Culling a session can be one of the toughest things to master.  It’s always so hard after a session; you get home, unload the card, and marvel at all the gems you have. And, if you are like many photographers you have taken WAY too many photos. There are 200 shots that you need to reduce to a 30-40 image gallery. The thought of it alone is overwhelming. What if I delete the best one? What if the mom likes her expression better in this one instead of that one? I have one of her looking at the camera, and one looking away, which to choose? We have all been through these questions. Often, photographers give their clients too many images thinking they are doing a service for their clients. What generally happens is that overwhelming feeling YOU have transfers to them. Then they have too many to choose from, which to print, which to canvas, or even times which to purchase. Also, you have just spent valuable time editing unnecessarily. I am going to take you through my method and thought process of choosing images for a client gallery. I also use this method in a similar way for culling my own personal photos. I use Lightroom and I think it is a gem for photo organization.

Have a System

I like to use a flag system. In the Library mode I do a quick go-through of each image. I either click P for Pick and it puts a white flag, X for reject which puts a black flag, or I can just leave it un-flagged if it is a “maybe”. I go fairly quickly at this point and look for glaringly good or bad images (eyes closed, blurry, way over or under exposed, odd body chop etc.) and mark them accordingly.

How to choose images for a client gallery

Then I click the Attributes button and click the first flag to show me the entire top picks (white flags) list. I take note of the number. Usually by this point I have narrowed it down to 70-80 images, but many are very similar.

Choosing Images for a Client Gallery

Narrow it Down

Now it’s time to narrow things down further. I am still working with only my white flag pictures showing. It’s time for a more detailed go-through. I pay careful attention and try to look at ones that are very similar, and narrow it down to just 1-3 of each of those SETS. Often times in a family set I have them all look at me, look at each other, look at mom, giggling; I try to pick the best three from that pose/set. A great tool to help choose is the Compare module (just hit C) you can see photos of your choice side by side.

As you make your choices for eliminating images, just unclick the white flag in the top left corner of the window. This will drop it out of “white flag” picks. This way you can see how your image count is doing.

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The next step is reviewing your SETS and choosing the best from them to deliver a well-rounded gallery.  For me, first I review the notes of what the client wanted, and then, in general I look for:

  • Several versions of the family shot (various locations and maybe one with everyone looking, one with all laughing, kids looking at parents)
  • Family pairings (example: mom and child, siblings etc.)
  • Singles of the children (one close up and one body shot of each)
  • Images with play or giggles (fun images of real moments; often outtake like)
  • Serious or artistic shot or two
  • Any images that tell a short story (example: a girl picking a flower, walking with flower, handing to dad)

At this point you should be pretty close to your gallery number. If you are still over, there are two things I do – go with my gut, and/or if the picture has the mom in it; go with the one she looks the best in.  After all, she is usually the driving force in the selection process.


After I have selected my final images for the gallery, I pull them into a new Collection named Family “X” finals and edit them from there.  First click Edit/Select All then, go to Library/New Collection. Be sure to check the “include selected photos” box.

One last note, I don’t delete my black flags or unmarked images until my edits are done. You never know if you are working on the most magical shot but just need to head swap one face, or extend a landscape section and need one of them. I usually delete the black flags when I am done editing, and save the un-flagged or maybe’s until after a client is happy with their gallery. So save this step for the end. In Library mode, click Attributes, choose the last flag (or you can right click for drop down menu and click Choose Rejects), then Select All, Delete.

Choosing Images for a Client Gallery

Choosing images for a client gallery doesn’t have to be overwhelming. If you just follow a system and stay organized, it will get quicker and easier. Remember, your clients chose you for your talent and style, so trust your gut!


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