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When I first started using my DSLR on a regular basis I really began to understand why having a trusted and consistent photography editing workflow when handling your images was so important. In the first few months of shooting and editing consistently, I found myself buried in a ridiculous amount of files, folders, copies of files and duplicate images. I was grasping at straws saving images all over the place without any rhyme or reason to what I was doing.
And I was frustrated.
Once I began doing photo shoots for clients, I knew it was imperative that I get a system in place. I sat down and organized my thoughts about a editing workflow and organization system for my photo shoots.
The system I came up with has been working well for me, so I wanted to share my process in hopes to encourage you to start a system of your own if you don’t already have one!
This system will work well for photo shoots or just every day general photos that you might be taking of your family, your life or just for fun!
Once I am done shooting I import all the digital files from my CF or SD card onto the hard drive of my computer. I organize all of my files by year/month/date _event.
Since I sometimes shoot different events on the same day, this system works well for me to keep everything in its place and easy to find!
Once the images are copied to my hard drive, I eject the CF or SD card and put it back into my camera and format it. This way I know the card is fresh every time I go to use my camera and I don’t run into double copying files onto my computer.
Then I open Lightroom and upload the event.
Once all photos are uploaded into LR I begin my cull. I take a run through each photo and look for a few things. I look for closed eyes, weird expressions, blurry or out of focus shots, “practice” shots, or shots where exposure was so severely missed that it really is not worth fixing in post processing. I also look for amazing shots or favorites straight off the bat.
I put my fingers on the #5 key, the x key and the “next” arrow key. (The 5 key will rate the photo 5 stars The X key will mark the photo as rejected.)
If I absolutely love a photo or series of photos in one pose I click the 5. If eyes are closed or its blurry or something is really wrong with the photo and I KNOW I will never use it again, I hit the X key, and then just keep clicking the right arrow key until I get through the entire session.
Once I get through the initial run through I check to see how many photos I have marked in each category. In a typical photo session I upload around 350 – 400 images. I usually have around 100 marked for deletion and 100 marked as 5’s.
Once I am done with the initial run through I separate out my marked for deleting photos and right click, remove, delete from disk. This permanently deletes those photos out of Lightroom and off of my hard drive.
Then I select my photos marked as 5 stars.
Many of the photos I marked as 5’s will be the same or very similar image but my subjects may have a different expression. I photograph a LOT of families with small children and we all know that small children do not sit still for long and they will often will showcase many different expressions in a very small amount of time.
I go through all of my similar photos using the compare feature in LR and any photo that doesn’t “win” the comparison, gets marked with 4 stars which I call my “runner ups”.
I will go through all of my 5 photos and narrow down even further. After looking at the full set of my favorites, it is easier for me to pull out the best of that bunch. Anything that doesn’t make that cut gets changed to a 4 star rating.
This should leave me with between 15-40 final images that I am going to edit for my client. My photo packages come with galleries of between 15-40 images so depending on the package the client wanted, I narrow down accordingly.
Once I have my final set of images to edit, I begin going through them one by one to make minor changes to exposure, white balance, highlights, contrast, clarity, sharpness and profile correction. If I have many in the same sequence/lighting I will use the Sync feature in Lightroom which saves me oodles of time!
Once I am satisfied with the photos in LR, I will take a few over to Photoshop if I feel like they need some major work or if I want to apply a special action. The process to do this is so simple; I was shocked when I first learned how to do it!
When in a photo in LR, simply right click and select, “edit photo in PS”. This will automatically open the photo in PS, and I can apply select actions or editing to the photo in PS.
Once I am done with it in PS, I simply flatten the image, and then exit the photo. It will prompt me to save and I click yes and then the image is transported back to LR with all of my PS changes.
So now I have two images in LR, my pre PS photo and my post PS photo.
I then change the rating on the pre PS photo to a 3 and leave the rating on the final edited photo as a 5.
After I am done editing all of the photos I have selected as finals, its time for exporting!
Exporting photos in LR is extremely easy and so flexible depending on what you need. I recently added BlogStomp to my toolbox which has made my exporting process even easier!
Once I am done with my final set of images, I export them back into the original file folder with all of my RAW files. I put them in a folder called Client. I export them at 80% and 300dpi.
Then I choose one or two photos from the set, put them in BlogStomp to watermark them and then save them to my shared Dropbox folder on my computer. These photos I use as sneak peeks to post to Facebook and Instagram. Since I have Dropbox on my phone and laptop as well, the photos I have saved in Dropbox are accessible from all of my devices so I can upload to FB or IG on the go!
Then I choose the entire set of images and put them in BlogStomp and create collages from the set that I will use on my blog. I save all of those collages into my Dropbox folder as well. Then when I am ready to blog the session I have all of the images sized and ready to upload into my blog.
I upload the final images to the client gallery and send them an email letting them know everything is ready.
Once I got this system down, my editing process time decreased by about 50%. That is more time I can spend growing my business or spending with my family.