Do you enjoy taking photos but find yourself buried in unprocessed images? This article is for you! I’m going to give you my top 10 photo editing tips for speeding up your workflow.
The goal is to get from import to export efficiently. Don’t lose your photographic mojo or let your favourite photography gather digital dust.
10. Fix Your Images In-Camera to Save Time
Often, you will take a photo knowing that you’ll have to fix something later in post-processing.
But if you can fix it now in-camera, you don’t have to fix it later. With a quick spin of a dial, you can change the exposure. Zoom in for a tighter crop. Straighten that horizon line. It’s better than fussing with straightening it later in post-processing. Especially if you have to adjust 100 horizon lines individually.
You can make adjustments later. But why wait until tomorrow for something that you can do today?
Save on post-processing time by slowing down in the field and looking at the scene. You’ll probably need to take fewer shots to get the one you want.
The closer the in-camera image is to your final image, the less post-processing you have to do.
9. Use Import & Export Tools
On import, you can add global keywords and metadata like titles and copyright information. Keywording is a pain, but you can’t find your images unless you keyword. By taking a few seconds to apply keywords on import, you will save a lot of time later.
You can even add a develop preset which applies your favourite settings to the imports. You can tweak settings later, but lay the foundation of your post-processing edits on import.
When you’ve finished working, you also have export tools. You can rename images and apply output sharpening. Lightroom makes the changes automatically. You don’t have to think about it.
8. Have a System to Find Your Images Faster
I’ve wasted a lot of time looking for images. If I only had a few, I could probably remember where I put them. But after 1,000 (or 100,000), I need a system for storing images.
Put files in a place where you can find them later. It doesn’t matter what your system is, it’s having the system that’s important. An example of this might be Photographs>Wedding>2018.07.15 – Scott & Wendy.
Speeding up your workflow isn’t just about faster post-processing. It’s about having images at your fingertips when you need them.
7. Edit Only the Best Images
Photographers who fly through post-processing aren’t spending time on each and every photo. They only work on the best of the best.
This means having an effective culling strategy. Culling means deleting photos that didn’t work and targeting ones that did.
Rank your favourites with hearts, colors, flags, or stars. I go through my images quickly to make an initial selection. Then I do it again, narrowing down my favourites. My top shots get more stars. You don’t have to use my system but have a system.
I’m only going to post-process my favourites. I’ve been burned too often. I’ve post-processed an image only to find better light or composition on the next image.
To make this process faster, use a tool like Photo Mechanic. This is a program designed specifically to speed up the culling process.
Post-processing only the best of the best will greatly speed up your workflow.
6. Eliminate Keystrokes
Photo adjustments can be highly repetitious. Use any keyboard shortcuts offered by your post-processing program.
If you are able to do with one keystroke that would normally take two, you’ve saved yourself time and energy. It might not seem like a lot but think of all those thousands of photos in your catalogue. A one-second keystroke becomes a lot when multiplied by a 1000 or 100,000.
For instance, use Lightroom’s Auto-Advance function. To activate this, place a checkmark next to Photo>Auto-Advance. When you add a flag or star during culling, Lightroom automatically advances to the next image. This saves you hundreds of keystrokes each time you cull images.
There are many Lightroom shortcuts. “X” for reject. “D” to switch to the Develop Module. “V” to convert to black and white. Here’s a complete list of Lightroom shortcuts.
5. Use Presets and Auto For Quick Adjustments
It’s quicker to tweak adjustments than apply them from scratch. Start post-processing by using auto options or presets.
The auto-icon usually looks like a magic wand. The software analyzes your image and makes changes. You can check to see what settings Lightroom recommends by clicking the auto button in the Basic panel. If you don’t like the results, you can always undo the changes.
I like a lot of the settings Lightroom suggests, but others I tweak. I tend to like a lot more contrast than Lightroom suggests.
Presets or filters apply a look to your photography with one click. You can download filters or make your own. In Lightroom, you can save favourite settings as a preset. To do this, click the “+” next to the Presets panel in the Develop module. Select Create Preset.
In Photoshop, I save a series of commands as an action.
Saving settings as a preset means that I can apply these with one click.
4. Use Batch-Editing
You may often photograph a series of photos in the same scene or with the same subject. They will have similar lighting and camera settings. There’s no need to post-process each image separately. Instead, batch edit.
Batch editing means post-processing more than one photo at a time.
There are a couple of ways you can do this in Lightroom. You can copy and paste the settings or use the Sync button.
Start by editing one photo.
To copy your settings, select the image you’ve edited and go to Edit>Copy (Ctrl or ⌘C). A dialogue box will appear asking which settings you want to copy. You can check all or individual settings. Then select an unedited image and paste the settings Edit>Paste (Ctrl or ⌘V).
To sync settings, select all similar photos starting with the photo you’ve edited. Click the Sync button in the Develop module. That’s it! Your settings will be applied to all of the photos. It doesn’t matter if you selected two or two hundred.
3. Streamline Your Editing Process
Once you start editing images, have a system. It doesn’t matter what that system looks like – just that you do the same adjustments in the same order.
Some photographers go straight down the Develop Module panel in Lightroom. They fix the Basic settings first, then move down the list. Skip over the settings that don’t apply to your photographic style.
My first change is composition. I crop the image. There’s nothing worse than removing dust spots, straightening lines, and adding a vignette – only to then crop out my hard work. After cropping, I move onto contrast, highlights, shadows, color, and details.
Decide on the settings that you care about most and make changes in the same order. If you often have to go back to readjust a setting, change the order. For instance, adding dehaze often darkens the image. This means I have to readjust exposure. The more you can automate your editing, the faster you will be.
2. Edit on the Go
I have found myself sitting on a plane, train, or bus home from a session, itching to start post-production. Put that time to work.
Set up a mobile post-processing workspace on a laptop or mobile device. This won’t necessarily replace your primary workspace, but you can get started editing. By the time you’re home, you can have your images imported into Lightroom, added keywords, and started culling.
1. Be Decisive
When I think about the things that slow down my workflow, I have to admit that most of the time it’s me.
There are a thousand ways to edit a digital image. I am at my most efficient in post-processing when I’m decisive. I waste time when I vacillate between possibilities. There’s no harm in trying a few different ways of post-processing an image. But then I need to make a choice.
It’s easier if I only have two choices in front of me. This photo or that? This white balance or that?
There is no right way of post-processing an image. It only matters that you like it.
There you go. My top ten photo editing tips to speed up your workflow. This article is more about streamlining how you deal with your images than on how to edit photos. Spending more time at the beginning of the process will stop time being wasted later on.
I use these tips when it comes to my work, and it took a while for the process to become streamlined. Find your own way and share your tips in the comments below.
Want to learn more? See our Effortless Editing with Lightroom course.