Prior Park Gardens, BathPrior Park Gardens, BathSummer poppies

Behind The Lens: My New Photography Workflow

August 20, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

I have made a few changes to my photography workflow after following an online course from Creative Live titled The Ultimate Lightroom CC Workflow. It ensures that my photos are dealt wth systematically and efficiently and are archived both to my own external hard drive and this website. I have invested in a new LaCie Rugged 250GB SSD external hard drive, which serves as my working drive. It means I can transfer seamlessly from desktop to laptop, and carry on working from whichever device I am using.

Behind The LensBehind The LensGetting ready for post-processing

Workflow Summary

I am still using Lightroom CC to archive and catalogue my images, and I make use of the colour labels to tag images according to which stage of the workflow process they are at. This way, if I only get part-way through the post-processing and need to come back later, I know exactly which step of the process I am up and can pick back up again easily. 

I like to have as much data as possible tagged to each image as I process the photos. I use the GPS tags and face recognition, as well as keywords, ratings, captions and titles. This means that each image has a full set of information applied to it as soon as possible after it was taken, before I forget where or who. Even if I don't intend to use all of this data straight away, I would much rather have it included now, than try to remember five years down the line.

My workflow

Step

Label Colour

1. Transfer photos from camera to hard drive  
2. Import photos from hard drive to Lightroom  
3. Review photos and set Picks and Rejects
4. Make adjustments
5. Assign metadata
6. Set star ratings
7. Prepare exports and publish

 

Transfer Images from Camera to Hard Drive

First of all, I move all of the images from my camera's memory card to my working hard drive. I have a template folder structure for each shoot, which includes a folder for 'Raw' images straight from the camera. The top level folder includes the date and name of the shoot. If the shoot spans multiple days within a month I would use 00 to represent the day (e.g. 20170800 represents images taken during the month of August).

Folder structure for photography projects

📁_YYYYMMDD_Project

📁RAW

📁Documents

📁Video

Import Images to Lightroom

I then use the Lightroom Import module to import photos from the hard drive into Lightroom. The only preset that I apply at this stage is to add my copyright notice to each image. I also assign each photo a red label to indicate that they are ready for the first of the processing steps.

Once in Lightroom, I set up a Collection Set for my new shoot. I give the Collection Set the same name as the shoot. Within the Collection Set I include several Smart Collections which will separate my images according to certain criteria, e.g. 'for portfolio' or 'picks'. 

Collection Set for Photo Shoots

Collection Name

Type

Criteria

🗄<PROJECT>

Collection Set None

🗂All

Smart Collection

Match all of the following rules:

  • Folder contains <PROJECT>

🗂For Family Album

Smart Collection

Match all of the following rules:

  • Rating is greater than or equal to 1 star
  • Folder contains <PROJECT>

🗂For Portfolio

Smart Collection

Match all of the following rules:

  • Rating is greater than or equal to 5 stars
  • Folder contains <PROJECT>

🗂Picks

Smart Collection

Match all of the following rules:

  • Pick Flag is flagged
  • Folder contains <PROJECT>

🗂Rejects

Smart Collection

Match all of the following rules:

  • Pick Flag is rejected
  • Folder contains <PROJECT>

Review Photos and Set Picks and Rejects (Red Label)

My first processing step is to review all images one by one and make a quick 'yes/no' decision on whether or not to keep it. At this stage I am just trying to weed out the real chaff, so if there's an image I'm not sure about at this stage I keep it. I am only interested in getting rid of the images that are truly not worth spending any more time on (out of focus, bad facial expressions or otherwise just totally uninteresting). As I work through each image in the shoot, if I like it (or rather, if I don't hate it enough to rule it out right now) I give it a pick flag (just press P on the keyboard), and if I want to reject it, I flag it as rejected (press X on the keyboard). 

Once the review is complete, I move into the Picks collection and continue working from there. I select all images and change the colour label from red to yellow, to indicate that they are ready for the next step.

Make Adjustments (Yellow Label)

At this point in the flow, I move over to the Develop module and begin to process my images. During this stage I may also further refine my selections. It may be the case that I have two or more shots of the same subject, with different camera settings. I may already have rejected some of the duplicates at the 'red flag' stage, but sometimes I leave the decision until I reach the 'yellow flag' stage and start processing the images. Sometimes the act of adding contrast or clarity can transform an image so much that what I originally thought might have been one to reject becomes a pick, or vice-versa. I won't go in to details of my work in the Develop module. That's for another blog post. Suffice it to say that I use this step to polish up my images and refine my selections.

After all the processing is done, and staying within the Picks collection, I select all of the images and change the colour label from blue to yellow, to show that they are ready for the next step.

