In this day and age of multiple online outlets for photographers to showcase their work, the need to have a successful, coherent, and stable workflow is paramount. There are a number of programs that photographers use to catalog and organize their work, but since I only use Adobe’s Lightroom I’m only going to focus on that program.

Part 1 – Setting Up Your Images:

Wither you shoot on film or with a digital camera, at some point you’ll need to get your images on your computer and into Lightroom. But before discussing the details of the Lightroom Library, I’d like to mention the importance of good file structure. You see, programs like Lightroom do most of the organizing of images for you, but behind the program there is still just a bunch of files on your computer. Folks who pay attention to file organization can save themselves a lot of trouble in the future if the unthinkable ever happens.

Myself, I’ve got a separate hard drive that is only used for my photography (and videography) with a simple and easy to understand folder structure. Below you’ll see how I organize the drive. The “Pictures Backup” folder is mainly where I backup my Lightroom database, and the “Photography” folder is where I keep files such as web icons and watermark images for use in Photoshop.

The three folders that pertain to my photography files.

Inside the “Pictures” folder, all images are first sorted by date.

Diving into one of the year folders, each shoot is then put into it’s own individual folder.

Now, if you are shooting digital, Lightroom actually makes it easy to import from the camera or memory card into a similar folder structure. However, even if you are scanning from film the process of importing to Lightroom is still easy.

Digital Import Process

For digital shooters importing from the camera or memory card, pay attention to the image on the right. You’ll notice that I’ve checked the “Into Subfolder” option. This is where the individual shoot folders come from. For my shoots, I chose to use the YY-MM-DD date format, but other date formats work just as well (as long as you pick one and stick to it).

Further down, if you’ve already got your year folders created, it’s just a matter of clicking to the appropriate folder. Thats It! Of course there are a number of other things you can automate during the import process, but thats a discussion for another time.


Film Scanning Import Process

If You are shooting with film and need to get your scans imported into Lightroom, I’m going to assume that you already know how to scan your negatives to get an image file on your computer. When importing, just browse to the correct source folder (the left side of the screen in Lightroom), choose the method of import (top of the screen in Lightroom), and finally select any settings you wish to apply on the right.

If you’ve already got your file and folder structure how you like, the method of import that you’ll likely choose is simply “Add” which will not move your files from where they are. If however you are migrating to a new file/folder structure, you can choose “Copy” or Move” and you’ll be presented with options on the right that mimic the steps involved for those importing digital files from a camera or memory card.


Thats it for part one. Next time I’ll dive into some more features that Lightroom can offer you towards establishing a solid workflow. I know that this first article didn’t really get into the meat of what a “workflow” really is, but we’re taking baby steps here 😉


Continue to Part 2

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