Tag Archives: workflow

My Revised Workflow

My approach to processing images after a shoot is something that constantly evolves.  I have written about how I do this in the past but a few things have changed since I wrote that so I thought I would write up the latest approach in case it is of any use/interest to any other shooters out there.  I should say at the start that my workflow is based around the use of Lightroom.  If you don’t use Lightroom, this might not be of any use to you although I imagine that a similar process could be achieved with other software.

One thing to highlight at the start is that, when shooting aviation (and that is the majority of my photography), I aim to slightly overexpose my shots.  I have found that going a slight bit over and then bringing the exposure back down in post-production gives a better balance of exposure across the shots and also makes for more pleasing sky colors.  This is something I do when shooting RAW.  If you shoot in JPEG, this might still work but your latitude for adjustment afterwards is a bit reduced so you might not get the same effect.  I don’t shoot in JPEG so I can’t state what happens.

All the shots are imported in to Lightroom and I will form a Collection Set for the shoot.  I don’t have specific folders for shoots, nor do I have a renaming convention.  I keyword all shoots and this is how I manage files and find things later.  Keywording is a story for another day.  Within the Collection Set, I shall create a series of Smart Collections.  They vary depending on what I have shot.  There will always be Not Rejects, Rejects and Picks.  Then, depending on what else there is, there might be Videos, Time Lapse, Blend Stack, Pano Originals, Pano Edits, HDR Originals and HDR Edits.  I keyword any of these types of shot with that term so the smart collections will pick them up.  The Smart Collections may be looking for a date range or shoot specific keywords depending on what I have been shooting.

The aim for all of this is that I get a Smart Collection which is unrejected shots which doesn’t include and shots from HDRs, panos, time lapses or blend stacks.  I don’t want to get rid of those shots by mistake and I want to be able to edit those shots at a convenient time.  Then the Not Rejects folder becomes my focus.  I am aiming to get all of them roughly corrected for exposure so I can make decisions about which shots to keep.  I will be looking for sharpness/focus issues and exposure variation can really mess with how you perceive sharpness.  I will open a shot up in the Develop module and I will have the Grid view on the second monitor.  I can now select shots with the same exposure and choose Auto Sync.  Then a change to one shot will be reflected in all of them.

It used to be that I would select the shots by eye.  Then it occurred to me that the Metadata filter is powerful here.  I select the filter of shutter speed and then I can select each shutter speed in turn.  Now it is easy to select the similar shots and edit together.  This really speeds up the quick edit process.  I know tweak whatever needs tweaking and get everything basically okay.  I won’t bother with detailed editing unless a shot is going to be used for something further.  Now I select all files and, in the Library module, select Render 1-1 Views.  Then I head off to do something else for a while.

When the rendering is done (I don’t try and do anything else while it is underway because, while you can do other Lightroom tasks, everything gets pretty sluggish.  It is easier to wait.  I may even shut Lightroom down and restart it after the rendering is done because it seems to like the chance to clean itself up.  Then I go to the first of the Not Rejects shots.  I have it full screen on the main screen and then zoom to 100% on the second screen.  The Smart Collection is set up to show any file that is not marked as a reject (or all of the other stuff I mentioned earlier) so now I can click through the shots.  If a shot is good, I Right Arrow to the next one.  If it is bad, hit X and it disappears.  Now I can run through the whole shoot and quickly get rid of all shots that are not good, be they unsharp, chopping off a bit of something or just clearly useless.

When this first pass is done, I am now left with a bunch of shots, many of which are very similar.  Since I know they all are basically acceptable, I can now select all the ones that I won’t have a need for and hit X.  Very quickly I am down to a far more manageable number of shots.  Then I can pick which ones I want to do something with.  Hit P for those and they will automatically appear in the Picks Smart Collection and I can come back to them at any time.  If I have shots that will be used for a specific piece, I may create a Collection specifically for that publication and just drag the shots in so I can deal with them at any time.

