Develop an Effective Lightroom Workflow
by, 01-22-2011 at 10:10 AM (7777 Views)
I am fairly busy throughout the year photographing high school seniors and weddings (Paxton Portraits). I handle the bulk of my image processing in Adobe Lightroom. I create a new catalog each year for senior portraits, regular (non-senior) portraits, weddings and landscapes. That means I have four catalogs to choose from each year. At the end of the year, I create new catalogs and start over. As an example, my senior portrait catalog currently has approximately 26,000 images in it and seems to be running fine. If a catalog starts acting sluggish, you can try to optimize it. In Lightroom go to File -> Optimize Catalog. I save all of my previous years' catalogs on external hard drives so that I can access them if necessary.
- Import the images into Lightroom. I have Lightroom setup to automatically convert my Raw images into DNGs (I don't save the original Raws - here's why). I also rename the images using the following date/time format - 2009_10_02-1603-Hrs_54-Sec.dng. My images are stored using the following folder structure - Images -> 2009 -> 10 -> 2009_10_02-1603-Hrs_54-Sec.dng. Inside the main folder of images, I also create a folder called "Converted." Any images that I process in Photoshop and save as PSDs are saved into the Converted folder. The PSDs are also introduced into Lightroom. The last thing Lightroom does during the import process is keyword the images. A senior portrait session may have the following keywords assigned (for example): Portrait, Senior Portrait, Smith.
- Next I sort the images in Lightroom using the Pick (P) or Reject (X) shortcuts. Picked images are images I plan to carry through and process while Rejected images are ones that are marked to be deleted. I sort my images before backing them up so that I don't waste hard drive space by backing up Rejected shots (I have the originals still on my CF cards that serve as a temporary backup). After sorting, I permanently delete the rejected images.
- I next backup the entire folder to an external hard drive. I use the SyncBack to back everything up automatically. At this point I feel comfortable formating the CF cards that the images were original saved to in the camera.
- Before I process a large group of images (of a wedding for example), I group the images together by type using the color tags in Lightroom. I may also rate the images by stars (1-5).
- Now it's time to process the images. I have created a number of Lightroom Presets to help automate the process including a preset for sharpening portraits, reducing clarity, boosting vibrance, and adjusting color balance. I shoot in manual mode so that a string of images from a set will be exposed the same. This allows me to batch process my images in Lightroom. I simply process the first image in the set and copy the settings to the rest of the images in that group. Right after processing my images, I use CRTL+S (or Command+S on the Apple) to save all the metadata (including my image processing) to the images. This means that all the processing work I just finished is saved with the images - with no sidecar files. I can freely copy/move images to other computers without worrying about bringing sidecar files along.
- After the images are processed, I group them together into Collections (this is where the color tagging that I did earlier can be helpful). Having the images sorted in a collection gives me the ability to view the images by sets or location or type. For example in a Collection Set I may have the following separate collections: Formals, Bride and Groom, Wedding, Reception. With my images grouped into Collections Sets, months later I can quickly find specific images for myself or my clients.
- At this point I rename my images. I use the following naming convention for finished images. For a wedding it would look like this: "smith_wedding-formals-005." For a senior portrait session it would look like this: "smith-004." I think renaming the images to something conventional looks more professional than - "DV009848.jpg" and it makes it easier for my clients and I to identify specific shots for printing.
- With all the images renamed, I next export them out as email friendly and high resolution JPGs. My wedding clients typically get both versions. My portrait/senior portrait clients get the email friendly images (for Facebook, MySpace, etc.) and can purchase the high resolution versions if they wish. All of my final JPGs are saved into a different folder (called Final Images) and backed up the same way as the DNGs. In the end, I should have two copies of the original (and processed) DNGs and two copies of the JPGs. All the images are saved a third time to disc (yes, it's a major pain).
- The very last step is to upload the images to my server and into my proofing system for my clients to view. You can check out our online proofing gallery showcasing a couple of our latest senior portrait sessions. Click over to the proofing page (here) and enter “senior girls” or “senior guys” into the passcode box. To see our sample wedding enter "wedding sample."