Lightroom Digital Workflow

Keeping track of photo files is a pain in the ass. But now with my new digital workflow I'm breathing a little easier.

I knew that if I wanted to get serious about photography this year I'd need to get disciplined about keeping all these files in order. RAW photos are massive files and storing them on my Retina Macbook Pro is a non starter given the small size of the hard drive. Not to mention just keeping all these files in some searchable order. So I came up with a system that's not perfect but it does have chunks of help from my friend Trey Ratcliff. He had some great suggestions about keeping family photos separate from my art photos.

To start I created some collections in Lightroom.

  • processing now
  • unprocessed art
  • unprocessed family
  • art keepers
  • family keepers

And I created a few Smart Collections

  • 5 Stars
  • 1 Star
  • picked complete photos

Once I had my collections complete I was able to begin importing the photos. During the import process I let the default settings automatically create sub folders based on the dates the photos were taken. This is really handy. 

In these dated subfolders it's not important that there are a few non-birthday pictures in a folder filled with those soccer photos because we're going to go through those folders anyway.

Here's where the hard work comes into play. Next I go through each photo in the folder and rate them one at a time using the starring system. Either I give the photo 5 stars for processing later or I leave it blank to sit on my hard drive for future use.  I'm not worried about storage since I'm keeping every photo backed up on my Drobo anyway  By tagging a photo with 5 stars I'm saying to myself, "Self, you like this photo enough to process it soon". 

Once I've starred a bunch of photos I hit shift-click to select all the 5 starred photos and move them to either 'unprocessed family' or 'unprocessed art' depending on the content. Then when I find photos I'd like to process I'll take those photos and drag them to 'processing now'. Then I'll delete them from 'unprocessed' folder because I'm now 'working' on them.

Once I've processed a photo I'll delete it from my 'processing now' folder and export it to a bunch of places. I export it to iPhoto where I keep my family folders and my folder of completed Lightroom edits. I also send my photos to a networked Drobo FS where my wife and I share family photo folders. So all the apple picking photos I shot this weekend are now sitting in our shared 'Family 2012' folder with a sub-folder called 'Apple Picking'.

I know this seems like a lot but it really isn't once you get the hang of it. It's much better than having no system at all!