Lightroom: My Real Life Workflow

category: Lightroom • 3 min read

Everybody talks “Workflow”. What’s a workflow? It just a sequence of operations. So here is my sequence. It’s the best! For me! Why because it works for me! I have processed as many as 5000 photos in a month in Lightroom.

I hear you say: wait a second, there are people that claim that with their workflow, they can process 3000 photos in an evening. Actually, it’s like comparing “hamburger flipping” and cooking “a full gourmet meal”. They only import and while only assigning a couple of keywords and only delete the “bad” photos. My other limitation is that I can do this photo editing for only so many hours in the evening. Today, you will get the overview, then in the many following instalments, you will get the actual details, including the why of such and such step.

  1. I copy all the photos from the flash card to the hard drive. BTW, I do NOT import directly from the camera into Lightroom. The camera is not a reliable USB drive device. By copying to the hard drive, I can verify that the copy is properly done and while I process the photos, I have 2 copies, just in case.
  2. I open my WIP, work in progress catalog. I have 2 catalogs see: Lightroom: How Many Catalogs?

    • WIP: Work in Progress
    • SYV: Finished photos,…
  3. I import the photos, at the same time I do:

    • Name the photos.
    • Convert the photos to DNG
    • Assign the basic keywords for that group.
    • Set the preview to 1:1.
  4. I set Photo > Auto-Advance

  5. I review the photos in the Library > Grid mode > Fit. I only use 3 keys:

    • P for pick, the photos with Potential.
    • X for reject, the photos that are off, out of focus, bad…
    • U for not deciding, check later.
  6. When done, Edit > Select by flag > Rejected

  7. Ctrl-A: Select all rejected photos and Photo > Delete Photo, to delete all the rejected photos. That’s less photos that I will have to process.
  8. Filter by Attribute: all the photos flagged only.
  9. Switch to Develop mode
  10. I go through each photo that had potential:

    • Apply cropping for re-composition if needed. I do it 75% of the time.
    • Apply the White Balance. I usually set it only once per batch, then copy it over with the Sync button, only applying the White Balance.
    • Auto Tone. 90% of the time, the Auto Tone is an good improvement, if not there is Undo.
    • Apply the manual settings of Brightness, Clarity, Vibrance and colors. Please note that so far, I have not applied the specific keywords, titles & captions. Is it worth spending the time on those things if the photo will end-up in the Trash?
  11. Go through the Picks again, and decide if they are still Picks or Undecided or even Rejects. Usually, 10% to 15% will become rejects, and another 25% will become undecided.

  12. Back to the Library module, Grid mode:

    • Assign the title and caption to the first photo.
    • Select all the other photos with the same title and the same caption > Click on the word Title, select from the pop-up menu, the correct one, and it will applied to all of these photos. > Click on the word Caption, select from the pop-up menu, the correct one, and it will applied to all of these photos.
    • Assign the keywords to the 1st photo.
    • Select all the other photos with the same keywords > Click on Sync Metadata > Click on Check None > Go down to the keywords, your new keywords should already be typed in > Checkmark the keywords and Click on Synchronize.
  13. Select all the flagged photos > File > Export as Catalog. I always name my catalog Temp, so it will be deleted at the end of the operation.

  14. Open the SYV catalog
  15. File > Import from Catalog, the Temp, and import my almost finished photos.
  16. Re-open the WIP catalog, select the flagged photos and delete them from the catalog without deleting them from the disk.
  17. Re-open the SYV catalog, I will assign a color code to some of the photos see: Lightroom: Color Labels

I am sure than of you will say, there are shortcut, and don’t need to do this step or that step, and why go back on some of them? Why? Because it works for me. It’s never perfect, I’m always willing to adapt if I will get better photos and more saleable photos.