How to choose your best photos from a holiday or photography trip using Lightroom

How to choose your best photos from a holiday or photography trip using Lightroom

I need to pick up on my Santorini photos.

As I explained the other day, I have realised that I am not able to dedicate two months to my photos of Santorini – the reality is that if I stuck to this I would never get anything else done.

I have decided instead to schedule weekly posts, the first being about selecting the images from the trip. And this is it here.

I want to explain the point of these posts, which is to help people faced with a large number of images from a single trip. I have deliberately titled this post

“How to choose your best photos from a holiday or photography trip in Lightroom to focus my writing to what will be helpful to the most people, me included. Ok I am writing this for me to hopefully spur me on to sorting all my photos from various trips.

In this first post I will write about the process I go through to narrow down over 2000 images quickly and efficiently to the ones I want to edit and use.

This is a change of emphasis on my photography blog – rather than just writing about me and what I have done I want to broaden out some of the posts to be of practical use to readers of my blog. This is the first post written specifically with this in mind.

This is the result of me thinking about what I am doing, and what I want to achieve with my photography blog.

I know – me thinking – dangerous!

What do I want from my photography blog? Of course, world domination of the photography blogging sector is aim number 1. And increased traffic to my blog and website – we all want that after all don’t we?

But I also want to produce information that is helpful to people, that people will find value in, and that people will comment on and share.

And I want to sort out all my photos from all my trips – that is the thing that you will find right at the end of this post.

Have you sorted out all your holiday photos?

I am sure there are many people out there just like me who have been away on holiday, come back, loaded the photos onto their computer and then not much more happens with them.

Seriously I have quite a few foreign holidays where all I have done is just that, and picked out a few nice photos and done quick edits.

So, the point of this post is to break that cycle, and come up with a plan to quickly select the best photos from a trip, which in this case is my photographic trip to Santorini, the lovely Greek island.

My plan for the photos from my holidays and photography trips

I am going to go through this in sections, with the first section being image selection.

At the end of this first post I will produce a step by step action list for you and I to use for other such trips.

Just the image selection bit – this is the hardest bit I find.

My aim before I embark on this image selection process is to narrow down the 2000 images to somewhere between 20 and 50 images for full editing.

Editing will be the next post, so I will restrict myself to image selection here.

The other point is what we all do with the photos we have taken – I have lots of thoughts and ideas about this, but this is all for another time.

How did I get on then? The bit above I wrote before I went through my photographs of Santorini. The next bit I wrote before, during and after the image sorting. Yes, this is not me just writing waffle about how I select images in Lightroom – this is what I actually did.

The starting point is this - I had already imported the images into Lightroom some time ago, and had many a browse of the images on my iPad Pro using Lightroom Mobile.

When I import images, I apply metadata, develop presets, Smart Previews and also create a duplicate copy set on a separate drive.

That is a lot to do on import, and this takes some time. In the case of this trip the photos were spread over 5 memory cards, one per day. I do this so if I lose a card, or if I have a problem with a card, it only affects that day’s images – the rest are safely stored in the safe.

When I import images onto my Dell PC I just let Lightroom them in the folder it chooses – I can sort this later.

The images are on my hard drive – ok? This is where I begin this post.

Get the time right

First thing I do after importing the images into Lightroom is check that the time of the image captures is correct – I have to do this as I normally forget to change the time on my camera when on a foreign trip.

There is an easy way to do this – I just check one of the photos taken on my iPhone 7 Plus, which is clever enough to know where I am always!

Sort out the bracketed sets

My next job is to sort the images into bracketed sets. I have to do this as I take a bracketed set of three images for merging into single HDR images later.

To do this I select all the images by clicking on one image then use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl A, which selects all the images. Next, I right click and the option Stacking appears. Hover over stacking and a sub-menu appears, at the bottom you will find Auto Stack by Capture Time.

I select this, and then click Stack, I leave the default time between stacks at 2 seconds, which works for me. You can change this to whatever works for you by moving the slider left and right.

OK – that is all the images into stacks.

Or is it?

I click on any image, select Control A again, right click and this time choose Stacking, and this time Collapse All Stacks. This does what it says, collapsing the stacks, so only the first image is visible.

This is crucial for me in image selection, reducing the number of images and letting me choose from just the correct exposure.

I check that all images are in stacks of three. There will be the odd single image which is fine – I leave them.

There will probably also be the odd set of three that are not in a stack, for whatever reason. All you need to do is select the three images, then click on the first image, and then use the keyboard shortcut Control G, which adds them to a stack. It is important that you click on the first image, which puts that image to the top of the stack.

Stacking done – what’s next?

OK – I have gone from a screen with 2261 images to a screen with 759 images, making the job of image selection obviously much easier.

If I am not going to be finishing the job there and then I will add this set of images to a Collection in Lightroom, which I can view on my iPhone and iPad.

The bad news is this – that is the easy, technical Lightroom stuff done.

Now for the hard bit – choosing the images.

I am not very good at this, I take too long doing this. I need to be more brutal.

This is how I do it.

I click on the first image, and get rid of all the things that are not the image, by clicking the keyboard shortcut E, which takes you to the Loupe view. If you hit F you get the image on the full screen, but I do not like this, and am happy with the Loupe View. Next, I press Shift Tab and the side panels disappear, followed by L twice which turns off the lights.

I have just compared Loupe View with full screen, and am not sure why I do not like the full screen option, but I don’t, and that is that! Sometimes I keep the film strip at the bottom.

It doesn’t matter – just do what makes you happy.

