Over the years I developed my own system for speeding up my Lightroom workflow, here I am going to describe it for you – it’s all about reclaiming that precious time spent too long in front of the computer for ourselves right?
Ok – This is going to be as jargon free as possible! I am assuming here that you have a basic knowledge of Lightroom already. If not, then first watch a few Adobe videos which are fantastic at introducing you to the software.
One thing to also bear in mind is how important backing up your images is – hard drives are relatively CHEAP these days, don’t delete from an external hard drive to create more space. Keep all RAWS and buy a new hard drive.
So lets’s start with how I import images. I import images straight to my computer from the card using a card reader (I use a Lexar USB3 card reader) through the Import dialog box into a Lightroom Catalog. Use either the Copy as DNG or Copy in this instance. Having the images on your computer makes your culling (selecting your best pictures) time quicker as the images are easier for Lightroom to ‘find’. I use a catalog a year for each different type of photography e.g: ‘Family Shoots 2015” and I import images into neat Folders labelled by Year > month of shoot > name of shoot.
* I also always use the ‘Make a second copy’ option and these go straight onto an external hard drive. Already I feel better – they are now safely in two places. And a third is also being backed up as I use BackBlaze to make a backup of all my computer files and external hard drive files. Everything is safe and secure now for yourself and/or clients.
* Selecting 1:1 previews can also help speed up your editing process (although takes longer to import) as Lightroom collects more information from the images on importing (remember Lightroom is not moving your images anywhere – you are instructing on import where the images will be stored or ‘filed’ and Lightroom creates previews of these images to use in the software). Although if your computer is working well and you don’t want the import to take a long time, then Minimal works fine. I generally use Minimal.
* File Renaming – as I am importing straight from a card I like to rename the files using a custom Filename which changes the file name to include the date imported and the name of the shoot/family whilst keeping the original file number.
* Keywording is also very important at this stage. If you ever need to find this shoot at a later date or, for example, want pictures from all your autumnal shoots then all you will have to do is create a ‘Smart Collection’ using the keyword option to search for a group of images. So for example keyword – ‘smith, family, park, london, autumn’.
Some options that I haven’t talked about – I don’t apply any ‘Develop Settings’/presets on import. In the Destination box I opt for organising into One Folder as it is unnecessary to have a subfolder due to the organisation of folders as mentioned earlier.
Note: To make sure my computer hard drive isn’t full of RAW files I periodically move these off onto an additional external hard drive which lives OUTSIDE of the house. So I still have 3 copies of any shoot backed up. One on a hard drive connected to my computer, one on a cloud storage and one on an external-external drive! It is easy to relink images in Lightroom to the hard drive where you previously did a second back up when the images originally imported.
SELECTION (aka CULLING):
Now the shoot is in Lightroom, select the relevant Folder in the left hand panel. It is now time to select your favourite images. I use a star system to select my favourites. I personally prefer not to use the ‘Pick’ and ‘Reject’ flag system. So I have my left hand on the 1 key and my right on the right arrow key. As I go through images I may also select a group of images – using the shift key – and use the N key shortcut to view the selected images – this is an easier way of cutting down similars. Double check sharpness if necessary as you select.
Once you have done your first run through, go back through to check you don’t have too many similar – if you do, I like to give a choice of colour and black & white. I 2-star any favourites – these can be used as a Facebook ‘sneak peek’ and also add the word ‘portfolio’ in the keyword panel which is useful for website additions/end of year summaries. You can create a Smart Collection with the keyword ‘portfolio’ and it will gradually create a selection of your best images from the year for you.
Now you have edited down to the best images – as you go through the images adjust exposure and contrast on each image and use your Eddie’s Presets to rocket through your selection. There are more than just colour and black and white looks to help you…. For example – If your shoot is mid-summer in an English park then use the ‘Summer green reduction’ preset and you will find that green glare is much kinder on the eye. If it is a colder day or an overcast morning then use the ‘Hint Of Summer’ of ‘Summer Glow’ preset to warm up your image. Everyone prefers it to look warm and sunny! If you think the light means there is a lack of contrast to your image then select ‘Contrast Punch’ to add blacks. All these ‘tools‘ are there as a one-click solution to making a better looking image.
Now all thats left to do is export your images to present to your client. I have created and saved several Export presets for ‘Gallery’, ‘Print 7×5’, ‘Blog’ etc – anything that helps cut down those precious seconds as they soon add up to minutes!
I hope reading my workflow has helped you even just to change one thing in yours that helps to speed things up! Imagine all those things you can do with saved time – read a book, go for a walk, time with the family or even spend more time on other parts of your business like taking more pictures!
Now – I’d love to hear any questions you may have – please ask and I can amend this post with any relevant tips and tricks.