The "Workflow". Lots of folks talk about it and try to tell you how important it is. And lots of times I try to play devil's advocate and say "don't listen to everyone else! What do they know?!" But when it comes to a good Lightroom Workflow I can't do that. It IS important. It is important to get into routines and it's important to do things over and over and over again. Lightroom can help you make better photographs. But you also need to be better with Lightroom! And a good workflow is KEY to being better when it comes to Lightroom.
When I talk about "workflow" I am talking about EVERYTHING when it comes to Lightroom and processing your photos. From Importing all the way to exporting or printing. Everything in between is your workflow and it needs to be consistent and it needs to work for you. This post is a bit of a departure as it won't be going into "how-to" much of anything in Lightroom but I wanted to share the "workflow" that works for me. It might not work for you but maybe it will give you an idea or two to create a solid and consistent workflow. It goes like this...
Once I am done shooting my workflow begins - before I even get home. I have 2 memory cards in my camera and they are identical - one is simply a back up. I remove both cards and place one in my pocket and leave one in my car. Why? Paranoia mostly. If I get into my house and there's a gas leak and my house explodes the memory card that I brought in is most likely gone. BUT since I knew there might be a terrible explosion I had a backup of my images in the car! Good thinking right? It works vice versa as well. If I'm driving home from shooting and my car catches fire the memory card in the car is most likely toast but I have one in my pocket! Yes, it seems completely ridiculous but hey you never know! (and don't worry, in both make believe scenarios everyone escapes unharmed)
Once I have safely made my way to my computer I insert my memory card and launch Lightroom. I have my Preferences set to open the Import Dialog when a memory card is inserted (we'll go over this and other preferences in the near future). Once the Import Dialog opens I get started on telling Lightroom what to do with the images. First, I tell it to Copy as DNG and then I tell it where (what Hard Drive) to place my images(we've covered all this in a previous tutorial here). Moving on from there, I then tell Lightroom to Build Previews (located below destination) and I always choose 1:1 Previews. These previews are larger and take longer to build than other previews but they give you the most accurate representation of your images. Remember, when you are viewing images in the Library Module you are viewing Previews - this is done for speed and efficiency as full size images are rather large and it would take a long time to render and load full size images. Moving down the right panel of the Import Dialog I next select Build Smart Previews and you can read why I do that here. I then tell Lightroom how to Rename my files (covered in the same tutorial as above) and finally I add a few Keywords. I then click Import. The next step is what I consider to be the most important step of my ENTIRE process and once I started doing this my final images became better than ever...
What I do next is nothing. I get up and I walk away.
This gives Lightroom ample time to build DNG files and 1:1 Previews and Smart Previews. BUT most importantly it gives me time. Time to unwind and decompress. Time to think and reevaluate the days' shoot. I will not come back until the next day. You see, for me and quite possibly for you too, creating images - the act of being outside in the elements and creating a photograph - is an experience. It is exciting and often times physically and mentally draining. It is very beneficial for me to process - use Lightroom - when I am at 100% mentally. AND most importantly stepping away removes some of the "rush" from the shoot. When I say "rush" I mean that excitement you get when you're out there and you have the composition you want and the lighting is perfect and you release that shutter at just the right time! You KNOW you got what you wanted and it is a RUSH. And all you can think about on the way home (besides I hope my car doesn't start on fire) is "I can't wait to see that ONE image!!"" It's a great feeling and I am not trying to take away from it but it clouds your judgement - at least it does mine. If you are obsessed about that ONE image you're going to ignore some potentially great shots that you may have gotten or at least not pay as close enough attention to them as they deserve. So it is incredibly important to my workflow to WALK AWAY.
Once I do come back I start going through my images - the way I showed you in this tutorial here - and using the Flag system to Pick (P) images I want to keep and Reject (X) images I don't want. Once I have them Picked, I then move on to Starring them and Color Labeling them. Once I get down to my final images I then start Developing. In the Develop module I always start with removing Chromatic Aberration and applying the Lens Profile. From there I will make some global adjustments with the Basic Panel Sliders to improve exposure, shadow value, color, etc. I will then spot with the Heal and Clone Tool - and you can see that tutorial here. Once I am done with the spotting of my image I will either Crop (tutorial here) or move on to the Develop Module Tools (those tutorials are coming soon) in order to further adjust my image on a more local level. And once that is done I will export the image and I always export a JPG version and a DNG version. The JPG version is for Social Media and my website and the DNG is to have a final RAW image with all adjustments added. I send one of each file to my hard drive and one of each file to Google Drive for cloud storage. At this point I will also almost always print one copy - usually a 12x18 - because I love having that hard copy to reward myself for all that work!
And that is my workflow. I hope you guys find that helpful and feel free share your workflow with us! I want to hear what you guys do too!!