Assign Metadata (Green Label)

At this stage, I assign the following metadata to all of my images:

  • Title: The title is short and snappy and simply sums up the main subject of the image (e.g. "Reservoir at Caesar's Camp"). Sometimes I use the same title for multiple images, if the subject is the same.
  • Caption: I use the caption field to keep more detailed notes about an image, anything which I would like to remember in the future. It could be details about the location or subject, or why I shot that particular image.
  • Keywords: See notes below.
  • GPS Coordinates: I assign GPS coordinates to all picked images. My camera doesn't capture GPS info automatically, so I do this myself using the Map module in Lightroom. Sometimes, if I'm in an unfamiliar place or deep in the countryside, I might remember to take a quick shot with my iPhone while I'm out, which does capture GPS coordinates, so that I have a reference for the images I took with my camera. But if I haven't done this, then I use the search facility within Lightroom, which seems to be pretty good.
  • People: I use Lightroom's People module to locate and name any known faces in my images. This really helps when looking for images to print into a yearbook or photo gift for a specific person.

Once I've finished assigning metadata, I select all of the images and change the colour label from green to blue, to show that they are ready for the next step.

Notes on Keywording

This is possibly the most time consuming part of the process, aside from the developing. But, I think that taking the time here to add keywords to all of my photos really helps later on when hunting for specific images. By doing it at this stage, rather than at the start, I ensure I am only keyboarding images that I intend to keep. All of the keywords I apply to my images get uploaded to this website as well, which drives the search engine capabilities that are available here. Type 'tree' in to the search box on this website, and you'll find all of my public images of trees. 

I use a hierarchical structure to my keywords, which helps me to remember what types of keywords to apply to each image. I have six broad categories of keywords:

  1. Collection. I add a keyword to designate which collection the image belongs to (e.g. National Trust).
  2. Place. This is the geographical location, and within this category I define the country, state/region, city and place (e.g. UK > Surrey > Farnham > Caesar's Camp).
  3. Event. This can be a generic event (e.g. wedding, bike ride) or a specific event (e.g. Wellington Triathlon, Mathew Street Festival)
  4. People. This could be a generic tag (e.g. cyclist, fisherman) or a specific person's name.
  5. Technical Description. This covers any specific processing techniques I have applied (e.g. monochrome) or specific photography techniques (e.g. still life, silhouette)
  6. Subjective Description. This covers a large range of keywords to describe the subject of the image. I further divide this category in to several sub-categories:
    1. Action. What is happening? (E.g. cycling, dancing, picnic)
    2. Animal. (E.g. cat, dog, monkey)
    3. Architecture. Any terms to describe buildings or architecture (e.g. airport, cafe, door)
    4. Emotion. If the emotion is the central subject of the image I tag this (e.g. fear, friendship, tired)
    5. Food & Drink. (E.g. cake, lemonade)
    6. Indoor Object. (E.g. camera, candle, glass)
    7. Nature. (E.g. tree, flower, lake)
    8. Outdoor Object. (E.g. bench, flag, railing)
    9. Season. (I.e. spring, summer, autumn, winter)
    10. Time of Day. (E.g. sunset, night)
    11. Transport. (E.g. car, boat, scooter)
    12. Weather. (E.g. sunny, cloudy, rainy)

Set Star Ratings (Blue Label)

My final step before exporting is to set star ratings for my images. This is my way of deciding which images are going to the Family Album and which are going to the Portfolio. If the image is going to the Portfolio, I assign it 5 stars (press 5 on the keyboard). If it is only going to the Family Album, I assign it 1 start (press 1). 

The Family Album contains every image that I have picked and processed. It may include personal images of family and friends. My Portfolio, on the other hand, is purely for images that I am happy to be made public (so not usually any family portraits) and that I think show off my photography skills as best I can.

Once the star ratings are set, I select all images and change the colour label from blue to purple.

Prepare Exports and Publish (Purple Label)

So now, I have all of my final selections, all processed and ready to go. The final step is to prepare the images for export. In my workflow this means firstly editing the filenames to match my own naming conventions. Staying within the Picks collection, I use a consistent naming convention for all of my images which follows the format:

Format: <DATE> - <SHOOT CODE> - <INDEX>
Example: 2015-05-27_GDN_001

I assign a 3 letter code to each shoot. In the example above, I used the abbreviation GDN for 'In The Garden'. This format keeps the filenames short (which is good for Twitter posts) and consistent, yet more descriptive than the default filename applied by my camera. I don't need any greater description than this in the filename, since this is already included in the Title and Caption that I added earlier.

Once the files are renamed, I also now convert each raw image to the DNG format, which will preserve edits across platforms.

All of my images that reach this stage are published on to my website, so the next step is simply to use the publishing tool to get them out of Lightroom and on to the website. At this stage I move into the For Family Album collection and perform my export from there. Then within Zenfolio, I create the Portfolio folder. A few more minutes spent adding gallery descriptions and a quick blog post, and my publishing is complete! At this stage I remove the colour-label from all of the images, to show that they have been fully processed and published.

The very final step is to delete out all of the rejected photos.


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