LIGHTROOM PROCESSING WORKFLOW

INTRO
As with every trick, this is just how *I* do it. There are so many different workflows that people stick to for processing workflow, and I've tried a few of them, but this is what works best for me and what I find to be the most efficient. Of course, you may end up outsourcing too which can be a life-saver during a busy wedding season (more time for other admin - yay), and you may start with this workflow and it may evolve as you find your own shortcuts and learn of different tips and tricks. I genuinely can't name anyone I know who don't either use Lightroom or just outsource. Some may take certain files into Photoshop afterwards depending on what they're looking to create, but more often than not you can complete an entire edit in this one software. 

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GLOSSARY OF TERMS
IMPORT - bringing in your set of images into Lightroom
EXPORT - saving your images (usually as JPEGs) from RAW files, determining the size and resolution of the images
CULL - the act of cutting down and selecting which images you want to edit from an imported set
BATCH - selecting a lot of / all images from a set and editing them all together (e.g. if you increase contract to one, contrast will increase to all images by the same amount)
PRESET - template Lightroom adjustments that you can develop or buy then add to your images
FLAG - bookmarking images that you later want to separate from the full set
COLLECTION - folders to help organise images within Lightroom


EDITING STYLE + PRESETS
Before you do anything, I would advise that you get stuck into Lightroom with a variety of RAW files (outdoor, artificial light, low light, terrible white balance, portraits, details, landscapes, etc) and really have a play about. You want to know what 'look' you're going for when you edit, and generally you should look for consistency in how you edit - clients tend to respond better when they know what 'your style' is and know what to expect from the final processing of their photographs.

Presets are a great way of speeding up your workflow, you can buy other photographers' presets, or from companies such as VSCO, or you can create your own depending on your tastes and style. For those of you who may not have heard of 'presets', they are adjustments made as a template that you apply to your photographs - they might brighten, add warmth, contrast, grain, sharpness, clarity.. they may darken shadows and change the intensity on the darker parts of your image (blacks / shadows) and adjust the brighter parts (whites / highlights). You import and select your image that you want to edit, click the preset and it will apply the set adjustments to your image. Then you can go on to tweak it until you're happy with the outcome. You can also create your own presets using a bought preset as a starting point - I started with presets from VSCO and developed them further to create my own presets to fit what I wanted. You can also 'batch' a set of images with a preset, before going through individually to adjust. But more on that below.

I'm not going to tell you how to edit - that's up to you. Have a play with the controls, create presets, work out what you like and go from there. Your editing style will probably evolve as your taste and style changes; I'm always making little adjustments to mine, it's all part of the learning curve.


LIGHTROOM + PROCESSING WORKFLOW
This is, step by step, what I do. I do this for every wedding, every commercial job, every family shoot. I'll discuss what I've heard others do below, but this is how I've worked for years and this is how I do it. 

BACKING UP
Before you even begin, make sure your RAW files are backed up at least twice on hard-drives. When editing, it'll ruin and affect the life of your hard-drives if you edit from files directly from there, bring all the files you want to edit and put the folder on your desktop. I import files card by card, then put them in a folder containing all the subfolders of each card and call that folder "CHRIS + KATIE RAW", later when I export, images will be in a new folder called "CHRIS + KATIE PRINT SIZE" or "CHRIS + KATIE WEB SIZE" - and I back those edited folders onto my hard-drives and back those up too. You'll also notice that I rename the memory cards before I import the sub folders - this is so, when I'm clearing cards at a later date for another shoot, I can double check that the wedding I'm clearing has been fully backed up before I wipe the files. 

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IMPORT
I import the main wedding folder from my desktop before culling (for glossary of terms see the top of the page) - so I'm importing every single photograph I took from the wedding or shoot. At this stage I haven't even really looked at what I've shot yet - I wait until every file is imported into Lightroom and I can them all as a set clearly.

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COLLECTIONS
To organise your files once imported it's easiest to put them in a collection in Lightroom to work with. In collections it's easier and quicker to remove images from a collection rather than deleting them from Lightroom as you go, and it helps keep files in your Lightroom organised if you're working on more than one editing job at once. I create a 'Collection Set' with sub-collections such as 'pre-wedding'/'ceremony'/'speeches' etc to break the editing process down into more manageable chunks. You can then select the 'collection set' to see the entire set of images, or you can click the sub folders individually to only see certain sections of the day.

It helps your computer speed and workflow to keep your Lightroom organised - remember to clear your Lightroom catalog with any images you don't need on it as you go; when working on multiple editing jobs at once it can be easy to let images pile up in the background of Lightroom as it slows your whole system down.
 

