BMP Greatest Hits – My Lightroom Workflow

Written by:

I will be traveling this week, heading back to my childhood home because of an illness in the family. In the meantime, I will be posting three of the most-visited articles on our site. Enjoy, and I’ll see you next week!


By Tiffany Joyce, originally posted 12/29/2011

A few folks have sent messages, asking for advice on how to manage a post-production workflow that includes hundreds of photographs. So I thought I would share with you all my personal workflow for post-processing, using Adobe Lightroom 3.

Since my husband and I went off-roading last weekend, I have 171 photos to process of us, the Jeep, and the Arizona landscape. Here’s how I’m going about it:

Import: Append Metadata and Add Keywords

The first thing I did when I first started using Lightroom was to set up the import settings so that specific metadata was appended to the files whenever I imported them from my memory card.

- From the Import window (Command-Shift-i or Ctrl-Shift-i), choose “New” from the Metadata pop-up menu under the Apply During Import panel.
- In the New Metadata Preset dialog, input your copyright information and any other metadata you wish to be appended to your files.
- Assign a name to your metadata preset (at the top of the dialog box, “Preset Name”).
- Click on the “Create” button.

Click to enlarge

- On the Import panel, you will see your preset listed in the drop-down menu. This preset will be active every time you open the Import dialogue, unless you change it.
- At this stage I always assign keywords to the collection of photos I am downloading. Once you start amassing a large catalog of photos, keywords will be immensely helpful when you need to find something in the future.

Library: First Pass Flagging

Next I attempt to whittle down the photos into a manageable number that I will want to finish through post-processing.

- In the Library module, I choose the Grid view but expand the thumbnail size so that I can see two at a time. I happen to have my view modes set up such that I can see sorting, flagging, rating, color labels, and navigate buttons (use the arrow at the very bottom right of this screen shot to show/hide sorting options):

Click to enlarge

- This first pass is very simple – I decide whether it’s a “keeper” or not. If I know I absolutely do not want to keep the photo or bother editing it, I click on the “reject” flag while the photo is highlighted (as in the screen shot – I rejected the photo on the right, and you can see the reject flag in the top left corner of that photo).
- Next I filter the photos for all rejected photos, and delete them. That just gets them out of the way right off the bat and unclutters things, at least in my mind.

Library: Second Pass Rating

Once the rejected photos are removed, I go back through the photos again and rate them using the scale of five stars. This time I use loupe view to look at one photo at a time. I also hide the bottom, left and right menu bars so that all I see is the photo and the rating buttons.

Click to enlarge

- A photo gets one star if, upon a second look, I realize that it isn’t a keeper after all. (I’ll probably delete these after I’ve gone through the entire second pass.)
- A photo gets three stars if there is something about it that I want to try to keep – either a significant crop or some strong Photoshopping.
- A photo gets five stars if it’s great just the way it is, or just needs a bit of tweaking for exposure and sharpness right in Lightroom.

Develop: Five Starred Photos

Now I move into the Develop module. By this time I have a small selection of the highest rated (five-starred) photos, so I prioritize those for post-processing.

- Using the filters, I display only the five-starred photos. In the case of my series of photos from the weekend, I have seventy of the original 171 that I deem to be “five-star” worthy.

Click to enlarge

- I look at each photo individually and adjust exposure, contrast, sharpness, and whatever else needs tweaking. Once I have it where I like it, I move on to the next photo.
- If I come across a photo that I don’t want to mess with after all, or have multiple similar shots to choose from, I reduce it to three stars (or one if I decide I want to delete it later).


Once I have gone through all of the photos and adjusted them appropriately, I then select them all (Shift-click), right-click and select Export. My Export settings are as follows:

- Usually I export to the folder the original files were in on my hard drive.
- I use “Custom Name – Original File Number” so I can easily match up the RAW files with the JPEG’s should I need to.
- The file format is JPEG, quality is 100%, exported in sRGB color space.
- Resolution is 240 pixels per inch.
- Sharpen for screen, standard amount (unless I was printing).
- Sometimes I include a custom watermark, depending on the project.
- I don’t minimize metadata, and I don’t typically resize the photos.

Develop: Three Starred Photos

Once the five-starred photos are completely finished, I turn my attention to the three-starred photos. Sometimes I don’t even get to them, to be honest, but I know they’re there should I be after something specific. These are the shots that take more time in Photoshop to bring up to par, so unless there’s something very specific I want to do with them, they tend to be de-prioritized in favor of the five-starred photos. However, I don’t delete these, even if I never get around to processing them.

What does your post-processing workflow look like? Share any ideas or advice with us in the comments or on our Facebook Page.

Previous Post:

Comments are closed.