Summer and My Lightroom Workflow



Blue Rowboat, originally uploaded by theothermattm.

Summer is here. This is a photo from last weekend, which was Market Square Day in Portsmouth, NH. This particular photo has nothing to do with Market Square Day, but I thought it was a good one.

Lightroom work has been going extremely well, and I think I've got a workflow that's going really well so far. I've outlined my workflow below with a lot of detail, be prepared to geek out. For any Digital photo junkies reading this, I'd be curious for your comments.

Many of these tips were taken from Nat Coalson's excellent Lightroom book. As I said in previous posts, I highly recommend it.

Here goes.. My Lightroom Workflow:

  1. I import my photos to an external hard drive. I went out and got two Iomega 1TB Prestige drives. One as a primary working space for my photo library, and one as a backup which is kept "offsite" (not really, but far away ;) ). So far, the drives are great. They're not too big (physically), they're quiet, and they're cheap. I'm also backing up the old 12" Powerbook's hard drive to them as well. Bonus.
  2. I create a subfolder for each shoot with format YYYY_MM_DD-CustomText to import the photos to. The date is the first date of the shoot if it's multiple days.
  3. Using a Lightroom naming preset, I have the photo filenames as: YYYYMMDD-CustomText-Sequence #
  4. I apply some "standard" metadata using a Lightroom metadata preset upon import.
  5. I apply "Camera Standard" Camera Calibration develop preset upon import. I couldn't believe the difference using these presets. They definitely look more accurate and I spend less time developing because of it.
  6. I import to my Lightroom catalog as RAW file and not DNG, making sure sidecar files are enabled. After a lot of research and flip-flopping, I decided keep my library as RAW instead of DNG. The deciding factor was that I can always move to DNG if it becomes standard, but can't go the other way unless I essentially double each photo's filesize by keeping the original RAW data in the DNG. There's the (distant) possibility that I could lose some Canon Raw data. I'm too cautious sometimes, and perhaps this is a case of that, but for now... That's what I'm sticking with.
  7. After import, I go into the Library module using the thumbnail view and scan for immediate rejects in my import folder in the Library module. I flag any really bad photos with the "Reject" flag.
  8. At the same time, I add a Star to any keepers.
  9. At this point, I'm also adding similar photos (same for exposure, etc.) to a stack
  10. Then, I filter the Library module to show only starred and unflagged photos. I add some captions, keywords, and other metadata. But not too much... I also add another star to the photos that I think should make the final cut for this shoot.
  11. After the second pass, I filter to show all photos again and add stars to any keepers I changed my mind about. I'll also flag a few more as rejected usually, as well.
  12. I'll put a filter on the filmstrip to only show photos with two stars. Then, it's off to the Develop module. I only develop photos with more than 2 stars to save time. Taking a cue from Nat, I look at overall tone (brightness, contrast) before color. I've found I'm actually getting caught in a trap where I spend too much time on one photo trying to make it perfect. I'm still trying to find the right balance here.
  13. After developing, I go back into the Library module and add descriptions and extended metadata to starred photos. I've found that while I'm in develop, I give up on certain photos and end up unstarring them.
  14. Since I don't use the DNG format, I do a "Save metadata to files". This is an important step that I've forgotten a couple of times. I really wish there was a better way to do this. It seems like either you save metadata to files automatically, which kills Lightroom's performance, or you have to explicitly remember to do this step. Anybody have any suggestions here? Besides using DNG, of course ;)
  15. Finally, when everything's done, I export my developed photos using a Flickr jpg preset which includes a copyright watermark. I've also been playing around with the Mogrify Plugin which has some really cool funtionality to add watermarks (and a lot more I haven't played around with yet).

Again, I'd love comments, and I'm especially curious if you use DNG for your library, what your reasons are.

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Posted by Matt 6/21/2009 06:20:00 PM


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