Having a strong Lightroom workflow will not only save you time, it will ensure your images aren’t all over the place.
Editing your images is just half the battle. You will also need to efficiently import, select your images and export them too.
Knowing how your library works also saves confusion and missing files. Metadata and keywording are just a few other counterparts that are important in using Lightroom to its full capacity.
The first port of call, way before you even think about Lightroom, is having a very clear idea on how you are going to store your images on your computer or hard drive.
For me, I find it best to have folders set up according to date. This allows me to show a progression from day to day, month to month, year to year. This helps me, as I know when most of my travelling expeditions took place.
Other photographers may find a better solution, depending on the photography that they do. For events, maybe the name of the event is the name of the folder. For landscape photographers, perhaps the location would work best.
I have one folder for all my photography, even if they are portrait sessions, documentary projects or something more creative. I could separate them into folders depending on the field of photography.
My Organisation of my images is simple yet effective for my Lightroom workflow.
A Catalog is a great way to keep your images organised too. By rule, you need at least one Catalog for Lightroom to work. All the information regarding your images is stored there, and it needs to be backed up periodically.
You could make more Catalogs based on location, event, year or even field of photography. This can lead to confusion but will allow Lightroom to work faster and more efficiently.
- Copy, Move or Add. When you first import images into Lightroom, you are presented with three options. Copy will let you copy from your memory card in the format you shot them in. Move will move your image folder to a new location, and they will no longer exist at the previous location. Add will simply add the photos you select to the database in their original location.
- File Handling. Selecting 1:1 previews means it will take longer for Lightroom to import your photographs. But if you check image sharpness a lot by zooming in and out, 1:1 previews will greatly speed things up. If you suspect you may have duplicate photographs among those you want to import, you should check the Don’t Import Suspected Duplicates box. If you’re importing images from a memory card and want to back-up to another location, select the second check-box and specify the destination.
- File Renaming. This tab is unavailable unless you’re moving or copying images from another location. If you want to rename original image files you’re about to import by copying or moving, use the provided renaming templates or create your own.
- Apply During Import. Keywords are very important here, so make sure to specify them. They will allow you to find related images more efficiently through the filters in the Library module if need be.
- Destination. This is only available if you’re moving or copying images from another location. If you want to add photographs to your Catalog, these settings won’t be visible. This is quite straightforward. All you need to do is specify where you want the files moved or copied to before import.
Metadata is the information behind the image. If you want information to tell others who the image belongs to, this is the area in which to do it.
For copyright assurances, add your name and address, so that there is no mistaking who the image belongs to.
This can be applied during the import, as long as you create a preset by saving entered data. This area is also great for information on when exactly the image was taken, date and time.
Separating the Wheat From the Chaff
Going through your images can take time. The best way to start is not by using the mouse or even the keyboard arrows to scroll through them all.
Those extra clicks add up and take a lot of time. Auto Advance is your best way forward (puns aside) as it automatically goes to the next image after an action is completed.
Auto-advance is found under the top menu bar under Photo>Auto-Advance.
- Stars. Stars are a good way to rate your images. The very best images could receive a 5-star rating, and then the stars descend with the next appropriate images. You add starts by using the numbers on your keyboard, where a 0 will bring it back to zero.
- Colours. Colours allow you to differentiate between images, creating a flagged collection of sorts. There are five in total, and you add colours to your images by using numbers 6-9, but the last label, purple doesn’t have a shortcut.
- Flagging. Another great way to select images for later uses is flagging. You press P for picking, or X for rejecting.
- Quick Selection. Each image offers you a quick selection to make particular images searchable using the Catalog tab on the lefthand side of the Library Module.
There are many ways to use these combinations in selecting images you want to keep, versus ones you may need to edit or delete.
I try not to delete any images unless they are technically bad, as you may never know when you may need those images.
Look at the options the above methods offer you. Flagging gives you two choices fast, colours give you five colours, where four of them are quickly usable. Stars also give you five fast selections, six if you count zero.
You will find that by quickly going through your images, you can quickly select and choose images for later use.
It isn’t uncommon to go through a whole session multiple times, adding different selection tools as you go.
I would suggest using flags or a quick selection to quickly pull aside images you do not want to keep.
Then, going through the session again using colours, for either separating the fields of photography or distinguish between images that require heavy, light or no editing.
Then, go through them again to rate each image with the rating star system.
When I photograph a live band, I need to work on the images very fast due to the fast turn around required. So after importing the images, I go to the first image of the session and set Lightroom to Auto-Advance.