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CULLING
To 'cull' is to chop down your image selection until you're only left with the good stuff. All those over/under exposed images, the ones where someone's eyes are half closed, the boring ones surrounding the 'spot on' captures.. they get culled and digitally put to one side so you focus only on the ones that matter. 

I 'flag' the images I want to keep from the library screen of Lightroom that I want to edit. You can select, holding the shift key, multiple images and scroll down the screen and flag them in batches as you go. You should be watching how many you're flagging to be in line with your package promises/client expectations too, and consider that you'll be culling further as you go in to edit. I cull to about 800, then usually cut down as I edit to around 500. I also consider how many images I have for each part of a wedding day, to stay in line with how I usually work, i.e. around 150 images of pre-wedding preparations, 100-200 of the ceremony, 100-200 of details/mingling, etc. You then separate the images by 'filtering' them to 'flagged images' only - and then you can start editing only the images you've selected.

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BATCH EDITING + ADJUSTMENTS
Once I've filtered the images into 'flagged' only, I select them all (and check AutoSync is on), and batch them with my own developed preset. Here, I've applied the one you can see to the left called 'STP START' - it's the one I use for most weddings and shoots, and then I go on to make adjustments after this has been applied. You can see a before and after too of adjustments that I made to the files by applying the preset, and then for tweaking it individually afterwards. 

After batching all images, I then go through them individually to make any necessary adjustments. I'm aiming for pleasing exposure and colour balance, and I want them to look consistently edited so they work well as a full set of images. I also create virtual copies and convert the copies to black and white for any images that I think would suit it at this point too. With practise you can speed this process up and get it down to a fine art. Of course, some churches and rooms will be a nightmare and take longer to adjust (orange/yellow lighting can be a nightmare to colour balance), but eventually you can become efficient enough to edit an entire wedding in a day or less. The faster you work (whilst maintaining quality), the more you earn per hour. It pays to practise.

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^^ BEFORE + AFTER, RAW FILE TO PRESET + ADJUSTMENTS ^^

^^ BEFORE + AFTER, PRESET APPLIED + THEN TWEAKED INDIVIDUALLY FOR WHITE BALANCE ^^

EXPORTING
Once all images are edited and you've finished working your magic, it's time to export. I export at print size (I offer a USB of images and clients have permission to print their own photographs from it), and I export at a web size so they can easily share on their social media profiles/pages too (free advertising).

I export at 18 inches on the long size of the image at 240 dpi for print, and 1400 px width and 72 dpi (note - 1400px for width not long side, when you blog or feature work it needs to be a uniform width to accommodate portrait and landscape shots so everything fills the space in an even way when you scroll). I name the folders XXX - PRINT SIZE and XXX - WEB SIZE.

These files go into a permanent sub folder that I have on my desktop called 'EXPORTS', where I know to then blog them/back them up/send them to clients. It helps keep my desktop organised while I work and I easily know where to find files that I've recently been working on. More on this in trick - GENERAL WORLFLOW.

I re-export images for my blog by changing the file name to fit for my SEO - this means that when you upload the image Google will scan, recognise it and let it appear in Google Images under the same search terms. I chat about this more in trick - SEO.

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OUTSOURCING EDITING
'Outsourcing' is also an option that a lot of photographer use. This is where you send culled RAW images from a set to a third party company to edit your images for you. It can be very cost effective, and quotes seems to be around £100+ for editing a 500 image wedding - which isn't much considering that during wedding season you are literally buying your own time back. There are a range of companies that offer this service, and turn-around is usually a week or two. 

I do, however, think editing is an invaluable lesson to learn and you should know which adjustments need to be made to provide which effect or result - training your eyes to recognise editing adjustments and white balance is a skill that will, in turn, improve your photography too.


'PHOTOSHOPPING'
Basically, it's up to you whether you go further and 'photoshop' your images. There are brush effects in Lightroom to smooth skin/dodge/burn/sharpen/desaturate and I find them to be enough for any additional tweaking that's generally needed; there are also options to clone (i.e. get rid of that fluorescent fire escape sign above the door..) so, more often than not, Lightroom has you covered. Photoshop can be more powerful in what you can do to edit images, and comes with the option of 'layers' which Lightroom doesn't; in some cases it could be necessary but regularly using it as standard is just increasing the length of your workflow - if you can get away without using it then you'll be saving yourself time.


SCREEN CALIBRATION
Keep an eye on what your images look like from different devices on different platforms - sometimes your computer screen could need calibrating and balancing. If the colours look 'off', then you can follow an online step-by-step guide to recalibrate and ensure that what you see is what everyone else online sees too. I'll include a link about screen calibration below.

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PRINTABLES - CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD
take awya printables - workflow cheat sheet. dimensions cheat sheet. 



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