I am long-time user of Photo Mechanic, made by Camera Bits, and if you are photographing, well, just about anything, I highly recommend using it to download, backup and cull your images. I’m not an affiliate of PM, and I don’t get any income from sharing this link, but I’m a huge believer in this program and find it the best way for me to save time with culling.
Photo Mechanic is a highly sophisticated program used by photographers all over the world, and no doubt many of them are using PM to its full capacity. I only use it to download, backup and cull my images, so this workflow does not touch on stars, sorting, colors and renaming, all things you can do with PM. Google Photo Mechanic workflows for more on those areas!
Before you start, go to Preferences in PM and set it up in a way that makes sense for you. For example, my default view is by Capture Time but for some photographers, it might make sense to sort by File Type or Serial Number or Lens—all options in PM. Also, if you shoot in RAW, which you likely do, opt for the “Enable RAW rendering” and allow “use embedded JPG for speed” so that your images take no time to render.
The most important preference to set, however, if you plan to use my method, is to go to Preferences, go to Preview, and click on the “Tag is changed” box under “Automatically advance to next photo when:” This will save you THOUSANDS of clicks over the course of a job, and MILLIONS of clicks over the length of your career as a photographer who culls their own photos. Seriously. This little nugget is the BEST THING EVER. It doesn’t sound like much, but it means that you don’t have to advance manually through EVERY image in a job. Once you pick one, it advances to the next one AUTOMATICALLY!
Here’s my whole ingest and culling process:
1) †Insert card or cards. I use stacked card readers, so I ingest all cards at once from a job, if there is more than one card. Choose “ingest” in Photo Mechanic.
2) In the “ingest” dialogue box, choose your card or cards in the upper left. This was the tail end of a commercial job I did yesterday for a local market. Under “Primary” in upper right, I chose the folder on my working hard drive. Under “Secondary” in upper right, I chose a location for my backup copy. Once this card is ingested, I will have three copies on site: the card, and the two copies I ingest through PM. Then, I’ll have a fourth on my Time Machine within 24 hours, and a fifth in the cloud via Crashplan, also within 24 hours.
3) I check off the “incremental ingest: copy new photos only” box, so I don’t ever end up with duplicates. I also apply the IPTC stationery pad data to photos, which is the business data that I apply to every photo I ingest.†I also choose to “unmount source disks after ingest” so that I know when a card is complete, helpful when you walk away and leave them ingesting. I don’t “rename ingested photos as” because I rename after the images are exported in Lightroom.
4) Once the images are ingested, I view them in a “Contact Sheet”–a PhotoMechanic option under the File menu. When the images are ingested, a new Contact Sheet is opened up, but if I am not culling them right away and had closed that window, I’ll choose the New Contact Sheet option under the File menu, and navigate to the images on my working drive. Once I have the contact sheet open, I’ll double click the first image to make it huge, so I can cull quickly on my large monitor.
5) Here’s the magic. Click on the “T” if you want the image. Click on the forward arrow if you don’t want it. That’s all. Tag all the images you want to keep, and click past the images you don’t want to keep.
Note: This doesn’t take into account categories, color tagging, number ratings, star ratings and more. Photo Mechanic can do this all brilliantly, but I don’t use it for those things at the culling stage. I simply want to mark the images that I will send out for editing, or that I will move into LR for editing, and this is the fastest way I have found. I can cull a wedding in an hour this way, or a commercial job or portrait session in about ten minutes or less.
6) After culling, it’s time to sort out the rejects, and move the rest to Lightroom. I’ll go to the top of the PhotoMechanic page, and choose “Untagged” in the drop down menu.† Untagged images are the rejects. I take the untagged images screen, select all and drag them to my Rejects file for the job. See below for the list of folders I keep for a job, so you can see where they go.
7) Then I go back up to the drop-down menu in PhotoMechanic, and choose the “Tagged” images. Those are the ones that now live in the “1_Originals” folder, and they are the ones that I will bring into Lightroom.
8) Open your catalog in Lightroom, and import these images! You can just select and drag the thumbnails, and if you are on a Mac, you can drag them to the LR icon in the dock. When finished color-correcting them, I export them to folder “4_HighResJPGS.” I usually dump the Rejects when the images are delivered, knowing I have a full set of originals on my backup drive and elsewhere, should I really need to dig for one.
It’s a pretty simple workflow in PhotoMechanic, but it works for me! When I have PM open, to cull quickly, I set my awesome little red magnetic timer for one hour, shut off the phone and all other distractions, and get to work. I don’t let myself get out of the chair or do anything else til the job is culled, and you’d be amazed how fast you can cull when you do that!
Good luck with your culling, downloading and backing up!