use IrfanView to go through the images on my SD card and the F8 key to copy to a preset location on my hard drive, and then import into Lightroom from there. I can't say if IrfanView can read all RAW files, but it does read those from my Nikon D750. My only wish is that IrfanView would let us change F8 to a more-convenient key.

Motti Bembaron's picture

Even for a pro, spending $150 on a program just to cull images is a bit expensive.

Spending just $150 to save hours of your life every week is a very good investment.

Motti Bembaron's picture

Unfortunately, those "good investments" never end :-) At one point we have to stop spending and work with what we have. Although Lightroom is garbage in culling, when I have a job with more than few hundred images, I usually create a new gallery just for that job and worked on it. when done, I export it and then import it to the main gallery (my galleries are by year).

It works OK most of the time. I also have the bad habit of editing while culling (I am sure I am not the only one) so working in one app works better for me.

I know it's time to look for another option for editing. LR just does not work well anymore.

Strangely, after 1 PhotoMechanic I've never needed replacement again...

PS: I have job more than few hundred images couple of times a week :)

Motti Bembaron's picture

Good to know. Good thing there are alternative to Lightroom. I will give it a try.

Lenzy Ruffin's picture

I switched to Capture One ($300) a few months ago and couldn’t be happier. It’s much faster than Lightroom at rendering previews and everything else. And the editing tools are significantly more granular and advanced. Color correction is WAY faster and easier in Capture One.

For edits that Capture One can’t handle, I use Affinity Photo ($50). I don’t know how Affinity Photo offers so much at that price, but it’s capable of far more than I’ll ever need.

Couple of times C1 lost my folders with all adjustments I’ve made after move of the folders. Since then I slowed down C1 adoption.

Lenzy Ruffin's picture

Are you moving folders within Capture One or outside of Capture One? Capture One, Lightroom and any other catalog-based image manager will fail if you move files and folders around outside the application.

I moved inside and it was gone.

And every time I move outside, I can point software to the new folder location.

Motti Bembaron's picture

Affinity is also an app I promised myself to look into. Thanks for the info.

How many images do you shoot and how much is your time worth? I shoot high school sports and easily shoot several hundred for a basketball game or 1,500 for a football game. $150 sounds expensive, but I made that investment 4 years ago and saved countless hours (days, maybe weeks) of work as a result. At least PhotoMechanic doesn't require a subscription...yet.

Motti Bembaron's picture

Yes, it makes sense. I also shoot schools but even a small family shoot can reach few hundreds to over 1,000 photos. My work flow is a mix of culling and editing at the same time. Not the best approach but that's how I do it.

I will give it a try for sure.

Photo mechanic, paid once 4 years ago, regular updates never charged again.Excellent. When I bought it ot was $130. Look at it on a month by month basis against what you are paying for other programs that have updates with little change just to make sure you keep buying. Capture one... a bit like Wacom tablets... bells and whistle to keep ahead of the competitors but run on wonky base software and drivers that tend not to be compatibe with a lot of things. Once you have problems the back up service in both starts out geat and then just disap a r s... (if you get my drift). After my second wedding with Capture One I decided that thanks, but no thanks. Never been happier.

Motti Bembaron's picture

That's important to know. True, most apps need to be upgraded every year and the cost keeps piling.

One of the primary reasons I assisted "unit photographer's" on movie sets was to study the industry's demanding fast paced workflow. All of these guys adopted Photo Mechanic for it's fast ingest, stability and ease of use.

Photo Mechanic is what I would call a solid decent software company...they don't gouge you with perpetual updates-their software just works. Golden in this day and age.

Motti Bembaron's picture

In this day and age...a company that does not milk us photographers, it is rare :-) Cheers.

I personally export smaller JPGs with a smaller size and just the basic curve (I use Darktable), then cycle through them using my regular image viewer. When I see photos I like, I just rate them two stars in Darktable. Then if needed, I do a second culling with the two stars rated photos, and I rate the resulting photos three stars. Then I process them, rate them four stars, and export them.

I use PhotoMechanic for some reasons (Metadata before the shoot, file renaming etc.). For culling Lightroom will do better since the second last update. You can change the settings so that LR will also use the embadded JPEG for previews and do the generation of the raw previews later.

Photomechanic is the industry (certainly news/wire service/sports) standard for a reason- using it for injest/rating/metadata is fantastic. I use it with Capture One- and the combo has served me very well.

Christoph .'s picture

I use Bridge, and with the right settings it's really effective. Everything loads instantly, in high res and I can rate my images. I'm still amazed there are people/masochists out there that cull with Lightroom.

I don't understand the love for PhotoMechanic. I've tried it and it just doesn't seem to have anything to offer that Bridge doesn't.

Dan Marchant's picture

"Culling a large set of raw photos can take a particularly long time as you wait for Lightroom to render previews for all the images...."

Clearly written by someone who doesn't know how to use Lightroom. You don't need to render previews or even import images to cull with Lightroom.

Update: I just got home from shooting Rugby. I sorted a total of 563 images and culled/deselected 220 images (while they were still on the card) using Lightroom's Import dialogue screen without any previews being rendered. As a result those 220 images were never imported (and then culled/deleted). Once the remaining images were imported I culled an additional 9 images.

First of all PhotoMechanic is FAST, I mean it is blazing fast. fastest software I have ever used for RAW image review .do not compare it with irfan view or some free stuff .Irfan view do not support most of the raw image formats . lightroom is slow as turtle .capture one is relatively fast. In my opinion the only negative thing is price point