From importing to sharing: My recommended workflow sequence in Photoshop Lightroom 3

Introduction

Photoshop Lightroom 3 is one of the most highly regarded software programmes for organising and editing your photographs. I’ve spent the last couple of months getting familiar with Photoshop Lightroom 3, and I must say, it is simply a pleasure to use. Lightroom 3 was designed from the ground up with the workflow in mind, and the ease of use shines through.

Lightroom 3 is a non-destructive photo editing software, that means it doesn’t make any changes to the original photographs. Instead, it keeps a record of edits made to each photograph. This is great because I could easily revert back to the original shot without keeping duplicate copies. At a typical 10Mb per photo, that is a lot of hard disk space saved.

A bit of background

Photography is a new hobby for me, I only picked it up at the start of 2011. I started with Google’s free photo organising software Picasa. It works in a similar way to Lightroom 3, but is obviously less powerful. Fantastic for beginners.

I then progressed to Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 (the latest version is now 10), which came bundled with my laptop. Photoshop Elements 9 consists of an Organiser and an Editor. The Organiser isn’t too shabby, but it’s simply too unwieldy for my liking.

Finally, I moved on to Photoshop Lightroom 3. This also came bundled with my computer, I realised the fact belatedly after purchasing an original copy from Amazon (I still have it on my book shelf, just buzz me if you wish to take it off my hands).

I now use Lightroom 3 for the organising and simple editing, and Photoshop Elements 9 for more complex editing. I don’t need the full-fledge Photoshop CS5 as I’m not a professional.

There are more powerful software programmes for editing your photographs. But for organising them, Lightroom 3 is one of the best on the market. If you’re an Apple user, Lightroom 3 is also available in the Mac version, though you would also have the option of using the exclusive-to-Apple Aperture 3. However, I prefer using cross-platform software which does not tie me to a particular OS. 🙂

I would now like to share my current workflow, from importing photographs to sharing. This will probably change as I develop a better understanding of the software. Short-cut keys are indicated in brackets.

My recommended workflow in Lightroom 3:

Importing

  1. Import from memory card, and Copy the files onto my computer.
  2. All my photographs are located in a single folder called “My Lightroom Photos”.
    1. There are various sub-folders, such as Events, Family, Places, Exports.
    2. I usually create a new folder for each import, e.g. My Lightroom Photos -> Events -> Bali Trip 2010.
  3. The following steps are all done automatically during the import process.
    1. Change file names to “hunboon_import date (YYYYMMDD)_original file name”. I occasionally import photographs taken by other people, and I find this to be the easiest way to differentiate among them.
    2. Apply meta data which includes the creator’s (that’s me) personal details e.g. name, email, web site, and also copyright information.
    3. Add general key tags e.g. Holiday, Bali. More specific key tags are done later.
    4. Apply “General – Auto Tone” preset in the Quick Develop section of the Library module. My photographs are usually slightly washed out, and this preset helps to add more punch and make the colours more vibrant.

Organising

  1. In Library module, go to Grid view (G). Increase the panel size by closing the side panels (Shift + Tab) and going into full screen mode (F).
  2. For the first round, select the photographs which are obvious rejects e.g. blurred, out of focus, hand in front of lens. I delete them from the hard disk (Lightroom 3 gives you the option of removing them from its catalogue)
  3. For the second round, go into Loupe view (E) and apply flags. Add a flag to the photographs you like (P), and reject the ones you don’t (X). The Compare view (C) is useful to selecting among similar shots e.g. repeat shots of the same scene.
  4. Filter to show only the rejected photos. Unflag those you intend to keep (U), and delete the rest (Ctrl+Backspace).
  5. Filter to show only the flagged photos, and narrow the field further. You might wish to use the Survey view (N) here. I find the Survey view helpful only when there are few photos remaining e.g. fewer than 15 or so.
  6. Save these photos as a Collection (album).
  7. Narrow your photos further to those you wish to showcase (these are the best ones from the Collection). Apply a colour label, I use Red as it’s the first colour. I usually end up with around 5% to 10% of the photos at this point e.g. 8 photos from a shoot of 160. The fewer I showcase, the more care I can take with them (Editing can be time-consuming).

Editing

  1. Start with Cropping and Straightening, which is done with the same tool. I use Lens Correction to compensate for the more blatant perspective errors.
  2. I usually stick with the As Shot white balance, unless the colours look strange.
  3. I then do basic colour editing, working from top to down on the right panel. The preset “General – Punch” is useful for photos that need more help despite the “General – Auto Tone” already applied during import.
  4. For tone adjustment, I use the auto feature before making manual adjustments while using the histogram as a guide.
  5. I apply Sharpening only during export, so none is used here.
  6. Noise reduction is great for those high ISO shots in dim conditions. It really makes those pesky blotches disappear, you have to try it to believe it. This is one of my favourite features in Lightroom 3.

Sharing

I share the photographs in 2 ways:

  1. Uploading to blog
    1. I export to hard disk. Apply Standard Sharpening.
    2. Reduce size to 550 pixels along long edge of the photo (so that the photo will fit within the column in my 2-column layout).
    3. Add my web site URL as a watermark.
  2. Uploading to photo-sharing web sites
    1. Lightroom 3 has a Publish feature for sharing web sites such as Facebook, Flickr and SmugMug. You need to install a free external plug-in for Picasa but it’s very simple (took me just 2 minutes). I use Facebook for public photos and Picasa for private photos.
    2. Apply Standard Sharpening.
    3. Reduce photo size to 1000 pixels along long edge of the photo (reduces file size but still big enough to fill up most monitors).

That’s all from me. If you have any suggestions or tips to share on how to improve the workflow in Photoshop Lightroom 3, please let me know. 🙂

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About Hun Boon

A little bit of this, a little bit of that.
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