Adobe Lightroom 4 is my software of choice when I edit my images, although Lightroom 5 is looking pretty cool. I run it on a Mac and have two nice big monitors that have been colour calibrated to make sure I can get the best out of my photography. I have a fairly basic work flow, but I believe it’s a solid one that doesn’t mean I’m spending ages on the computer so I thought it might be useful to share.
So, here goes:
First of all, I import all my images into a year/month/day folder structure on my external hard drive. I add appropriate keywords where I see fit.
Once they have imported I will give them a very quick first pass, and I mean very quick. I look at each image for a few seconds. You have to be very self critical here, if it has some potential I will rate the image with two stars and move on. In Lightroom that’s as simple as pressing the number 2 key. So I’ve done my first pass, rated any images that have some potential and now I will do another pass through them.
On the second pass through my images I first select only those images that I have given the above 2 star rating to, I’m not interested in the ones I ruled out in the previous run through. I might crop a few of the images to try and improve the composition. Unless I am printing the images, which is very rare these days, I don’t worry about sticking to standard proportions, I crop to get the best composition I can see in the image. If any of them still have interest during the second pass I will rate them a 3.
Now a third pass on just the 3 star images. This time I will spend more time on the images. I’ll get the crop as I want it and I’ll clean the image up, getting rid of dust spots if I forgot to clean my lens, get the exposure right and get the tones as I want them. So, the third pass gives me a rating of 4 to those that I want to actually spend some time on.
So, at this point I should have a vastly reduced amount of images, all rated at 4 stars. I don’t believe there is a photographer anywhere who gets a great image every time they release the shutter, so you should have a much more manageable set of images to work with. Now it’s time to run through each of these images carefully and decide what you are going to do with the image. With a bit of experience you will be able to tell whether an image might be more suited to black and white, or whether a punchy colour effect would be best or maybe a vintage feel would be good. For those that haven’t got that experience, it doesn’t matter, you have digital files, you can work on the images as much as you want. Make copies of the files if you want. The beauty of Lightroom is that is uses something called “non-destructive editing” which means that when you make a change to the image within Lightroom, you aren’t actually changing any of the pixels in that image directly, Lightroom records all the changes you make in a separate file known as a “sidecar” file so if you need to undo what you’ve done, this is easy. Digital photography is brilliant isn’t it!
So after all that, you should now have a set of images you are happy with. There are lots of web sites that can help you learn how to use Lightroom and I totally recommend you invest some time into learning what the software is capable of. Try these sites out:
Lightroom Killer Tips by Matt Kloskowski. Matt has been giving advice about Lightroom for as long as I have been using the software. He often has downloadable presets to achieve some great effects. Well worth a read.
Follow Lightroom on Twitter for regular tips and updates on the software.
Adobe Lightroom Help. You can’t beat the manufacturers own help and advice and fortunately Adobe invests in the community of users so there is plenty of useful info on this site.
So what is your work flow to producing images you are proud of. Please share them, I’m keen to see if I can improve mine.