The best photo culling software in 2024: AI apps to help you find your best shots

Now that we’re long freed from the constraints of shooting on rolls of film we face the problem of returning from a shoot with hundreds of photos to peruse. If you’re a ‘rapid fire’ photographer like me then it will increase the chances of capturing a great shot.  However, the downside to this approach is that we have to scroll through hundreds of shots to find images worth editing and sharing. Apps such as Lightroom Classic help enable us to manually assign star ratings or add color labels as we scroll through our shots so we can filter the images later to find high-rated shots.  However, we may spend more time in this ‘quality control’ stage of our photographic workflow than we do in the far more enjoyable stage of image editing.

Fortunately, there are a collection of photo culling apps that reduce the time and tedium of manually searching for the best shots.  These apps use machine learning to automatically weed out shots that we don’t need to bother with, such as those which are out of focus or are motion blurred due to camera shake. Some of these AI-enhanced apps can also spot the shots where a subject has been caught in mid-blink,  while others can also use AI to gauge the emotion of a photo so that you can add higher start ratings to smiling shots and lower ratings to pouts (or vice versa!).  Thanks to AI assistance these apps will help speed up the culling process so that you can ‘cut to the chase’ and spend your time on editing and sharing your best images.

The best photo culling software in 2024

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(Image credit: George Cairns / Digital Camera World)

1: Narrative Select

Best app to get you culling quickly

Specifications

Cost: $180 per year for Narrative Select Pro
Free trial: Yes. You can cull 6 projects for free
Mac system requirements: Quad core CPU – Intel i7 or higher, 8GB RAM or higher, SSD with at least 1GB free disk space; MacOS Mojave or more recent
Windows system requirements: Quad core CPU – 2GHz RAM – 8GB RAM, 2GB vRAM and DirectX 12 support, SSD with at least 1GB free disk space; Windows 8

Reasons to buy

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Quick and easy to use
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Innovative icon system

Reasons to avoid

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Manual rating required
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Relatively expensive

Narrative Select lets you hit the ground running as it quickly analyses a folder of shots imported into the app. You don’t need to spend time uploading or downloading files to or from the cloud as it’s all desktop based. The clean white interface stands out from the dull blacks and grays of other culling apps, enabling you to focus on the colors and tones of your shots. It also features an innovative icon system. Alongside each subject’s face, icons indicate the presence of open or closed eyes and the sharpness of focus (plus a tap of the [/] key gives you a 100% zoom in on the face to double-check quality.).  Select’s AI pops similar shots into groups (or Scenes) and creates a hierarchy inside the group based on focus and open or closed eyes.  Unlike some culling apps Select leaves the star rating/color labeling decisions to you. Only manually rated shots will transfer to your editing app of choice. Narrative Select adds a quick, easy, and effective culling stage to your photographic workflow.

(Image credit: George Cairns / Digital Camera World)

2: Peakto

Best app for a more in depth and innovative approach to photo culling

Specifications

Cost: $9.99 per month, $59.99 per year, or $189 perpetual license
Free trial: 15 days
Mac system requirments: Optimized for M2, Peakto requires macOS 11 (Big Sur) or later. Peakto is compatible with the latest macOS version, Ventura.

Reasons to buy

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Offers innovative ways to cull photos 
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Easy to access categories 

Reasons to avoid

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Takes time to master
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No PC version (Mac only)

Many of the culling apps in this guide look and behave in a very similar way, grouping similar shots and rejecting obvious problems such as blur. Peakto offers a wider range of criteria to organize your photos after analyzing them with AI. It will generate and assign keyword tags such as HighQualityEyes or PerfectFocus and you can click on these tags to see the relevant shots. However, it can also display images based on their predominant color palette or sort them in grid view according to properties such as Aesthetic Score or People Count. The Panorama view groups shots in categories such as Architecture, Portrait or Street. There’s even a Meme category that gathers shots that should do well on social media.  Peakto can access shots from any location, from a Lightroom Classic catalog to a folder on your hard drive so it can slot into any workflow with ease.

(Image credit: George Cairns / Digital Camera World)
Best photo culling software for pro photographers

Specifications

Cost: $9.99 per month (billed annually)
Free trial: 30 days
Mac system requirments: macOS Catalina or higher — Min. 4 core CPU and 8GB RAM,
Windows system requirments: Windows 8 or higher — Min. 4 core CPU and 8GB RAM

Reasons to buy

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Customizable culling tolerances
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No web connection needed 
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Find highlights of a shoot quickly

Reasons to avoid

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Sometimes includes half-closed eyes 

Aftershoot uses AI to help you find your best shots, but you can adjust thresholds so that the AI groups identical shots together or widens the net to create a larger group of similar shots for you to sift through.  You can also get it to be more or less tolerant to blurred shots. None of the shots that are culled are deleted, they are simply not brought to your attention. Aftershoot presents you with a collection of Highlights that are well composed, have strong emotion (smiling faces), are free from blur and have open eyes. You can then quickly share these highlights with your client while you filter through the rest of the photos according to their AI-assigned ratings. All ratings and labels can be read in Lightroom Classic which makes Aftershoot slot nicely into a pro photographer’s workflow. 
Read our full Aftershoot review

(Image credit: George Cairns / Digital Camera World)
Best app for customizing criteria for photo culling

Specifications

Cost: $7 per month as part of a Zenfolio subscription
Free trial: Yes
Mac system requirements: macOS Sierra or later (10.12+), Intel processor with 64-bit support, SSE4.2 and AVX instruction sets; 2 GHz or faster processor
Windows system requirements: Microsoft Windows 10 with 64-bit support (Version 1803 or later), Intel or AMD processor with 64-bit support, SSE4.2 and AVX instruction sets; 2 GHz or faster processor