Now I have the first image on my screen, with no other distractions, it is time to get stuck in to choosing the images.

I have refined my process to this.

  1. Hit P to Pick an image – a white flag appears top left on the image.
  2. If I don’t like an image, I hit X, which rejects the image.
  3. If you change your mind U removes the selection.
  4. And I go through the images one by one, picking the ones I like, and rejecting the rubbish.

It is that simple.

How did I get on with the set of photos of Santorini?

Well it took me 47 minutes to go through the images on a first pass – that is 759 images.

And out of those 759 images I picked how many?

Well first we need to get this information out of Lightroom. If the Filter Bar is not showing at the top of your screen hit the key \ and you will see four words appear.

  • Text
  • Attribute
  • Metadata
  • None

These are very powerful tools in Lightroom. In this case I only want to see the Picks, so I select Attribute, and another bar appears below the filter bar.

Here click on the left flag which you will see to the right of the word attribute on this new bar, and Lightroom, quick as a flash, shows you the picks only.

Ouch – 227 images in the first pass – far too many.

I was hoping for 20-50 picks, but am not going to be driven by numbers, only by the best images. One of my criteria for selecting an image is this – do I want to spend the time editing an image in Lightroom and Photoshop?

Another criterion is this – is the image I am selecting one that I will use in any way other than to look at on my PC and congratulate myself on how wonderful I am?

Hmmmmmm.

Narrowing down the selections

Next thing I do is go through the selection of picks and remove similar images. I am not too careful on the first pass – I just pick what I like and move on. And that takes me long enough!

I need to say at this point that the second pass will vary depending on the images that I am selecting, and what they are for, but this is typical of what I go through on a multi-day foreign trip.

One thing that I forgot to do until I was half way through was to give instantly good images a 5-star rating, just to make them stand out. These are images that immediately hit me as good, which is a good sign. I went back and did this exercise, reducing the set down to 58 images.

Now I have 58 images which are first glance are strong contenders – next thing is to go through the rest.

This might seem like a lot of work, and a lot of time, but this is 5 days of shooting after all, and one thing I never do is rush my image selection. This is very important to me, and the images that I select, edit and use will be with me for a long time to come.

There is a lot of time, money and effort invested in capturing these images, so spending a few hours going through them is perfectly justifiable.

Deleting images

And one other point I need to make – on a shoot like this I will only delete duplicates and complete technical rejects – I keep everything else. I don’t need to, but it makes the image selection easier, and makes me happy!

At the end of the process, if I want to delete all the rejects from my hard drive (and why wouldn’t I?), I have to tell Lightroom to do this. Selecting reject greys out the image and puts a black cross in the top left-hand corner.

First pass took 47 minutes.

Second pass was to look at groups of similar images, and choose the best. I might have five different views of one scene, which is fine, but do I need all images say? Of course not.

But as I said before – my image selection is based on the quality of the images that I want to work on, use and sell.

So, if there are 100 images so be it.

It was a stunning location with fantastic weather after all.

Second pass took me 15 minutes.

I start the second pass in the grid view, which you can get to by pressing the key G. From here I click on image groups, those if the same scene, and press N to bring up those images only, in what Lightroom calls survey view.

I look at these images, and Unpick the ones I do not want to keep from a group, by pressing U. Once I have unpicked them they disappear from view, as I am using a Pick filter.

If I am happy to keep an image as a pick I just remove from view by using Control and left click. It remains as a pick but is removed from survey view. This is about reducing the number of images after all.

Once I am happy to keep images as picks I hit the key G to go back to grid view and move on to the next group of images.

This is how I narrow down the images, just using Picks. I do not use the stars or colour labels or anything else in this process – just Pick or Reject.

This works for me, and is nice and simple.

I picked 227 images on the first pass. After the second pass I am down to 131 images. And here I stop.

131 images.

At this point I normally sort out my filing. For this set of images, I create a new sub-folder within my Worldwide folder called Santorini 2017. Well what did you think I was going to call it?

Next, I select all the images, and add them to a folder called “Rest”. I do this for a reason which I will come back to.

From within the rest folder I select the picks, and add them to a new folder called “Picks”. I also add the picks to a new collection called Santorini 2017, which I sync with Lightroom Mobile. I do not need access to all the images everywhere I go, just the picks are fine.

Once the images are in the Picks folder I remove the Pick flags and any star ratings.

And that is my filing done.

And why did I add them to that folder first? If you add them to the main folder, Santorini 2017 in this case, and then move the picks into a new folder, the main folder still shows the same number of images. It just gets confusing, so I put them into a sub-folder first and then break out the picks.

As I write this I realise if I move the Picks only to a folder called Picks, I can select the rest and add to a folder call rest.

One final word – I might have 131 images but that is a lot better than over 200, and is my starting point. When I am editing images some more will fall by the wayside – committing time to editing images often makes me really question myself and if an image is good enough.

For now, I am just happy that I have made the initial selection of images.

OK - image selection done. Next – edits.

And before I go here are 10 steps to select the images you want in Lightroom

Import images into Lightroom (this is not step 1 by the way)

  1. Sort the images into stacks
  2. Choose Loupe View – press E
  3. Turn the lights off
  4. Go through one by one – press P for Picks, X for rejects
  5. Add 5-star rating to those stunners – hit the key 5
  6. Filter the view to Picks only, go through again
  7. Unpick any that are not good enough – be honest and harsh
  8. Second pass – remove similar images to leave the best
  9. Review the image set – do you want to edit all these images?
  10. File the picks separately from the rest

And then go and edit.

Rick McEvoy Photography