Mastering image management and post production workflows: Speed culling with Photo Mechanic

Photo Mechanic Previews

As your business grows, you’ll realize that you can no longer get away with slapdash methods of managing your files and delivering on assignments. Image stores will get bigger and heavier, locating files can be akin to finding a needle in a haystack, and you will not have the luxury of time to do anything apart from your core tasks.

Introduce efficiency practices in your workflow, and you can save time and effort. There are obvious advantages to this—faster delivery, fewer mess-ups, more time for additional assignments, and the extra ounces of reputation that give you an edge over competition. Of course, how you convert savings to opportunities will depend on your business acumen.

In this 2-part series, we are going to discuss two simple ways of saving image management and post production time, speeding your workflow, and being more organized.

Culling your images 

While discussing film vs. digital, among the many things that people talk about is the significant increase in the number of images captured in a single session.

With no “cost per roll” to worry about, to make 100 good images, people shoot anywhere from 500 to 1500 exposures. Of course, with more statistical evidence, we might find the number to be higher.

You can’t possibly keep hoarding duplicates or bad exposures. So, culling is a necessity, and not just a “best practice.” The cost of storage will, in no time, outmatch and surpass the savings you initially realized while moving from film.

There is no “right” method to cull; the faster method is always the best. So, from our research and experience, we find one particular application to be quite efficient and fast—Photo Mechanic from Camera Bits.

The interface is intuitive and simple. The previews load as fast as you need. And, the speed of culling depends entirely on how fast you are in choosing a good image.  

Culling with Photo Mechanic 5 (latest version as of February, 2015)



The home screen is a fairly simple layout. Choose the folder from the left panel, and double-click to open the entire folder in a tab on the right (default tab says “untitled” in the screenshot). You can open multiple tabs and switch between them



Double-clicking on any image in the right panel will open the Preview page for culling. Use keyboard shortcuts (numbers 1-5) to rate your images, and you can also use colors (CTRL/CMD + numbers 1-8) to flag images that you might want to retain, but not rate.

Photo Mechanic for speed culling

Photo Mechanic is among the best options available for speed culling. To put things in perspective, sports photographers use it a lot, when they have little time between breaks and quick delivery means more money.

With Photo Mechanic, the previews load a lot faster. Plus, you can set your preferences to show high quality embedded JPEG previews (as opposed to the RAW view in Lightroom).

When you set a rating or a color label, you can also set your preference to automatically advance to the next photo. This is a lot faster than using the arrow keys to move to the next photo.

XMP files are generated when you cull on Photo Mechanic, so you can seamlessly transfer the ratings and labels on to editing software like Lightroom.

After you’re done culling, you can use filters to list the “unusables” and move them to the trash bin.

 Setting up Photo Mechanic

There are dozens of customization options available on Photo Mechanic. But, if it’s just basic culling of pictures that you’re looking at currently, we recommend a couple of quick changes to the default settings in the Preferences menu.

In the Preview section, check all the boxes under “Automatically advance to next photo when:”



In the Accessibility section, enable the button “0-5 sets Rating” under “Single key shortcut for Color Class or 5-star Rating:”. This will let you use the numeric keys to rate, rather than setting a color label (which, after the change, can be done using CTRL/CMD plus numeric keys).



We recommend you to explore all the settings and choose your preferences to set up a workflow that you’d like.

Part 2: Creating Lightroom catalogs


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