Lightroom Editing Workflow

PF 065: Lightroom Editing Workflow

Your Lightroom Editing Workflow Can Be Different and Still Succeed

We discussed our Lightroom editing workflow in this episode of The Photo Flunky Show. Lee and I have completely opposite approaches to editing in Lightroom. We hope this discussion gives you some ideas to improve your own editing workflow.

When we discuss Lightroom editing, we aren't talking about post processing at all. Editing is the process of reviewing and selecting the best photos for your job or your own satisfaction.

Essentially, it's your approach to culling photos.

Lightroom Blasphemy

Some would consider Lee's approach to be borderline blasphemy. She doesn't import all of her photos into Lightroom for review.

She uses the Lightroom Import module to scan for only the photos that she wants to process. Usually she imports only those photos to process immediately. Occasionally she'll keep some for later use.

She doesn't waste time or space on unwanted photos.

Lee is brutal as an editor. The photo has to show promise to work right away or it gets wiped out on the memory card.

For Lee, her Lightroom catalog is only for winners.

Lightroom as a Traffic Light

My own editing workflow uses color labels to identify my photos in a lifecycle. I started using color labels in my editing workflow back in my Aperture days.

It was a simple process.

I import everything on my card into Lightroom. I only use about half a dozen subfolders. Date-based folders are a waste of time.

Just set the camera clock to the right time and let Lightroom manage the dates.

My folders are generic:

  • Portraits
  • Travel
  • Family
  • Events

I don't need a lot of folders to do the job that Lightroom (or Aperture before it) does. Let the tool do what it does best.

My workflow is like a traffic light. Everything gets imported into Lightroom as Yellow. From there, it can go either way.

Assigning a Red color to a photo means it gets rejected. Green color labels are for finished photos.

So how do I decide which photos I want to process? Those get a Pick flag, at least until they turn Green.

I also use Blue for my portfolio worthy shots, as a Blue Ribbon Winner.

It may sound simplistic, but those associations with colors work very well for me. That's because I rarely process my photos right away.

Lightroom Keywords Are Essential to Me

I add keywords to the photos upon import to give basic descriptions.  Say I spent the day at Epcot shooting photos for the Flower and Garden Festival. I'll add appropriate keywords to describe the place and event for all of the photos. I go back later to add more detailed keyword on selected photos.

I find this to be much more powerful than Lightroom Collections. Keywords combined with built-in metadata means I can create searches or temporary Smart Collections to find the photos I need, quickly and efficiently.

The One True Way to Edit in Lightroom

I hope it shows in the podcast episode that we don't believe there is a “one size fits all” approach to editing photo in Lightroom. Photographers are unique people. The process that works for a wire service photographer is different than the needs of an enthusiast who takes travel photos.

Take the best of every approach and do what works for you. You don't have to use every feature, particularly if it turns out to be a waste of time or if you just don't enjoy it.

Photography should be fun. So should Lightroom.


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