Narrative select — the best culling software for pro photographers and why you just need to switch to it now
At Rawsie we are always on the lookout for new technologies to boost our photography workflow. This time we tested Narrative Select — the culling software using AI to help photographers rank and select the best shots. Here's Rawsie team's review of the app and some tips on how to use it.

What is Narrative Select

Narrative Select is the second product by the team who brought Narrative Publish (ex "Narrative") into the world - the software that helped thousands of photographers on their mission to create beautiful blog posts to book even more clients. You can instantly tell both Narrative products are created by people who know everything about pro photography and that feeling is true – Narrative was co-founded by James Broadbent, one of the most experienced New Zealand photographers, a co-founder of the award-winning Chasewild wedding photography brand. He teamed up with a technical wizard Steffan Levet and the two built Narrative. Last year Narrative team introduced Narrative Select, a culling software for professional photographers. Wedding photographers is obviously the first group that comes to mind given the amount of photos they take each shoot, but it could easily be used by photographers working in many other genres.

Photography software community is still pretty small, so we have a pleasure of meeting other companies in the field and support each other. Photographers generally cull raw photos, and Rawsie makes raw photos significantly lighter, thus speeding up culling and all that follows. So, the two products complement each other and it's natural we made friends with Narrative. We decided to try out and review each other's products. Instead of keeping the findings to ourselves, we're now sharing it with everyone. Because, why not.

Starting with Narrative Select

What we absolutely love is the way Narrative Select onboards new users. Every time you make a next step, it will show you very clear instructions and how you would benefit using them in your next sessions. The app is completely stripped out of the cryptic "I am such a professional software" approach that we try to avoid at Rawsie too: it is remarkably simple to start using Narrative Select, eliminating the need to read countless manuals and spend hours on Youtube tutorials like with many software out there.
When importing files, Narrative Select suggests creating a project folder and ingests either raw files or jpegs. Next, your files go through importing. The speed depends on how heavy your files are and is comparable to other culling software as Narrative works locally, without the files being loaded to a cloud.

Narrative Select interface

Narrative features a nicely flexible working space. You can view your files in Grid view or Loupe view and switch between them by simply hitting G or E on your keyboard.
Moreover, you can either leave the filmstrip on the side or place it in the bottom, the way you are probably used to it in Lightroom. That's cool as in most cases you know your own style and can use your screen estate more effectively.
While dark mode is not yet offered on the app, there's a neat feature of changing the working space background color for when you could use more contrast, just head over to Preferences → Interface → Canvas color:
Narrative offers a very flexible filtering and sorting system based on your metadata. For example, you can find all the images taken with a specific lens or sort files by capture time:
One of the coolest features of Narrative Select is how blazing fast the overall interface is even on pre M1 Mac machines. It seems like the development team did an amazing job optimizing the app's performance, you just literally never wait for anything to trigger even with other apps running in full swing.

Hotkeys is something you really want to learn as fast as you can to optimize your culling process. Narrative Select does a great job in threading most of the functionality with hotkeys you can always access through the top menu:

Culling with Narrative Select AI: what's all the buzz about

Narrative Select analyzes your images to autodetect eyes and focus. As most of us photographers would be reluctant to intrust our photos to AI, Narrative does a great job of mixing automation and freedom of artistic choice. It doesn't select images for you, and by no means it disposes any of your images. It rather gives warnings and recommendations for you to make your own decisions.

Eyes and focus auto-detection is extremely helpful for event photographers: in our case, with big day-long weddings, Narrative allows culling through all the scenes super quickly as the app detects which shots were taken in the same location.
Narrative is powerful enough to detect multiple faces within a single image and even a set of images ("scene") and check everyone's faces and focus.

What Narrative Select users say

We did a quick survey on our insta stories, and spoke to Rawsie users who also happen to use Narrative Select. This is what they said:
Implementing the AI with focus and eyes close detection helps me visualize when culling and after beta the software is running smoothly. I do a lot of Asian weddings and it is sensitive to that, helps me visualize especially on the group photos. The results are very accurate in my opinion. Of course there is always the human filter of me at the end of the culling, but it definitely helps, I love the face zoom feature".
I really like how quick it is to move between images; the controls are easy to use and customisable. I love the assessments for focus and closed eyes. This is extremely helpful and 1000% better than culling in Lightroom. The zoom panel in great. Shipping images straight to LR is great too. While distil function is super useful in weddings, it could be improved for family and newborn sessions. It sometimes applies 'bad' rating to photos with eyes closed, while I may specifically want eyes closed in those images for effect. But I can see it evolving and improving"
Kasia Kolmas

Ranking images in Narrative Select

Ranking images in Narrative is super easy. You can either use a range of 5 colors or numbers from 1 to 5. To assign a rating click on the rating panel below the image or hit 1–5 on your keyboards for numbers and 6–9 for colors (with a P for purple color). If you are not used to ranking images in a more refined way, you can always just hit 1 to rank and 0 to unrank and just go on in a binary ranking mode.
Once you're done ranking your files, Narrative helps you ship all your files to Lightroom in a matter of one mouse click, just hit "Ship" button in the top right corner to export into Lightroom. For Capture One users Narrative offers drag-n-dropping into C1 or importing via C1's native import feature.


All in all, Narrative Select is our office's new choice for culling. Here's what we loved the most:

  • Fast as nothing we've seen in photography software before.
  • Totally flexible to the culling paradigm you are used to.
  • Works perfectly with Lightroom.

What we would expect next

Narrative is a young tool and the beauty of AI is that the more it is used - the more it evolves. In the future, we can easily see Narrative Select adjusting to photographer's own style and various genres becoming even more flexible. As for now, Mango - Rawsie's office team member - will be waiting for animal eyes autodetection. Or perhaps his haircut is long overdue :)

Next step + a massive giveaway!

Download Narrative

You can use the discount code NARRATIVE15 for a 15% off - wohoo!

Moreover, head over to our instagram now @rawsieapp to enter an unprecedent giveaway - one year subscription to Narrative Pro AND one year to Rawsie1
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