Workflow, Start To Finish, Part 1

"Click click click click click click." My shutter seems like it’s going to catch on fire at my current frame rate. I’m leaning off a cliff on Mount Lemmon, near Tucson, in the middle of a photo shoot for Nikon. My job for the last week has been photographing adventure sports, logging thousands of miles shooting everything from surfing to snowshoeing to rock climbing. And, at my current frame rate, I’m taking thousands of images a day, day after day. My shutter cranks through the frames. My LCD blinks "Full." Time to change out memory cards. Another 20-gigabyte day—it’s going to be a late night in the hotel processing these images.

Lightroom’s File Handling controls include an option to make a duplicate of every image you import in a location outside the Lightroom library automatically, making it easy to back up photos to an external hard drive. You can also batch rename files on import.

At least I’ve streamlined my workflow to be as efficient as it can be.


One thing becomes very obvious when photographers compare their workflows: Everyone has a different approach. Factors like file size, shooting volume, computer performance, hard drive space and location all affect a photographer’s habits. What’s the best workflow for you? It depends. The best workflow is the one that performs efficiently and effectively for you.

In this three-part series, I’ll break down my workflow step by step, and highlight critical aspects that any photographer can use to create a personalized, efficient workflow. My workflow is divided into three parts: download and review, image optimization and backup. For this first installment, let’s look at downloading and browsing your images.


Speed is everything when it comes to efficient workflow, and that begins with your download speed. Three variables affect download times: flash card speed, card reader speed and connection speed to the computer.

Memory cards come in a variety of read/write speeds. The faster the card, the faster the download. Flash cards often denote their speed ratings as MB/s (megabytes per second). The fastest cards can attain read speeds over 100 MB/s, which means getting your images off the card and onto your computer faster—but it isn’t all about your flash card.

Card reader speed and computer interface speed are also critical. To maximize the speed benefit here, choose a card reader that utilizes your computer’s fastest connection port. (See the sidebar for interface transfer rates.)

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