An Evolving Digital Workflow

Capturing a picture in-camera is the first step in producing a finished photograph, but after the shutter button has been pressed there are any number of steps to create the finished product. Film shooters develop the film; digital shooters “develop” the RAW file. Either group needs to somehow catalog and store their work. As a photographer who exclusively works in a digital format, I enjoy reading about others’ post-processing workflow. As new tools are developed and released, a photographer needs to evaluate his or her workflow and make improvements when possible. I just made a big change in my system.

I’ve used IMatch as my cataloging system for a few years. Since purchasing my Canon 40D, I’d been performing RAW conversions using Canon’s Digital Photo Professional (DPP) software. I have Photoshop CS which I use for any significant retouching or editing. That system was function, but was slow. From camera to web (my most common output format), a photo would be touched by:

Windows Explorer (import from card reader) – DPP (culling, RAW conversion) – IMatch (cataloging, metadata) – Photoshop (resize/prep for web)

Even with some batch processing, when this process is multiplied by a few dozen or few hundred photos per shoot, it was slow.

A few months ago, after seeing and reading all about Lightroom, I decided that a switch would be a boost to my productivity and photo workflow. I knew that Lightroom 2 was in the works, so I waited until release before handing my cash to Adobe.

It’s been less than a month, but it’s the best $300 I’ve invested in my photography business.

My workflow now consists of:

Lightroom (import from card reader, RAW adjustments/conversion, cataloging, and basic edits) and, in less than 5% of my images, Photoshop

For nearly all of my photos, the entire post-processing workflow is entirely within Lightroom. The keywording provides organization. The RAW conversion tools (the same as Adobe Camera RAW) are powerful and flexible. Lightroom 2 can export to JPGs, and through the use of plugins can send my photos directly to Flickr or SmugMug. The editing tools in Lightroom 2 including the gradients and adjustment brush are able to handle a lot of what was previously the territory of Photoshop.

I’m still a Lightroom newbie. I know that I haven’t yet figured out all of the power of the program. I’m learning new things every day both with how to use certain features and how to use them more efficiently. I’ve started keeping a random list of tips and tricks that I’ll publish at some point in the not-too-distant future, but if you’re a Lightroom user, what are your favorite and (relatively) unknown tools?

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Fantastic subject! This is exactly what I’ve been looking for. I was strongly considering IMatch after our initial conversations, but having read this… I am re-evaluating and more than likely going to spend the extra money and get Lightroom 2.

    Thanks again, Aaron!


  2. I don’t have any particular tools to recommend, but I do highly suggest following this blog. It’s a great resource for LightRoom tips and tricks.

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