Reasons to buy

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Choose preset profiles to suit different shoots
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Fits seamlessly into Lightroom workflow

Reasons to avoid

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Only accessible when subscribing to Zenfolio
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You need to render a 1:1 preview to see an image at full quality

PhotoRefine is a powerful photo culling app, but its only available to subscribers of Zenfolio, an online service that enables photographers to promote and sell their work. It’s a downloadable standalone app that doesn’t require a web connection to ‘talk’ to online AI (so you’re not at the mercy of the whims of your WiFi connection). You can choose presets such as Portrait or Wedding to bias the AI to cull certain types of shots. For example, its Portrait preset will assign a star ratings hierarchy based on Sharpen, Eyes Open, Face Focus and Face Happiness (though you can customize these properties to create your own priorities for a higher to lower star rating.)  It occasionally misidentified a tilted down face as having closed eyes, but you can manually override a low rating. As with Aftershoot, PhotoRefine.Ai slots well into a Lightroom workflow by writing its ratings and labels etc. to each shot’s metadata.
Read our full PhotoRefine.ai review

(Image credit: George Cairns / Digital Camera World)

5: FilterPixel

Best app for getting culled shots into Lightroom Classic quickly

Specifications

Cost: $10.19 per month
Free trial: 14 days
Mac system requirements: macOS Catalina ( 10.15+ ), Intel or Apple ARM processors with 64-bit support, minimum 4GB RAM, 2GB disk space
Windows system requirements: Windows 10 or later ( 64-bit support ), minimum 4GB RAM, 2GB disk space. Intel or AMD processor with 64-bit support

Reasons to buy

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Comparison view helps you choose the best in a series 
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One-click export to Lightroom Classic

Reasons to avoid

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Doesn’t auto assign ratings and labels
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Rejected some perfectly good shots

Most of the photo culling software in our guide tends to reject a shot that features the subject with their eyes closed, but in some portraits, the eyes may be closed deliberately. FilterPixel features an ‘Intentional Closed Eyes’ tag that you can apply to find appropriate portraits. You can also filter by a specific camera lens (such as wide angle shots for example).  You can adjust a slider to show a sharper range of shots and a separate slider lets you choose a threshold for Eye Quality. Similar shots are grouped into one thumbnail in the Grid view but you can tap C to view them side by side in Comparison view and manually pick your favourite photo. Unlike other apps FilterPixel leaves it up to you to assign star ratings. It simply organises shots into three categories - Photos Accepted, Duplicates and Rejects.  Some of its rejects looked perfectly good to us but we were able to re-categorise them as ‘Picked’ with a tap of the P key.

(Image credit: George Cairns / Digital Camera World)

6: Imagen

Best culling app for Lightroom Classic users

Specifications

Cost: $0.05 per photo (Minimum $7 per month).
Free trial: 1000 free edits but culling isn’t available in the trial version.
Mac system requirements: macOS version 10.11 (El Capitan) or later; Multicore Intel processor with 64-bit support or M1 Apple Silicon processor
Windows system requirements: Windows 7 or later; Intel, AMD, or ARM processor with 64-bit support; 2 GHz or faster processor

Reasons to buy

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Both a culling and editing app
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Creates AI profiles based on your previous edits

Reasons to avoid

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Requires you to own Lightroom Classic
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Doesn’t work with JPEGs

This versatile app can apply edits to your photos as well as culling them, but we’ll focus on its culling feature in this buying guide. We must also point out that the beta culling tools aren’t available in the trial version. Imagen accesses images directly from folders or collections in an existing Lightroom Classic catalog (rather than importing them from a folder or memory card into Imagen).  You need to upload your shots to Imagen’s cloud for AI analysis so a strong Wi-Fi connection is essential. Before uploading you can ask Imagen to rate the files via stars or color labels and use a Strict or Loose threshold for grouping similar shots. After Imagen’s AI has completed its analysis you can download the files and view Imagen’s assigned ratings (or labels) directly in Lightroom Classic. Lightroom’s filters then let you find Unique Photos (4 stars) and Keepers (5 stars). Duplicates are rated with 3 stars (but unlike other culling apps they aren’t grouped together into a space-saving thumbnail.)

(Image credit: George Cairns / Digital Camera World)
Best app for culling your Apple Photos Library on the move

Specifications

Cost: $4.99 per month
Free trial: Yes, though you need to make in-app purchases to use all its features
System requirements: iOS 13.0 or later

Reasons to buy

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Clean up your photo library on the move
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Sorts files by size so you can free up space quickly
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Relatively affordable compared to other culling apps

Reasons to avoid

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Apple iOS only

Apple tries to solve the problem of our iPhone or iPad running out of storage space by enabling us to store low-resolution versions of each photo and video on our mobile device while keeping the original files stored in the cloud, ready to be downloaded if we need to edit and share them. However, sometimes there can be iCloud syncing issue and duplicate shots can take up valuable space. Gemini Photos enables you to track down duplicate (or similar) shots from the comfort and convenience of your iPhone’s display. 

You can view multiple file versions and tick to keep the recommended best ones before deleting the others. The Other category contains shots downloaded from third-party apps or social media feeds. Here you can swipe up to keep a shot or down to delete it which provides a fast and convenient way to clean your photo library and leave space for new images and clips.

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George Cairns

George has been freelancing as a photo fixing and creative tutorial writer since 2002, working for award winning titles such as Digital Camera, PhotoPlus, N-Photo and Practical Photoshop. He's expert in communicating the ins and outs of Photoshop and Lightroom, as well as producing video production tutorials on Final Cut Pro and iMovie for magazines such as iCreate and Mac Format. He also produces regular and exclusive Photoshop CC tutorials for his YouTube channel.