EP 13: PHOTO FOCUS How I Cull & Back Up Files Before Editing in Lightroom

Aloha folks! Thanks for listening to another episode of the Photo Business Help Podcast! Today is a Photo focused show where I’ll share my workflow for culling and organizing images before the editing begins, which software I love and why, and hard drives, too.

If you’re new to the show, and the show is pretty new, here’s a little bit about me…

Natalie Jennings

I’ve been shooting professionally since 2009 and teaching and mentoring hundreds of photographers since 2013…but I wanted to reach more people. I left my teaching career (high school English) and grew my four digit photo passion into my 6-figure business, and I have every intention of continuing to grow and learn and aim higher.

The lifestyle tips and business-building-know-how in this podcast applies to anyone wanting to grow in business and in life, not just photographers.

If you’re not new to the show and find yourself tuning in regularly…hell yes and thank you mucho! I’m so glad things are inspiring you and helping you on your journey. If you have a minute and want to share the love, head to and say a few words about the show. I try to read reviews every few shows, too. So listen for yours next.

Today’s review is from Link 45.6, it says:

How many ways to say thank you!!!

Let me count the ways.

1. Natalie is generous

2. She is beautiful… sorry cannot hurt to say!!

3. She is gentle when you are feeling intimated.

4. She is smart as F#%*

5. The word “Helpful” doesn’t even cut close to how helpful she is… does that make sense??

6. Funny

7. Talented beyond belief

8. Patient with us old photographers, I mean she taught high school kids, so I think we are an easy crowd!!

I could go on and on and I am probably missing a few obvious ones, but I have to say again and again, Thank You Natalie for helping me to step out of my rut and move forward, for keeping me sharp and focused and for lifting me up.

Huge love and respect for this woman!!

If I find space to quiet ego for a minute (because this kind of offering makes me blush and feel really effing good) and settle into this…This one is shows me that all of the effort, time, energy, and passion I’ve put into growing this small but might community is 1000% worth it if I’m really helping. Thank you so much for this massive gift Link 45.6 I appreciate you!

Yeah, a gorgeous and glowing review lifts me up, but these reviews are the things new folks will see first before the push listen. I do this thing because I believe a rising tide lifts ALL boats, so I’m going to continue to share my successes and failures with you in the hopes that you will benefit from it and bring that into your world.

If you’re already soaking up some value from these first 12 episodes, this is episode 13, you can leave a review right on your apple podcast app or head to

Okay, now that the energy is up, let’s dig in to this thing.

I wanted to walk you through my workflow from the moment I take the card out of my camera to just before I start my edits.

As a reminder from EP 04: What’s in My Bag, I’m shooting a Canon 5Dmk iv mostly, and occasionally the old mkii because it’s still my favorite. The mk iv has an sd and compact flash slot, whereas the mk ii only offers compact flash. When shooting the iv, I set one of the cards to RAW and one to hi-res jpegs as a last-resort back-up.

I have to say, even though I’d lose the RAW if something happened, there’s a bit more piece of mind when I shoot knowing that everything is double.

I typically keep the jpeg card in-camera until it fills up since jpegs take up very little space on a 64GB card.

When I’ve finished a shoot and I’m ready to back things up, I open up Photo Mechanic and import.  

I typically have an WD passport drive (1TB on average lasts me a while) plugged in at this time, too, so it’s double backed up on my harddrive and the WD.

Photo Mechanic is a relatively inexpensive software that make running through large groups of images much faster than LR. It loads the .xmp image immediately, whereas LR needs to generate previews upon import to the software itself, which can take a loooong time if you’re a wedding or sports photographer.

People have commented in my classes that it’s only a second or two to load a preview in LR. True, but it’s a fraction of that in PM. Let’s take a 3k image RAW wedding. Those loading seconds WILL add up. Thats 6k loading seconds if it’s 2 seconds an image, which is 100 minutes. That doesn’t account for the 2-5 seconds you’re probably spending deciding if you should keep the image or not.

This stuff really does add up people.

So once in PM, I start culling. Sometimes I’ll do two or three passes, but usually just one and done. I pick a color code, drag those files to a selects folder I keep under the client’s name, and don’t give the others another look.

The orginal RAW files stay on my desktop though, until I’ve heard back from the client. Sometimes they might ask: “Do you have any others of me and grandma?”

I might say, “sure” (but know they aren’t great or a good representation of my work & brand).

Sometimes sentimentality is more important to a client than aesthetic. I make a judgement call in those moments. I suggest you do, too.

If the question is more general like, “Do you have any more of me in the blue shirt looking out the window?” and I KNOW that the remaining options a poopy like bad expressions or a little off focus, I won’t offer them.

At the end of the day, your name is going on the work, so you can make that discerning call. But if it’s about grandma on the dance floor, give them up!

Before I bring my I bring my select RAW files into LR and get ready to edit I make sure my Select RAW folder is backed up. Right now, it’ll be on my computer’s hard drive and the external WD. I use 2 external hard drives that are identical copies of each other. One I travel & work with and the other stays home with the stacks of others I’ve accumulated, in a fireproof safe. They are my negatives, so to speak.

Note that my final edited jpegs make it to cloud storage, too, but RAW take too long to upload & download and would cost me a fortune at the current rate I’m shooting.

There are TONS of fancy alternatives to my double hard drive option. I’ve used mirrored drives before which house the two (or more) drives in one unit. However, I like separating my work so it’s not ALL in the same place.

I use WD, mostly, But have tried other companies, too. You guys know I’m not a huge gear head, so I’m going to not fix it because it’s not broken. However, I’m always open to suggestions at

And that’s about it!

I did a really nerdy thing once and culled the same wedding in LR and PM, just to see. The LR cull took me almost 3 hours, the PM cull took me 45 minutes.

Okay, to wrap up:

Shoot RAW & jpeg for in case backup

Import RAW files using PM

Cull in PM

Save SELECTED RAW files on two external hard drives (I typically copy my “working” drive over to my “stay at home” drive every week or two).



And that’s it for this episode!

Remember in all you do, consistency is key!

Light & love until next time



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