In the first article on quick culling I went through my process for culling large numbers of images. This is a very effective technique for weddings, holidays, sports shoots or any other photographic activity that ends in a large mass of material that is crying out for culling and assorting. But what if you do not have such a large number of images? What if after an afternoon walk you have 30-50 photos and still want to choose the keepers?
The immediate answer to this question is called "Survey View". It is a brilliant function in Lightroom's Library Module that allows the quick comparison and culling of small photo groups. Before going further I would like to point out that tagging, flagging and rating with stars are still necessary tools before our quick comparisons. Skipping them for any reason is a workflow omission that we will face later on if we want to search for a specific tag, do wider comparisons for more than one folder or combine catalogs.
The first step before accessing the Survey View is to identify in the Library Module the small photo groups within which the comparison will take place. As you might notice in the image below, I have marked two such groups, one with purple background and one with green. Accessing the Survey View is very simple, click on the Survey View button shown below or press "N" on the keyboard.
Marking the purple group and pressing "N" leads to this comparison view:
Lightroom's survey function removes non-selected grid photos from the main window and presents the selected ones uncluttered from distracting frames and information. If higher focus is your aim, pressing "L" will semi-darken distracting surroundings (shown below) and a further press will lead to complete darkening.
This is the point of decisions. Do I want the person in my frame or prefer the pristine landscape? Do I want the gray unattractive sky in my frames? Do my photos obey the rule of thirds and how can I best crop for optimum results? Decisions, decisions. And we all have our own criteria and preferences. I decided to delete the first two photos so that I am left with a version with the person (without the sky, to be cropped according to the rule of thirds in portrait orientation) and the pristine landscape frame. To delete a photo just click on it and press delete. You will be presented with the usually menu to choose whether the frame will be removed from Lightroom only or from Lightroom and the hard disc altogether.
If a photo is to just be removed from the comparison group, hover over it and press the black "X" sign that appears at its lower right corner. Note that this photo remains available on the grid and no deletion of any form takes place.
While in Survey View you can still rate photos with stars and flags, although (for simplicity I guess) only flags will appear on the left side below the frame. If a frame is to be seen at maximum size just double click on it, then press "N" again to return to the Survey view. Pressing "G" always returns us to the usual Library grid view.
Is there a limit to the number of photos that can be surveyed? In theory no, in practice monitor size will be your limiting factor. A laptop screen is fine for up to 6-10 frames, however you will find that enlarging photos and returning to Survey View will be a necessary process. Desktop monitors of 24 inches or larger open completely different horizons and make life much easier when going through larger image numbers. Irrespective of the monitor size, pressing "Shift"+"Tab" will remove all of Lightroom's side panels and maximize the survey area.
Lightroom's Survey View is an indispensable tool that I am going back to all the time. It makes life easier at the micro culling level and I wholeheartedly recommend learning and using it in tandem with tags, flags and star ratings.
About the Author: Dimitrios Matsoulis is an engineer that studied in the UK and has industrial automation and solar energy background. His love for outdoor activities and photography has naturally led him to photo editing. He uses Lightroom and Photoshop for his own photography as well as freelancing gigs. He lives in Greece and maintains his online presence via his personal photography blog, 500px and Instagram.