I quickly go through my images, keeping a finger very close to the X button. Any technically bad images are met with a ‘rejection flag’, until I reach the end.
Then, by using the filter section at the bottom of the Library Module, I select the rejected images and deleted them from my hard drive and Lightroom Catalog.
Next, I go through the images using colours. I may use a colour per member of the band, or down to the angles, I photographed them in.
Live music photography requires different images of the band, some closeups, some wider shots. I over the photograph to ensure I have the image as chimping isn’t possible.
I use four colours, which will help me choose the final images later. If I know the band needs ten images from four band members, I would take two red, two blue, two yellow and two green.
This leaves me with two images to find from somewhere else.
As I may have 20-40 images in red, I use the stars to further shorten my selection. In the end, I am left with eight coloured images with five (or four) stars.
From these, I may use B (quick collection) for images I will convert to black and white.
File Structure & Organisation
- Creating Folders. Creating a folder in Lightroom is a handy way to separate images inside the program without having to go back to the desktop to do the same thing there. Adding a folder here adds it on your computer automatically. In the Library Module, click on the + symbol in the corner. To add a folder to an already existing one, right-click on a folder on the left-hand area and click on Create Folder Inside “”.
- Moving Images. Moving images is a grey area in Lightroom. Some people prefer to do it inside the program, others consider this sacrilege. Basically, you drag the folder from its location in the right-hand area to another folder. You will be prompted that what you are doing cannot be undone. Of course, you can move it back. This process will move the folder on your desktop too.
- Collections and Assigning to Them. Collections are my favourite tool in Lightroom. They are perfect for organising all types of images, even ones that wouldn’t necessarily go together. If I wanted to collate all of my best live music images from the past year, a few actions would sort all of these into a folder for me. Smart Collections are even better. This idea of folder creation has no limits. You could create parameters to find and add all of your images over the past decade that you wanted to convert to B&W, but never had time. This would look across dates, colour flags, ratings and much more. It takes some time getting used to
Keywords are very important for mastering your Lightroom workflow. They are the sort of thing you want to use ASAP, as finding out the benefit from them after amassing a huge database can be a pain in the backside.
For live music, I always add the band name, the month and year in which I shot them, the venue, the city and even the camera.
This way, after photographing hundreds of bands, I can find all of the images taken with a particular lens, for example. Why might this be important, I hear you ask?
Well, when Lightroom finally gets round to adding my lens to their distortion fixing profile, I can change them all with a click of a button.
- Presets. Presets. Thank goodness for presets. These are pre-created settings from other photographers (or yourself when you get your head around them). They can be applied to images either singularly, or by batch processing. These presets basically add a filter look to your images. This really saves time than having to change multiple settings for each image individually. These can be downloaded, then need to be added to Lightroom in a specific manner. See here how to add and use presets.
- Plugins. Plugins are a great way to make more effective use of your time. You need to download and install these, and there are many to choose from. One that I like is called Focus Mask. This shows you the parts of the image with the most amount of detail, and therefore, the areas where the focus lies.
- Moving Back and Forth Between Photoshop. This action can be a game changer. Yesterday I took some professional pictures of my fiance for her CV. I used Lightroom for all the small corrections but then sent the image to Photoshop so I could remove the background. Right-click on the image you want to move and go to Edit In….Find Photoshop (you need to have the program already installed) and it will open the image or images for you. Whatever editing you do, you need to click on Save rather than Save As, as Lightroom will not pick up the edited version otherwise.
- Copy and Pasting Settings. One tool I find very helpful is the copy and paste settings method. If a session of mine, be it portrait or landscape, contains many images of the same orientation, same light settings and same white balance problems, I can copy all of the completed settings. This allows me then to select one or multiple images and then paste the settings across. This allows me to work on one image, but get many back without extra work.
- Export Location. This lets you specify where you want Lightroom to save your images.
- File Naming. Here you can rename the images on export or keep original file names. In case you do want to rename images, there’s a number of naming presets to choose from.
- File Settings. Specify file format (JPEG, TIFF, DNG, etc.) of exported images as well as quality.
- Image Sizing. This is the best place for resizing your images, for example, a blog where the longest side can’t extend past 700 pixels on its longest edge.
- Output Sharpening. Here you can apply additional sharpening to exported files. Especially useful if downsizing images on export or for print, where you’d want to slightly oversharpen the digital file.
- Metadata. Here, you have one more chance to add and specify how much and what sort of metadata will be stored with the image once exported.