Here’s a question that has popped up multiple times over the past few months:
Can you give us an update on all the programs you’re using to edit and store your photos…and how exactly you’re doing it?
Let me state from the get-go that my workflow / system isn’t the golden standard. Fact is, my workflow might stink for your tastes, needs, and priorities. So, I’m not here to say that you should do it my way.
However, I would encourage us ALL to make our decisions based on the following process:
- Figure out what your priorities are when it comes to your editing workflow.
- Build a workflow that aligns with these priorities (in #1).
- Change when needed.
So let’s start with #1:
This seems oh so nerdy. Or perhaps too formal.
But if you don’t get clear on what your main objectives are when developing a workflow, you’ll be changing it 3 times a year every time you see a new piece of shiny software or every time you read a new idea for how someone else does it.
Here’s video #1 where I lay out 6 priorities for editing workflow. Basically, these are what I “value” when it comes to workflow. These values shape every part of my workflow. They help me answer these questions:
- Is it worth investing in another software to cull photos when I already have software that “already does that?”
- Is it worth investing in online storage in one or more places?
- Should I manually organize pictures?
That said, the video:
Summary of Kyle’s “Priorities”
1. Time. I
want need my workflow to take the absolute least amount of time possible. Time spent culling, editing, organizing, backing up, and archiving images is time I could spend with my wife, kids, community, or doing work that’s profitable.
2. Simplicity. Certain systems sound cool at first because they’re so “organized.” But if it’s not simple, it’s not sustainable. The more complex a system, the quicker it will be neglected.
3. Safety. Your files MUST be stored off site. You can have 5 different hard drives at home, but it doesn’t matter if your house burns. So IF I must get my files offsite (cloud), then this fact has a major impact on the tools I’m going to use to archive my library. I don’t want two different “systems” (LR/local + offsite). I want one if possible.
And I want it to be as automated as possible. Why? Because the more we introduce humanness to the process…the more error we’ll get. Not from doing it wrong…but from forgetting. Humanness isn’t as safe as automatic.
4. Flexibility. I have two main machines now…and increasing I’m editing from my laptop OR my phone. I don’t want to have to keep my LR catalogs in sync between my laptop and desktop. What a pain!! My workflow has to:
- work as well from the road as it does from home
- work from my phone when needed
- adapt to new tools and tech and services.
5. Accessibility. I want to be able to access my pics from all my computers, and all my devices.
6. Longevity. Even though I want to be able to use new tech and services, I also don’t want to have to change my main tools every 2 years. There will always be something new come along.It takes too much time (back to #1) to migrate everything every year or two to these new bells and whistles.
Plus, the new companies, if they do well enough, will likely get bought by the big dogs. A lesson learned with ThisLife. So I’m currently using tools by names like Google and Amazon, which will likely be around.
So from these priorities, you’ll see how easy it is for me to answer the common questions we all deal with:
Question: “So do you use 1 Lightroom Catalogue? Or one for clients and one for personal? I one for each new shoot?”
Answer: Just one catalogue. And I keep that small as I’m always removing images from LR as soon as I’m done editing them. My goal is to keep my images in Lightroom for as short as possible. Primarily because of time (Lightroom is SO. SLOW.), but also because of simplicity and flexibility and accessibility.
Question: “So you don’t keyword or label or anything in Lightroom?”
Nope. Not currently. It’s awesome. 🙂 (Again, time + simplicity shapes this answer for me personally. It doesn’t have to be your answer.)
Question: “So you bought an additional program to cull, even though you pay $9.99 per month for LR?”
Yep. Time is the reason. Time matters that much to me at my current stage of life and with my current commitments.
Question: “So you’re willing to invest in multiple online storage options?”
Yes. Because both of my storage solutions have great desktop applications that completely automate the entire process. This makes is safer (priority 3) than me doing it (forgetting often), is ultra simple (#2), and takes zero time (you get the idea).
II. My (keyword:current) Workflow
Okay, I really didn’t want this second part to be long. But it is. DANG IT!! haha….
Maybe I’ll try again soon and make it shorter. :/
For now, let me outline the process for you. That way if you don’t want to watch the video, you don’t have to. 🙂
You’ll see the main stages of everyone’s workflow (culling, editing, exporting, archiving) and what I’m doing within each of those.
I use Photo Mechanic to cull all my photos. The reason is simple: it’s way faster than LR.
