The Ebb & (Work)Flow

December 27, 2011  •  Leave a Comment

In between Christmas & New Year's, I finally have nothing to do and I'm away from household chores long enough to remember that I have a blog. So I'm using this year's free time to talk about workflow.

Now, there are several different choices folks have in software, and while I have Aperture 3, Photoshop CS5.5, and iPhoto, my go-to software for photo management is Adobe's Lightroom 3 (the technical name is 'Adobe Photoshop Lightroom' if you are looking to buy it).

Step one of course, is to go and shoot some pics! And if you're like me, you end up with somewhere between 500-1200 for a 3-4 hour gig. Yes, that is more than I need. But let me continue...

Now I open Lightroom and attach my card reader. LR (Lightroom from this point forward) then automates where I store my pics and proceeds to copy them. Once they're all on the computer, I begin the approval stage. Using keyboard shortcuts and both hands, I choose fullscreen mode so all I see is the current photo, starting with the first one in the folder. I then advance through them all 'select'ing them as 'flagged' or 'rejected'. Rejects are accidental firings, missed subjects, blurs, etc. These get deleted from the computer when all other steps are complete.

Stage 2 of the selection process is filtering only the 'flagged' photos. Let's say I started with 1000 photos. This usually leaves me with somewhere in the neighborhood of 800. I then use the number keys to 'star' the flagged pics, starting with a '2'. These are, for lack of a better term, my 'good' shots. Now I am down to about 400-500. So I now filter only the '2-Star' photos and start over (fullscreen at the beginning). These a lot of times will have 2 or 3 of the same photo (thanks to 8 fps!), but one being slightly more interesting than the other 2. The more striking pic gets a '3-Star' ranking.

When I have the '3's all done, I then create a 'Collection' of the same name as the event folder (ie, Richmond Marathon '11). This collection allows me to only have to look at the 150ish '3-Star' photos without worrying about the 2 and unrated pics. Once in the Collection, I open the 'Develop' module in LR. I keep the right hand panel open with all my development sliders. The left panel of 'Presets' and 'History' I hide so that it only appears when I mouse over it. This gives me 2/3 of the screen to view the photo (I usually also hide the Filmstrip panel at the bottom as well).

'Developing' (a misnomer, but for all intents and purposes will do) the pics is up to the photographer, so I won't go into that for this entry. I will mention, however, that if you like a photo as is, then it is helpful to create a 'Virtual Copy' by pressing (Command-') or Control-' for Windows (that's an apostrophe with the command prompt). You can make a bunch of these and do something different to all of them, like painting out all the color except for a runner's shoes for example. They don't take up any more storage space, and it's easier to keep them organized than going back through the 'History' menu to the beginning.

Finally, I export the 'developed' photos to my Zenfolio website through their handy plugin (or via their upload module on the site). I usually include the '2-Star' pics for client delivery as well, but these are unedited most of the time.

For an extensive explanation of many of the above-mentioned filtering techniques, check out Scott Kelby's Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 for Digital Photographers (which I read cover to cover in less than a week).


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