Lightroom workflow Part three of my article series with tips on managing your Lightroom workflow. In this installation, I’ll go over my method for the post-processing stage of my workflow. I’m going to be covering the use of picks and flags, color labels, and the use of a couple key metadata fields that were mentioned back in Part 2  of the series. By the end, you’ll be set up and ready to use some of the best management features that Lightroom has to offer.

Table of Contents
3.1 – Your Lightroom Workflow so far
3.2 – Pre Post-Processing
3.3 – Post-Processing
3.4 – Image Naming
3.5 – The Grand Recap

3.1 – Your Lightroom Workflow so far

So far in Part 1 I covered the organization of your files and the steps involved in importing to Lightroom. In Part 2 I got you set up with keywords, explained some of the metadata I use, and showed you how to easily geotag your images from within Lightroom. At the end of Part 2 I gave a brief rundown of how my typical workflow looks up to that point. Below is that recap for ease of reading:

1. Import photos as outlined in  Part 1 .
2. Select all images in the grid view and apply a metadata preset that only contains copyright and creator information.*
3. Select similar images in the grid view and apply “Setting & Theme” keywords.*
4. Select similar images in the grid view and apply any “Location” or “Model” keywords.*
5. Head over to the Map module.
6. Select photos from the same location in the filmstrip and drag them to the appropriate area on the map.

* Can be done during the import process with a properly configured metadata preset.

 

3.2 – Pre Post-Processing

When I finish a shoot and get my images imported into Lightroom, I don’t always have the time to dive right in to the post-processing. This is especially true when traveling as I usually only have a striped down copy of my Lightroom catalog on my laptop. In these situations, I’ll give the images a quick glance and “pick” the ones that I feel should be given closer inspection for post-processing. I will also “reject” any images that will definitely not be making it to post-processing.

This is a quick step that should only take a few minutes. The hotkeys used are “P” for flagging an image as a pick,  and “X” for flagging an image as a reject. Simply select the images in the library window (I use the grid view for this) and press the appropriate hotkey. You can also use your mouse to do this by clicking in the upper-left of the image’s tile to flag individual images as picked, or by adding the “Flagging” icons to the bar below the grid view (an icon for “Pick” and an icon for “Reject”). Using the icons in the bottom bar is the same as using the keyboard hotkeys in that it applies the flag to any selected images.

I don’t spend the time to apply a flag to each and every image, like I said this is just a quick glance through. This flagging process is really just for images that stand out one way or the other. Over the course of time I make regular visits to folders of old images and repeat this pre post-processing step of flagging images. After all, its quite common for an image to stand out amongst the others once some time has past (as I write this I’ve just picked two more images that I had previously passed over during my initial flagging).

 

3.3 – Post-Processing

It is well beyond the scope of this article for me to tell you exactly HOW to post-process your images, there are just too many variables and methods. Weither you use only Lightroom to make adjustments, or use 3rd party software like Photoshop it completely up to you. One thing, however, that everyone can benefit from in the initial step of post-processing, is to crop your photos to a standard ratio.

If you ever want to print your images (either yourself or professionally) you’ll soon notice that the dimensions offered by today’s cameras are ever so slightly off from the dimensions of prints. For me, shooting with a Nikon D300, the adopted aspect ratio is 1:1.5 or 4×6″ (and any print sizes with the same ratio; 8×12, 10×15, 20×30, etc). So before I do anything else, I apply a simple crop to the RAW files in the Develop module of Lightroom using the Aspect preset of “4×6”.

Screen Shot 2013-03-01 at 5.03.10 PM Screen Shot 2013-03-01 at 5.02.56 PM

Its difficult to see the difference this crop makes in the above thumbnail image, so either click the image to see it full sized, or better yet go try this in Lightroom yourself. You’ll notice that as soon as you select the 6×4 aspect that the crop lines will be just inside the edge of your image. This step is completely optional, and is more nit picky than what most people will do, but it has its payouts in the long run. Now you can move on to actually post-processing your images in whatever way you see fit.

3.4 – Image Naming

After you’re done with post-processing and you’ve got the image just how you want it, you’ll either have one or two files of the same image. If you did all of your post-processing in Lightroom, you’ll have the RAW file with all the edits from Lightroom applied to it. If you did your post-processing in another program that supports re-importing the processed file back into Lightroom (Photoshop does this), you’ll have at least two files for the same image. Either way, at this point the image is “done” and no more visual edits are planned for it.

Before I continue, the rest of this article and future articles are based on having two copies of an image at this point (the RAW file, and your post-processed file). If you only do edits in Lightroom, now would be a good time to make a “hard copy” of your post-processed RAW file. I use the TIF format for this.

After you finish with post-processing an image, you have to give it a title, or name. Of course, you don’t HAVE to name your images, but doing so is much better than using the filename. And once again, naming your images will only serve to help you in the long run.

3.4.1 – You don’t have a name/title ready for an image

I usually find that coming up with names/titles for images requires time and thought, so if I don’t already have a name/title in mind while doing my post-processing on an image, I assign it a color label and move on. The color label I use for “Processed, to be named” images is Yellow, and is applied much the same way as flags are. I apply the yellow color label to both the RAW and TIF files.

This creates somewhat of a stalling point in my workflow, but at the same time gives me work to do during the down time when I’m not actively shooting as much. As I write this article, my Lightroom catalog has over 100 images that are just waiting for a name/title. If this is where you’re at in your own workflow, then for all intents and purposes this article ends here for you. Read on however to find out what the next steps are in your Lightroom workflow when you DO have a name/title for an image.

3.4.2 – You DO have a name/title ready for an image

So you’ve got a name/title for your image? Great! Select both the RAW and TIF images in the Library module, then head over to the Metadata section in the right column. I’ve you’ve got the default set of metadata being displayed, you should see a text field labeled “Title”. Enter in your image name/title in that box.

Just like I use a color label for images that have yet to be named, I also use a color label for images that have names: Green. After you’ve entered in the name/title for your image, give the images the green color label. You can now move on to any other images that need names/titles and repeat this step as long as time will allow (or you run out of images that have been post-processed).

 

3.5 – The Grand Recap

Just as I started out this article out with a recap of my Lightroom workflow so far, I’m going to end this article with the same recap, amended to include the steps outlined in this article. If you’d like to go back and reference the previous articles here are a couple links for you: Part 1 – Importing and Part 2 – Keywords, Metadata, and Geotagging. And here is the step-by-step we’ve got so far:

1. Import photos as outlined in  Part 1 .
2. Select all images in the grid view and apply a metadata preset that only contains copyright and creator information.*
3. Select similar images in the grid view and apply “Setting & Theme” keywords.*
4. Select similar images in the grid view and apply any “Location” or “Model” keywords.*
5. Head over to the Map module.
6. Select photos from the same location in the filmstrip and drag them to the appropriate area on the map.

7. Quickly glance over images and flag any that stand out as either “Pick” or “Reject”.
8. From the picks, procede to do whatever post-processing is needed to get a finalized image (2 copies: RAW & TIF).
9a. If a name/title is NOT ready, mark  both copies with a yellow color label. Move on to the next image starting from step 8.
9b. If a name/title is ready, enter the name/title in the “Title” metadata box and mark image with a green color label. Move on to the next image starting from step 8.

* Can be done during the import process with a properly configured metadata preset.

And thats it for this installment on managing your Lightroom workflow! Next time I’m going to get into bringing all these keyword and color label concepts together in one of Lightroom’s best features: Smart Collections! Until then, if you have any questions or comments, by all means leave them below or contact me directly.

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