Even if I build standard previews in Lightroom, for whatever reason it’s still as slow as molasses. And even with a small catalogue! Oh well, it’s widely known (and well known) that Lightroom is painfully slow. I’m not the only one who notices. In fact, many industry leaders who’ve taught a long list of Lightroom courses have had it with how lazy Lightroom has become (example here).
Photo Mechanic is capable of a lot more than what I use it for. But for now, I just use it because it immediately draws the previews of all my RAW files. Check out the screencast below around 7:10 to see how blazing fast it is. When I click my arrow key to advance to the next pic, there’s no lag. No thinking. No cramping. It just snaps to the next pic. When I apply a color label or “flag” and image, it also doesn’t hiccup. It’s all just instant.
From Photo Mechanic, I simply sort my keepers and then just drag them onto the LR icon. This brings up the import dialogue with only my keepers selected.
One important note here is that I actually “move” these keepers on the disk to my next stage: the “need edited” folder. By default, I just import into one subfolder: “Current Edits” Do I ever create different subfolders? Sometimes.
If I know I can’t get to the edit until another day, or perhaps until several edits later, then sure, I’ll create a subfolder for it. This just helps me keep visual tabs, again, on what work needs done. But 90% of the time I cull and edit in one sitting. In that case I just move them into my “Current Edits” subfolder.
Remember, my goal is to get them in and out of LR as quickly as possible. So hopefully they’re aren’t going to be in here long anyways!
After the edit, I want to get my photos out of LR completely. As mentioned, I don’t use Lightroom to organize my pics over the long haul as it’s far too time consuming compared to the alternatives. Since I don’t need them in LR after the edit, I want to remove them in order to keep my catalogue as small as possible (which in turn keeps LR running as fast as possible).
Where do I export to? It depends where I’m working from. But the end goal is to get the files on my main “external hard drive” (it’s actually a Drobo…which backs itself up). So where I export them initially really depends on if I’m at home and connected to that drive or not:
- If I’m at home, I’ll just export straight to the Drobo (external hard drive):
- I’ll export JPG’s into the JPG folder of the current year
- I’ll export DNG’s into the DNG folder of the current year
- I no longer subfolder by month for personal stuff. You can sort by month (and a lot of other stuff) automatically within Adobe Bridge (amongst many other programs, Photo Mechanic being another).
- If I’m on the road or otherwise not connected to my external hard drive:
- I’ll export JPG’s into my “Needs Archived” folder on my local drive (JPG subfolder).
- I’ll export DNG’s into my “Needs Archived” folder on my local drive (DNG subfolder).
- I’ll usually export a handful of my favorites as resized for social media while I’m at it. These go straight to a Dropbox folder to be immediately available from any computer, tablet, or phone.
4. Archive and Backup
I’ve drastically simplified this. I just set up both Google Photos and Amazon Drive (or you could do the same thing through) to automatically back up all my completed files. Important: I do this through their desktop uploader apps. These uploader apps are a must!! You simply pick and choose what folders you want it to backup from. It constantly scans those folders for new files and backs them up when needed. And done.
For the record, I have Google Photos backing up full rez JPG’s. And I have Amazon Drive backing up both the full rez JPG’s AND the DNG files.
Locally, these files are on my Drobo, which is the simplest (though granted not the cheapest) way to have local redundancy. I honestly don’t ever really use it. And I honestly don’t really feel I need it. It’s just one of those habit things. And I suppose it can be quicker to get to a DNG file locally than downloading it from the cloud.
The Way Too Long Screencast…
Okay here’s a screencast of my entire workflow: from the images on a card to backed up and “archived.”
Final Note: Client Photos
Though I’m only accepting commissioned projects on a very limited basis, let me add a quick note for those trying to think through this use case.
For the most part, I follow the above system very closely. The biggest differences:
- I keep a separate folder for client projects (actually called “Client Projects”), but the subfolders are the same (“Needs Culled,” “Needs Edited,” and “Needs Uploaded” (archived)).
- My final destination for my local copy of client projects is also separate from personal (on my Drobo: “Client Projects > Name > then JPG’s and DNG’s)
- I don’t upload client photos to Google Photos. I do back them up in a separate folder in Amazon Drive (JPG and RAW) because it’s automatic and unlimited storage.
- I’m currently using ShootProof for my proofing. Again, I’m choosing time and simplicity here…and absolutely loving the program so far!