How to manage your photography workflow in Lightroom

What do you do once you have that winning shot? Here are some tips to help manage your workflow in Lightroom like a pro.

Taking the perfect photo can often be the easiest part of the digital workflow process. What do you do once you have that winning shot? Here are some tips to help manage your workflow like a pro.

Sarah Jenkins is a photographer and graphic designer who lectures on best workflow practices and how to make the most of your post-processing time. We asked Jenkins to share some of her tips on working with Adobe Lightroom 3. Never fear if you're not a Lightroom user, as there are still plenty of useful hints here for photographers of all skill sets.

Sarah Jenkins
(Burma (Myanmar) revisited image © 2011 Sarah Jenkins. Used with permission of Sarah Jenkins. All rights reserved.)

Step one: the capture process

Copying photos in Lightroom. (Screenshot by CBSi)

Importing photos correctly is a very important step before post-processing begins in earnest and you should always decide where you are going to store these images. Lightroom stores the Lightroom Catalog in the User Pictures folder, and Jenkins ensures that she always creates a "master photos" folder to store the actual photos. This "master photos" folder can be stored where Lightroom keeps its Catalog, or elsewhere on an external hard drive.

When importing photos from a camera or card reader, she selects either "Copy Photos" or "Copy as DNG files" if shooting in RAW. Specify where you want the photos to go (a destination folder) within the "master photos" folder you made.

Professional photographers always make sure their work is saved with metadata for copyright purposes. You can create a template that can then be applied each time photos are imported. Add keywords as relevant, and begin the import process.

Creating a metadata template. (Screenshot by CBSi)

At this stage, Jenkins suggests it's optional whether or not you create a backup of your original images. "I prefer to do a backup of my original images later to external hard drive after I have reviewed, culled and rated my imported photos," she says.

Step two: review images

In the Library module, Jenkins uses the Compare and Survey views to work out her best photos and rates them with stars. She then adds keywords to find them easily at a later date. Then, she filters the images to show only photos that have been rated four stars in the imported folder. Once this is done, you can create additional collection folders to put the selected images in the Develop module for further fine tuning. "Creating an organised photo library is an important part of the digital workflow so don't get tempted to start playing and making adjustments to any images yet," Jenkins says.

Using the compare tool in Lightroom. (Screenshot by CBSi)

Step three: edit images

With the images all organised, now choose which of the star photos you want to spend time editing. Select the images in the film strip when in the Library module and click Develop to adjust things such as exposure, white balance and cropping.

Step four: refine and save

The next step is the fun part — making all the changes to the photo that you like. For any retouching beyond what Lightroom is capable of, you can load Photoshop to take care of more complex tasks like blending layers. Once you save the image from Photoshop, the edited PSD is made available in the Library in Lightroom where the original image is also saved.

Making changes to an image in Lightroom. (Screenshot by CBSi)

From the Library module, save and export edited images as TIFF, JPEG or PSD files. The export process gives you options for output on screen/web or print based on image size, pixel resolution and sharpening. Most of the images Jenkins works on are native RAW files that have no sharpening applied in-camera, so she always applies sharpening when exporting images. The amount depends on where the image will be displayed.

This is a basic insight into Jenkins' workflow: more tips for fine tuning can be found on the next page.

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