by Mark Condon
It’s a sad truth that photographers often spend more time behind desks than behind cameras. Workflow efficiency is important to reduce the amount of time we spend editing our photos. Here are 5 tips that can help.
1. Cull Positively
I use Lightroom to cull my photos, but no matter what software you choose to do the job of weeding out the duds, it’s important that you cull positively.
Culling positively refers to choosing only the images you wish to keep, as opposed to marking the ones you don’t wish to use. I used to cull negatively, in that I’d press the ‘x’ key to mark photos I wanted to reject, and additionally mark the photos I wanted to keep with a certain star rating. Culling positively is not only faster, but it’s a Lightroom tip that will also affect your mood, especially when culling thousands of photos. Each time you press your designated selection key (I use the number ‘1’ to give the photo a star), you’re effectively saying “I like this photo!” Compare that to saying “this photo sucks” hundreds of times when you press your ‘reject’ key.
Make sure you set Lightroom to ‘auto-advance’ (in the menu, go to Photo –> Auto Advance), so that when you press your selection key, the next photo will appear. If you don’t like the next photo, just hit the right arrow key to advance to the next one, and so on. When you reach the end of your images, filter by 1 star (or whatever selection method you used), and start editing.
2. Use Smart Previews
This is another Lightroom-specific tip for speeding up your workflow. When you import photos into Lightroom for editing, tick the box ‘Build Smart Previews’. This will add some time to the import process, but the speed benefits of editing with Smart Previews are huge. With Lightroom CC (2015.7) and Lightroom 6.7, Adobe introduced the ability to use Smart Previews instead of your original files for editing. You can turn this on via the menu (Edit -> Preferences -> Performance -> Develop -> Use Smart Previews Instead Of Originals For Image Editing).
This is great, but I’ve found that disconnecting your external hard drive (or temporarily renaming the folder which contains the original image) actually yields better results. Essentially you’re forcing Lightroom to use the Smart Previews for editing, since it can’t find the originals. In testing, using this ‘hack’ method yields faster results than using the new built-in functionality of the software.
3. Export at 75
If you’re like me, I bet you tend to export all your files from Lightroom at 100% quality. Next time you go to export, try doing so at the Lightroom JPG export quality of 75 - you’ll end up with a photo that looks identical to one exported at 100, but with a file that’s about one-third the size.
“The Lightroom default JPEG export quality of 75, falling in the 70〜76 range, seems to provide for as good a visible result as the highest quality setting… The file size, even at this relatively high 70〜76 setting, is still about one third that of the 93〜100 setting, so is well worth it in most situations. Those who blindly use the maximum setting for their exports likely waste a lot of local disk space, upload bandwidth, and remote storage space.”
- Jeffrey Friedl, former consultant to Adobe
It’s no secret that having smaller file sizes to your images can help speed up your workflow immensely. Being able to transfer images to your hard drives for backup or upload them to the cloud more quickly can save you hours.
As an added bonus, a lighter image file will do wonders for your website loading speed, and, in addition, your SEO. Google has said for many years now that site speeds directly affect rankings, so have a go at reducing your image size for online usage.
4. Use Software Shortcuts
Virtually every tool and action in Lightroom and Photoshop can be accessed via a keyboard shortcut. There are literally hundreds of them, which is great, but it does pose a problem – how do you remember them all?
Here’s a tool to help you research all the available Lightroom and Photoshop shortcuts. It’s a virtual keyboard that displays information on the various shortcuts depending on key combinations you press on your actual keyboard.
If you add one or two new shortcuts to your editing arsenal every time you use one of the Adobe Photography Suite’s products, you’ll soon be shaving hours off your post-production time.
5. One Job at a Time
I’ll end on a workflow tip that’s not related to software, cameras, or even photography. However, if you can follow it, it’ll have the biggest impact on your workflow in general.
We may all like to think we’re good at ‘multi-tasking’, but in reality, most of our brains don’t work that way. Instead of doing several tasks well, multi-tasking actually spreads our efficiency in multiple directions, often meaning we’re not doing any of the tasks to our full capabilities.
Whether editing photos, blogging, emailing or researching, it’s often far more productive and efficient to stick to one single task until it’s done. It also helps to ‘batch’ similar tasks, working on them all together rather than interrupting them with other random jobs on your to-do list. As an example, try blocking off a couple of hours to just work on organizing a photo catalogue in Lightroom. Close all other distracting apps on your desktop, and stick to that one task until it’s completely done. Then, and only then, move on to the next task.
Guest post by Mark Condon, a British wedding photographer based in Sydney. Mark is the founder of Shotkit, a place to learn about photography and take a peek into the camera bags of the world's best photographers.