My Lightroom Workflow

lightroom2.jpgI used Adobe Lightroom when it was still in beta, I bought it when it came out and I recently updated to verison 2. I’m now on 2.1 and Lightroom is one of those things that I like to compare to the mouse wheel. Do you remember thinking “who needs that” when the first wheel mouse was introduced? And last time you used a mouse without a wheel, was it fun?

Lightroom is my personal mouse wheel of photo management. And of a lot of post processing. And of posting to Flickr. And of sending images out via email. And and and..

90% of my images will never see any photo-related software other than Lightroom. The rest will be opened in Photoshop out of Lightroom and once I’m finished working on it in Photoshop, it’ll automatically show up in its edited form back in Lightroom.

And before you email me, yes, Aperture can do all these things too. Maybe with different keyboard shortcuts and maybe in a slightly different way, but this post is about Lightroom.

With today’s massive amount of images (I just shot 318 pictures in 2 hours and that’s not really a lot) most of us need help. Help with the workflow. Some actually first need to understand that a somewhat defined workflow is key in making sure you get the best out of your thousands or tens of thousands of images.

I get a lot of questions about what my workflow looks like, so I thought I’d take you by the hand and show you my own personal version:

  1. Imported 318 pictures into Lightroom, making sure to use an import preset to stamp copyright info and add keywords.
  2. Assign a profile to all images (Develop/Cam Calibration) to make them as close as possible to what I saw on the display. If you don’t have profiles installed in your LR, you can find some good ones here: Despite the fact they say DNG, they work with RAW too. On to initial selection round now…
  3. Initial round, select pictures as picks (P key) or rejects (X key) – auto-advances to next pic with CAPS lock on. Swift. I select those pretty fast, maybe 2-4 seconds per picture.
  4. Quick review of the rejects. I’ve set up a Smart Collection for that that only shows me the pics with the reject flag on
  5. DELETE the rejects from disk. Pooof, gone. In this case 184 out of 318. Still too many picks, but man it’s hard to choose
  6. Now that I’m left with only flagged images, I rate them with stars. * = “hmm, not sure I wanna keep that”, ** = “kinda good, needs work”, *** = “high potential, I want to work on that!”. Shortcuts: keys 1-5 will rate, CAPS lock on gives you auto-advance again. While rating the pics, I found some more to reject. All rated now.
  7. Set up a Smart Collection that shows all pics with 3 stars and matching keywords. Call it “TBWO” (To Be Worked On)
  8. Now AFTER deleting them, I add additional keywords to some of the pics (maybe a person’s name or other detail)

(This list was first published on

This was the import and image organization part of my workflow. The rest pretty much depends on the actual images and where they will end up.

What does your workflow look like? Tell us in the comments!

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Author: Chris Marquardt

Chris Marquardt is an educator and podcaster. He wrote Wide-Angle Photography and is the co-author of The Film Photography Handbook and Absolut analog. He's the host of this podcast and a few others. Chris teaches photography all over the world. He is a regular on the TWiT Network.