My Photography Workflow

By January 19, 2014Note

Geek alert: this is a dry, somewhat-technical post outlining my photography workflow. Fellow photographers might find it mildly interesting. Everyone else should probably just go look at pictures.

I recently added Lightroom to my workflow, and it’s really changed how I process photos and manage files. (Adobe TV has a great introductory video series on Lightroom here.) It took me a while to sort everything out, but I think I’ve finally got a workflow that balances efficiency and file safety. Here’s an overview for anyone who might be thinking about their own workflow.

After the shoot, I transfer files from the card in two ways:

  1. Original RAW (NEF) files get put directly onto an external hard drive in an Archives folder.
  2. Then I import the files again in Lightroom, converting them to DNG and building “Smart Previews,” and they get stored on the same external drive in a Working folder.

The external hard drive gets backed up to a secondary network drive (WD My Cloud) and online (through CrashPlan). So that takes care of file security.

For actually working with the images, I do all the management through Lightroom, since all the edits are non-destructive. When I import, I make sure Lightroom builds “Smart Previews,” and–because I keep the catalog file in Dropbox–I can do Lightroom edits on my laptop even when I’m not at home and don’t have access to the original files (see this article for details).

I organize my Folders by year and then by date, but for actually developing images, I use Collections and sort by people, places, events, etc. I keep only the images that I think are worth developing in the collection, then set about working on them.

In Lightroom itself, there are a few things I do (or at least check) for every image. I run lens distortion correction first, check for chromatic aberrations, and then do any straightening and cropping I think might be necessary. After that, I use the healing brush and turn on the “Visualize Spots” tool to clean up any dust spots on the image. From there, it’s a matter of taste for adjustments to temperature, exposure, clarity, and the rest.

If I need any post-processing work done in Photoshop, I still let Lightroom manage the file between the two programs, and when I’m happy with the results, the images stay in Lightroom until I need to export to either make a print, post an image online, or share with clients. For posting and sharing, I let Lightroom add the watermark and control the output size. I host exported images for clients on Zenfolio, because it lets me create password-protected galleries for each user.

This workflow gives me peace of mind about file security while still making it pretty easy to track versions and keep everything organized as well as get images to the printer, online sites, or models without much extra effort.

So photographers … what are your workflows like?

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