6 Life Saving Photography Programs

Ok, I don’t mean life saving as in “these programs save lives”, but more of a life saving as in “these programs saved my work-life balance.” They save me so much time that I can actually have a life. Or at least I can pretend I have a life.

Picture this:

You are at an amazing engagement portrait session. The couple is adorable. The lighting is incredible and everything is so perfect you just don't want to stop.

Then you come home and download your pictures.


Yeah, 974 pictures from one engagement portrait session. And the thing is, you know they are all stunning (or maybe mostly all, depending on those half-blinks-where-people-look-drugged pictures) . Editing 974 pictures for a portrait session is a nightmare. Even culling (where you go through and choose the ones you will edit, and which ones will be on the virtual cutting room floor) 974 images is a bit of a headache.

This is how I did things when I first started:

  1. Download images to folder on computer

  2. Open images one at a time in photoshop (usually only 20 or so at a time or else my computer would freeze because photoshop takes forever)

  3. Work on editing one-by-one.

There was no culling. I edited an image until I realized I didn't like it, and then I would move onto the next. Yes - this is not a best practice. This is a life sucker and a terrible way of doing things.

Enter my favorite photography application - the one where if I only could choose one application, this would be it:


Lightroom not only allows me to organize all of my images (more on my organization strategies in a later post!), but also allows me to cull, and batch edit them (note: photoshop also allows you to batch edit, but back when photoshop drained my soul, I didn’t know how to make it work well for me). Editing in Lightroom is amazingly fast and simplified. Syncing edits between pictures is a click of a button. All of the main editing I need to do is right on the screen, and being able to make my own preset for my work, which works on 95% of my pictures, speeds things up even more.

Lightroom also allows me to change the metadata of an image - adding keywords and copyright information right to the file, changing the capture time of images from different cameras so wedding days flow smoothly, and changing file names to keep pictures in order.

Lightroom has it’s faults - it tends to import slowly, and if you do not build smart previews, it tends to be slow to render (show) an image for you to edit. However, it also helps the editing side of things so much that I am willing to let my images download overnight, and build smart previews to make editing faster.

However, those 974 pictures? Using survey view in Lightroom, I can cull through those babies in an hour (and still swear to myself that I will never take that many again).


Some people swear by Photomechanic to cull by - it DOES render images quicker, but I cannot cull 1-by-1 anymore. I love seeing 4 or 5 images that look similar to each other all together so I can pick the best out of them. Photomechanic only allows you to view images one by one and rate them as you go (that I know of - if you know a trick, let me know). Using survey view in Lightroom, I can click as many as I feel like (using either shift+click or ctrl+click to select) and it will show just those images on the screen.

Lightroom Mobile

Yeah, this is kind of like the first, but it’s a little different. Lightroom Creative Cloud (their subscription app) came out with one of my favorite things ever - the ability to cull on my iPad using Lightroom Mobile. This means that instead of sitting at my computer while my family had movie night, or while my kids were in bed and my husband was watching actual grown-up shows (two kids under 10 means we have seen a LOT of cartoons in the last few years), now I can take my iPad, snuggle up on the couch with everyone else and work while we watch a movie. Listen, I am all for clear work-life balance lines being drawn, and if you can do that, I highly suggest it. But for my life for the past 7 years, in the thick of wedding season, my options are work while snuggling, or just working.

Lightroom Mobile does bring me back to the problem of culling one-by-one… but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make if it means I can have some half-family-movie nights.


Yup, after all that headache I mentioned above, photoshop is still one of my top photography applications. This program is a beast and can do almost anything you want to do with an image. Swapping heads? Photoshop. Stitching pictures together to make a panorama? Photoshop. Smoothing skin, removing objects from the background, or adding special effects (clouds, stars, sparklers, etc)? Photoshop. I probably only bring about 5 out of a thousand images into photoshop to edit out distractions (I never do things like adding skies or sparklers), but for those 5 images, this works a thousand times better than Lightroom.

Photoshop is also my go-to for price sheet, magazine or any other sort of graphic design work I need to do (please note: not a graphic designer - there are better apps for graphic design out there, but photoshop has all I need for my uses)


“How do I get my images to show up correctly on my blog?!”

This question has been asked of me so many times! Blogstomp is your answer. While you can do this in photoshop, it is laborious. Blog stomp allows you to import a selection of pictures, choose how you want them laid out and saves them as a new file ready to go. Blogs are important for photographers, and it’s especially important to keep up with blogging… but in the middle of shoots, culling, editing, albums and client management - blogging tends to be the thing that gets pushed aside. At least Blogstomp helps make it a little easier to do!


Again, when I first started, I designed (and redesigned) every single album page in photoshop. Talk about a headache, and the worst way to possible do something. Like Blogstomp, SmartAlbums allows me to import an entire folder, and design based on predesigned layouts, or make up my own, and saves the final version as a file that is ready to upload to your album company. It’s a truly “drag and drop” type of application, and has saved me dozens of hours on every album I create.


Get yourself a client management system. Honeybook is what I currently use, but have used Pixifi quite happily for the last 7 years (however, they do not have a mobile app, and I can no longer work without one). Honeybook keeps all of my inquiries, emails, invoices, contracts, sessions and wedding information all in one place. It allows me to follow up with inquiries, send timelines to my couples (and other vendors!), and stay on track with everyone. Prior to using a client management system, I was using spreadsheets to track where I was on what project, who had paid me what, and what I had to do next. It was messy, easily overlooked, and a lot more work to keep track of than it helped.

If you are interested in trying out Honeybook, here is a referral link for 20% off your first year: http://share.honeybook.com/becca628

*I am not endorsed or affiliated with any of the above mentioned programs, other than that referral code Honeybook gives out to all of their users. I just use and love them!

Becca SutherlandComment