Hi there! This is a continuation of my Workflow 101 Series. :)
In Part 1 of the series, I talked about the importance of getting images correct in camera. In Part 2, I talked about how I set up the bit-depth and color space to get consistent color throughout the editing process. In Part 3 here, I’m finally going to talk about what I do with the photos I’ve taken! I do shoot RAW, I should probably mention that!
If you’ve wondered, “I’ve taken some pictures… now what?!” I am going to address that here in Part 3. Again, this is my personal workflow, and there is no right or wrong way to do things. But if you’re still trying to establish your own workflow, perhaps this will help!
In this segment, I’m going to talk about my Lightroom workflow. I use Lightroom for two things: 1) To organize my photos, and 2) To make adjustments to the RAW files.
Organizing My Photos
I have my personal photos organized separately from my client photos. My client photos are further organized by Year. Then each client session is in a separate folder labeled with the date and the client name. So for instance, a recent session for Joe Smith will be in the folder Client Photos -> 2012 -> 2012-02-25 Joe Smith.
Since sessions are broken down by year, organizing this way helps me find things quickly and easily.
Importing My Photos
Now that I know where on my hard drive I’m going to put my photos, I import them into Lightroom. I import them as DNG files (digital negative), which saves a little space over my Canon’s CRW files (camera raw). This process usually takes a bit to run, so I set it all up to import and then go do something else. :)
Flagging My Picks
After all my images are imported, the next step is to flag my ‘Picks.’ In other words, I’m choosing the best images from the session to edit. This process used to take me forever, but I’ve gotten better! I usually do 3 passes to weed out images and choose the keepers:
1. First pass: I go through the images one by one and flag anything that looks like it might be a keeper by pressing the ‘P’ for ‘Pick’ – this will put a little Flag on the image so you can see it’s been chosen.
2. After my first pass, I Filter by ‘Flagged’ so I can see everything that I’ve chosen so far. Out of a session of 300, I might have 50 potential keepers at this point. I do a second pass of my keepers and zoom in at 100% on each of them. If I come across any that are out of focus or otherwise unworthy of keeping, I hit my ‘U’ key for ‘Unflag’ to remove them from my batch of keepers.
3. I go through a 3rd and (hopefully!) final time, choosing the best 25-30 images from the bunch. If there are several from the same series, I choose the best one. I refine my Picks until I am down to the best of the bunch.
Editing the RAW files
Now that I have my top 25 or so images that I want to edit, I do any necessary Lightroom edits. I may do all or none of the below edits, depending on the image:
- Cropping – It is much simpler to crop and rotate an image in Lightroom than in Photoshop, so if either of these are necessary, now is the time to do it. If I have an image with any horizontal or vertical lines, I typically like to make sure these are straight (the back of a couch, a tree, a door or window frame, etc.). If there would be a more pleasing crop, I do it now as well.
- Adjusting White Balance – If the white balance is off, I use the sliders to tweak it until it is correct.
- Exposure, Recovery, Fill Light, Blacks – I don’t typically have to mess with these too much unless I’ve shot in a tricky lighting situation (extreme side-lighting, for example). But again, if these settings need to be tweaked, now is the time.
- Noise Reduction (Lightroom 3 or 4 beta) – I’m still using Lightroom 2, where the noise-reduction capabilities are not fantastic. So if I have noise that needs to be removed in a photo, I wait until I bring the images into Photoshop and use Noiseware. But if you’re using LR 3 or 4 beta, the noise reduction capabilities are much better. If I had an image where I needed to reduce the noise and was using 3 or 4, I would adjust it now.
Exporting the images as JPEGs
At this point, I have my top images selected, and they all have my desired crop, white balance, and tone. Now I export them as JPEGs so I can work on them in Photoshop. I select all my Flagged images (Ctrl/Cmd + A) and go to the File -> Export dialog. Below are the settings I use:
- Export Location – I export the images to my Desktop, into a subfolder with the client’s last name
- File Settings – Format = JPEG, Color Space = sRGB, Quality = 100
- Image Sizing – Resolution = 300 pixels per inch
I don’t do any output sharpening because I am going to do further edits in Photoshop.
I have these settings saved as a Preset so I don’t have to set them manually every time. It makes things fast and easy. :) And that’s all for my Lightroom work! One quick note… when I look at the computer too long, my eyes start popping out of my head! So after my photos are in Lightroom, I usually spend one work session choosing my Picks, and then at another work session I do any necessary tweaking to the individual images. If I try to do it all at once, it’s usually too much, and I start getting antsy!
It took me a really long time to figure out a process and get in my groove. But this seems to work well for me. If your needs are different or you just want more in-depth info on how Lightroom works in your workflow, I would highly recommend Scott Kelby’s Lightroom books. I finally felt like I had some good direction after I read it (I read The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 Book for Digital Photographers, but he has an updated one for LR 3 as well).
I hope this has helped someone a bit. In Part 4, I’ll be talking about Photoshop work!