That pretty much sums up how I handle a shoot.  Some will have pano shots, some will have HDR, occasionally there will be time lapses and often videos.  Sadly, the integration of video between Lightroom and Photoshop is non-existent so I have yet to have a good process for video editing.  Maybe one day Adobe will fix that.  They tempted us by having video in Lightroom but they never took it any further despite the fact that the opening in layers option for stills would be ideal for video editing.  One day…

Updates to the Workflow

A while back I wrote a piece about how I manage my workflow when bringing in new pictures from a shoot.  If you are so inclined, you can read the original post here.  I thought it might be appropriate to bring the topic up to date since I have tweaked the workflow a bit since then.  As I mentioned before, this is not all original thinking from me.  I have picked up suggestions from a number of places and then adapted them to my own needs.  If they are useful to you, that is great.  All of this is based on using Lightroom as an image management tool.

The basic process involves creating a series of Smart Collections for a given shoot.  I have adapted these collections a little and have a basic set, not all of which are required for every shoot.  However, what I have done is exported these collections to a folder on my computer so I can re-import them for each shoot and tweak them rather than start from scratch each time.  For example, they all have the keywords section blank so that I can paste in the required keywords for the shoot easily.

I will initially create a Collection Set for the topic and, if this is an event that occurs more than once, a Collection Set within that for the specific date.  Then, within that, I shall import the Smart Collections from my templates.  In the first instance, these will have lots of files in them since the criteria have not been narrowed down but I shall then edit each one to have the appropriate keywords and, if required, the specific dates.  Date Taken is the criterion I will use then, either with a specific date or a range.   Of course, this does require me to have put the appropriate keywords on all of the images first including whether they are HDR, panorama or time lapse images.

The following are the smart collections and a description of what they contain.  To avoid repetition, it can be assumed that they will all fit the keyword and date range criteria.

  • Not Rejects – All images that have not been rejected, are not marked as HDR or panoramas and are not video clips
  • Picks – All images that have been marked as a Pick and are not video clips
  • HDR Originals – All marked as HDR that are RAW files
  • HDR Edits – All marked as HDR that are not RAW files
  • Pano Originals – All marked as panoramas that are RAW files
  • Pano Edits – All marked as panoramas that are not RAW files
  • Time lapse – All marked as Time Lapse (Duh!)
  • Not Geotagged – All files that do not have GPS coordinates associated with them
  • Videos – All video files not marked as rejects
  • Rejects – All files marked as rejects (again, duh!)

The reasons for some of these are obvious but others are less so.  The not rejects file specifically excludes any shots I have marked as HDR or panorama since, when running through the edits, it is easy to see a shot that makes up one of those processes and think it is boring and delete it.  Keeping them separate from the start is important.  I keep the originals and the edits apart since, when I come back to them later, it is a lot simpler to look through the finished versions without having to find them amongst the originals.  Previously, they ended up in the same smart collection and, after getting bored trying to find the finished one, it occurred to me that they could be kept apart easily.

I now try to geotag all of my images.  Having the folder that shows that they haven’t been done reminds me to do this if I have not done it straightaway.  I have found that Lightroom has a bug (I have found more than one!) that, when you have imported a bunch of stuff, if you go to the map page, it gets a little lost and keeps the map view looking like the grid view.  You can get back out without any problem but have to restart to get back to map view.  If you go to map view before doing all of the importing, it seems fine then.  However, this folder makes sure I don’t forget to do it at some point.

With all of this set up, it is then easy enough to get into the process I have outlined before.  I go to the Not Rejects folder and render 1:1 previews of all of the files.  This can take a while so I will often start it off and then go and do something else for a while.  I can then come back and run through the images.  I will have a full screen version on one screen and the zoomed 1:1 image on the other.  This allows me to easily see which shots are not sharp or have an obvious flaw like a pole through the foreground or someone’s head in the way.  A quick “X” and that shot disappears from the smart collection and I am on to the next.  If it is okay, right arrow and I am moving on.  This kills a lot of shots quite quickly.

Then it is a simple case of looking at the shots in Grid view, usually quite large, to see the ones that are duplicate or just plain crap.  I can select which to get rid of and “X” again has them consigned to the trash.  Once all of this is done, I will run a BluRay backup of all of the shots including the XMP files after which I shall delete all rejects.  Hopefully that leaves me with a lot less shots to play with.  I can then pick the ones I think are the best and mark them as Picks.  It then leaves me with a smaller smart collection which I can go in and pay some attention to making more detailed edits.

This process continues to evolve.  Maybe I shall write another update in a couple of years.  In the meantime, I hope it might be helpful to someone for me to have shared it.  Happy shooting!