Workflow, Start To Finish, Part 1

Lightroom’s Keywording and Metadata panels offer numerous ways to improve your photo library organization. Keyword Suggestions shows potential keywords that may apply to a selected image, based on keywords you’ve already applied to an image and to other images captured within a relatively close period of time. You can also create groups of keywords to add them quickly to a selection of images.

Now let’s talk about where you download your images. Do they go onto your desktop as a folder of images or directly into a program like Adobe Lightroom? Are your images going to two hard drives or just one? All excellent questions!

The simplest method (simple is good!) is to download directly into your photo-management software. I use Lightroom to download, browse and organize images.

When the download begins into Lightroom, you have some important aspects to consider. It’s a good idea to make duplicate copies, so I use a feature in Lightroom’s File Handling controls to make a second copy in a location outside the Lightroom library. We’ll talk more about backup in part three of this series, but basically, I like to use a second drive to which I download duplicates of my images so I’m backed up immediately upon download.

Next is file renaming. Everyone will have a different naming format—the most important thing is to stick with it consistently. I use an alphanumeric system to caption my images. A portrait might be labeled "port24562", meaning it’s the 24,562nd portrait I’ve taken. Some photographers use time, date and location in their image header. But, even more important than the label is the metadata attached to the shot.

Metadata is file information about your image, including shooting data (EXIF data) and caption information (IPTC data). The beauty of programs like Apple Aperture and Lightroom is that they can search metadata and quickly find images, but this search only works if you add keywords in the metadata! Make sure to add relevant keywords like subject, location, name, color, concept—anything you might search for when looking for an image.

You can add metadata to individual images or select multiple images at a time to add the same keyword. For example, I might add "Alaska" to an entire shoot, then select only the photos of eagles for certain keywords, and continue to break down the eagle shots to those in flight versus those perched, adding appropriate keywords to match. This method progressively breaks down groups of like images applying appropriate keywords. The final result is searchable images with lots of relevant keywords.


Once you’ve downloaded and tagged your images, it’s time to browse them and pick your best shots. Software like Aperture and Lightroom offer a number of tools to rate and pick your images. This is one area where your available time to edit and your volume of images will determine your workflow. Both programs offer star ratings, flags and color labels to pick and rate your images. Also, you can compare images side by side when browsing images, and use a loupe tool to zoom in quickly.

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