Nearly three years ago I wrote my first blog article on the subject of workflow. I followed it up on-going since and those articles have been viewed collectively over 50,000 times. In fact, a majority of the emails I get deal specifically with post-processing/workflow so I think it's a good time to update the subject.
For those newly interested in photography, workflow simply refers to the process of taking pictures, getting them unto your computer, editing and exporting them. Even for you, developing good workflow practices can make all the difference. For professionals and serious enthusiasts it's as important to our work as oil to a car. Adobe Lightroom CC is simply the most effective (and relatively low cost) software application to fill the role. Other applications such as Capture ONE Pro certainly performs some functions better but Lightroom has the ease of use and flexibility that will satisfy most users from the casual to serious photographer.
These steps as listed in the table below will vary depending on your individual circumstances. If you are a casual/hobbyist/enthusiast photographer your needs will likely be vastly different from a professional so I've created a table to help you stream your way through this article.
1 - Import Files to Computer/Tablet
2 - Catalogue
3 - Export/Upload
1 - Import Files to Computer
2 - Edit Metadata
3 - Review & Culling
4 - Catalogue
5 - Post Processing
6 - Export/Upload
7 - Backup
Adobe Lightroom CC Import Screen
IMPORTING: The import screen is simple enough and it will default to your "Picture" or "Documents" directories on your main system storage drive. If you take a significant amount of pictures and/or video I recommend changing this right away. In fact, you should get a separate storage drive for your work. Cameras are constantly increasing in resolution and a typical JPEG image can be 8 megabytes or larger. If you shoot in RAW (Digital Negative) that files sizes can be 20-100 depending on the camera. To put this into context think about this...I mostly shoot RAW and my image count from a single wedding can be in the thousands. That adds up really fast from shoot to shoot. The typical computer system storage drive is around 100 to 250 gigabytes. When you account for applications, music library etc that won't serve you very long.
Casual/Hobbyist photographers can pretty much leave us here. Once your photographs or video files are safely stored you will go through them delete the ones you don't want and go ahead and share a handful on your social media platform of choice...I.E. Facebook, Instagram...
Most people I know in this category rarely edit their files further, most leaving that to the Filter facilities of Instagram. Backup isn't super important here since the best images and videos are usually duplicated on their social media accounts should a personal hard drive crash or get misplaced.
Adobe Lightroom CC Metadata Dialogue Box
Professionals like myself will need/want to rename the default camera files to reflect the photoshoot subject, add descriptions and location info etc. cumulatively termed "Metadata".
Adobe Lightroom CC BASIC Metadata Window
REVIEW/CULLING: I made mention earlier that a typical photoshoot can yield hundreds if not thousands of images. I don't need to keep all of them and typically I do a fast review right after IMPORTING. I get rid of the obvious mistakes, out of focus and motion blurred images. On a second pass I will eliminate any duplicates or "too similar" images. This part is very important, don't leave images you are never likely to use on your storage drives. Three years from now you will look back and wonder why in the world you kept them.
CATALOGUE: Each of my storage drives going back five (5) years have been divided based on subject such as wedding, portrait, food & beverage etc. It just helps me find things faster if I need to provide additional copies to clients. It's also a huge help when I refresh my online portfolio from time to time. I can just go to each catalogue and grab an equal amount of new files without random searching through tradition "Date" directory structures.
Adobe Lightroom CC "DEVELOP MODULE for editing
POST PROCESSING: Adobe Lightroom CC is incredibly powerful with a wide array of tools to fine tune your images. Not so much for videos though, but nobody buys it for that anyway. In fact the majority of my editing to export activities take place right within Lightroom. I may use a secondary editor such as Photoshop when specific editing or retouching is required.
Adobe Lightroom CC EXPORT Dialogue Box
EXPORT: There is something in here for everyone...you can export an edited image whether shot in JPEG or RAW to Facebook, Flickr and Adobe Stock natively. I wish they would add Instagram and Twitter at some point also. Professionals can also export TIFF and/or PSD for client or collaborative use in addition to the standard JPEG/GIF outputs.
And...the big issue of BACKUP: I won't go too far into this as I've already covered it in past articles.
Adobe Lightroom CC has a backup feature but it's not what you think it would be...which is to say it only backs up your catalogue data, not your images and video. If photography is your livelihood I would definitely backup the catalogue on a regular basis. Make sure you do it either to a cloud service or a location "OTHER" than your main system drive.
The kind of backup I'm referring to though is the safeguarding of your images/video files. On a basic level it's a s simple as buying an external drive and copying your main storage drive every so often. For professionals this is an "Every time" affair. My backup system (RAID) updates every time data is added, deleted or changed.
You only have to lose a client's data just one time for the point to be made. Electronics can last for many years or two seconds. Always backup your data if this is your 9-5 JOB.