Before the rush

Before the rush
by evan-pak

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I recently went on vacation and took close to 1,000 photographs. As usual there are some good ones, bad ones, blurry ones, etc.

In order to expedite post-processing, I was wondering if there is any software out there that can "pre-screen" a batch of photos and identify photos that are over-exposed, under-exposed, blurry, and other characteristics that may identify potentially less-desirable photographs. The ideas is that by pre-screening, it should make quick work of sorting through those groups to find the good ones, and delete the rest. Then I can spend more time looking at the ones that really matter.

I understand that every photograph is unique, and there are some great photographs that break every rule of thumb, but I thought this might be a quick way to speed up my workflow.

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Similar question about focus – dpollitt Feb 20 '12 at 14:17
I edited the question because we've got several others about photo analysis software simply for reporting on metadata in aggregate. This is different.... – mattdm Feb 20 '12 at 14:26
Never seen this but it is a great idea. Perhaps it could be implemented as a Lightroom or Bibble plugin and have the culling done on import. – Itai Feb 20 '12 at 14:27
Thanks for editing the title for clarity. It is right on point with what I was thinking about. – RyanDalton Feb 20 '12 at 15:29
Interesting question. 1,000 images is quite do-able manually, and the MK I eyeball will do better than any software 99% of the time. – AJ Finch Feb 20 '12 at 15:42

I use Lightroom to sort through photos. In the Library module I set the filter to Flagged and Unflagged, then make a photo fill the screen. Then I just start hitting the right arrow key or the "x" key. "X" marks the photo as "rejected" and makes it no longer visible. It's easy to jet through 1000 photos in no time. Once I've gone through all photos, I just choose to Delete Rejected Photos, and I'm done.

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I agree -- a quick pass in Lightroom could narrow your list in a hurry. Seems like a workflow challenge. – D. Lambert Feb 20 '12 at 21:03

Photoshop Elements does have an autoanalysis function which does some of this - it tries to detect if the photos are blurred, if there are faces in them etc. I wouldn't say it is brilliant. For example you may actually want out of focus components in your photograph and the automated algorithm will still mark it as blurred.

I don't think 1000 photos is actually that many to manually go through in a workflow process using something like Lightroom. Start from an initial scan marking as rejected those that are obviously unusable and then refine down using ratings, colour painting and tags as you see fit.

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I don't know myself of applications that can automatically screen potentially flawed pictures for you but I wouldn't use them, At least not blindly.

Technical merit is just part of what a photo is and some of the most meaningful images happen to be technically flawed and, in many cases, preferable to a more technically perfect one that, for instance, has poorer composition or less of what Cartier Bresson called "the decisive moment".

Also, some flaws can be fixed, or improved in editing. While focus and blur are pretty much impossible to correct (though this can change in the future), it can add an interesting or acceptable effect sometimes. Exposure, for instance is one of those. A slighly over or under exposed image (specially it taken in RAW) shouldn't be preferred to a "perfectly" exposed one on this merit alone, because that can easily be fixed.

As an example, this picture was a one off shot that came out almost 3EV overexposed, because the camera was with the wrong settings. Yet thanks to the latitude provided by RAW files if could be recovered but it would have been discarded by an automated process.

So, I second answers before mine, saying that a workflow efficiently supported is better than an automated process. 1000 pictures is quite manageable in Lightroom within an hour or two.

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I also agree with yours and everyone's thoughts here, which is why I stated "I understand that every photograph is unique, and there are some great photographs that break every rule of thumb". There is no "magic tool" that one can run to find great photos because the human brain is the only thing that can tell us if a photograph is moving to us or not. Really it was just a concept that I had and wondered if anyone had already tried similar techniques. Following any software blindly is just plain dumb, but tools can often be used to help guide us along our way. – RyanDalton Feb 20 '12 at 22:26
Absolutely, this type of screening could be useful to have the application suggesting you changes instead of culling photos. You could be able to normalise exposure on similar pictures, for instance, before adding an editing preset. – guioconnor Feb 20 '12 at 22:31

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