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Post Production Tips

Lightroom Workflow Tips to Speed Up Editing for Wedding Photographers

By Trevor Dayley on October 29th 2015

On December 1, 1913, the Ford Model T began rolling down the assembly line and completely changed how automobiles were built. In turn, it also had an immense influence on the world, how we created things and the expansion of industry during the 20th century. Productivity shot through the roof, and because of that Henry Ford was able to increase worker pay from just $1.50 a day to $5.00 a day for experienced workers. What does all this have to do with workflow tips in Lightroom and relate to us as wedding photographers?

Workflow Tip in Lightroom

If you’re ready to use a more productive workflow in Lightroom, you need to think like the assembly line. Here are some ways to do it.

1. After importing your files into Lightroom, the first thing you should do is cull through your photos. Culling is the act of looking through the images quickly and choosing the ones you want to edit. While culling don’t start editing any photos. Even if you saw one that you like but was exposed improperly, therefore, you are unsure if you want to keep it, just keep it for now and try to fix it later during the next process. If you find out later it’s unrepairable, then you toss it out. But, don’t, I repeat, don’t stop to bring a photo into the develop module and start editing it. While culling you can use numbers to rate images, color labels, or “P” to flag the images you like, then filter for those later. There are lots of ways to do it. The key is only to cull the images as our first workflow step.

2. Once you’ve culled the photos, you need to filter for those images you picked, and you can now start the editing process. Switch over to the Develop module and begin editing the images. Most of your edits will happen in the Basic menu of the module, (white balance, exposure, contrast, vibrance, clarity, etc.). During this process, you can also apply any Lightroom presets. Be sure to take advantage of Sync and Previous buttons. Where many photographers get held up here is when they come across an image that needs some extra editing they right-click on the image and choose to open it in Photoshop. Don’t do this. It will slow you down. We will do that part later.

3. Once you’ve finished editing all your images, use the Metadata filter in the Library module to sort your images by ISO. Choose the high ISO images. Fix the noise in one photo and then sync just the noise reduction of that one image to all your other photos shot at the same ISO. Do this for each level of high ISO images you would like to fix.

Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.-

4. You’ve finished editing all the images; your next step is to select them all and rename them before moving onto the export process. The easiest way to do this is going to the Library module, select all, then on the PC just hit F2, or on the Mac hit Cmd+F2 to bring up the Rename dialog box.

5. Your photos are now culled, edited, and renamed in Lightroom, so now it’s time to export them. Go to your export dialog box and export all the images into one subfolder inside the client’s main folder.

6. Once you have all the JPEGs exported into one folder, open up Photoshop. Now is the time you can drag the JPEGs that need additional editing into Photoshop, make the edits and resave the photo. Edits in Photoshop might be advanced cloning, healing, and skin retouching. I also like to do some color toning in Photoshop using an action I haven’t been able to replicate yet in Lightroom. The key here is that you are using Photoshop on JPEG files that have already been exported out of Lightroom. No going back and forth between the programs like before. Remember, think like an assembly line. Only focus on one particular job at a time.

Quick Tip: Make sure your caps lock key is activated so that while culling, your photos auto-advance from one image to the next after you pick, rate or label your images.

Your “assembly line” might look different. The key though is to keep yourself from bouncing between one thing and another. If you are culling and decide to open one image in Develop, then go back to culling, you are doing it slower than you could be. If you are opening images from Lightroom into Photoshop, then saving the edits before jumping back into Lightroom, you are also doing it slower than you could be.

[Rewind: DRAMATICALLY SPEED UP ADOBE LIGHTROOM’S PERFORMANCE WITH THIS ONE TIP]

Just as the assembly line was able to make Ford workers much more productive, you will become a much more productive editor in your workflow. Develop your steps, write it down and paste it above your computer or on your desk. Don’t break the flow. Form workflow habits. In a short time, you will find your workflow process will be much faster than before.

If you are ready to take your Lightroom skills to the next level be sure to check out the Lightroom Image Processing Mastery tutorials here on SLR Lounge. They are extremely helpful, comprehensive and taught very well. Did I mention it’s over 10 hours of instruction? I learned lots just by having them play in the background as I was doing my editing and every so often I would replay a section of the instruction because it was so beneficial. Time is money and these videos have saved me a lot of time.

Trevor Dayley is a full-time wedding photographer based out of Arizona. He has six kids and has been married for 15 years. When he is not shooting weddings, he loves helping the photo industry. He has written hundreds of articles and shared countless tutorials. In 2014, he was named one of the Top 30 Most Influential Photographers in the Industry and one of the Top 100 Wedding Photographers by BrandSmash.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Jose Alvarado

    Hey Trevor,

    On lightroom, what size do you export the images and deliver to the clients?

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  2. Anastasia Borisyuk

    I had no idea about the caps lock in Lightroom, my goodness, so much faster and easier! Thanks :) Wish I knew before I finished culling my last October wedding, well, three years ago would have been even better. I find culling in Lightroom very fast on my custom built PC (thanks hubby!) and see no need in adding another software, that would have been a different story on my laptop, but I definitely prefer my huge monitor so I can see all details of the photo as I cull. I’ve only had to cull on the laptop once while traveling and I have to say that was awful! Invest in a nice, big monitor, much easier on the eyes and makes culling and editing much faster and more enjoyable. :)

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  3. Daniel Thullen

    Trevor, these a good tips regardless of the type of photograph one shoots. I shoot primarily sports and the same rules work. (I use most of them, except the ISO sorting. I’ll have to try that!) I’ll best shooting my first wedding in a few weeks and am looking forward (anxiously) to the event.

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  4. Raymond Craig

    I like the idea of sorting by ISO to speed up noise reduction. However I still prefer to send to Photoshop from Lightroom to keep everything in the same directory and to also be working with full color and resolution when layering. I understand you’re probably referring specifically to wedding photos though so that makes sense.

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  5. Birgit Engelhardt

    Wohoo, what a difference! Thank you!

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  6. Robert Pichler

    Just wanted to share my experience with the workflow.

    We shoot with multiple cameras and syncing the date and time on your cameras before you start shooting is the biggest time saver I found during my career as a wedding photographer.

    Reg Lightroom, I found it pretty fast also for culling as I import all the files together,rename them at import, rate with 5 stars the ones I will end up editing and then delete the rest from Lightroom.

    After editing in Lightroom, I use Photoshop for the fine details and then I use Image Resizer (free on Mac App Store) to resize and watermark photos for the client gallery.

    Since I resize to have the long edge on 1920px, I use the same photos for the slideshow I do with Animoto.

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  7. Scott Trombley

    I can’t wait to actually get a new computer and Lightroom finally. Not having it is bottlenecking what I can get edited and posted right now.

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  8. Kenny Van

    Editing is the most time consuming, especially after a long day with clients. Thanks for the tips.

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  9. Stefan Simonsen

    Great tipps!

    But I don’t agree with the renaming part in Lightroom… ;-)

    Often you shot overviews or side-parts of the wedding day not in chronicle order. I prefer to export all the images and then reorder them in PhotoMechanic etc. just to tell the story like you imagined to do.

    To re-find the RAW pictures later on client’s requests I always write the original filename into the IPTC data before I rename them for the clients. So if a client asked for a special photo I download it from the gallery and take a look into the IPTC-data for the file name… ;-)

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    • Justin Haugen

      I agree with culling, sorting, renaming in PhotoMechanic as well. Culling in Lightroom is such a slow chore.

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    • Trevor Dayley

      Yeah Photomechanic is an amazing piece of software and I use it to cull through all my photos. I didn’t mention here in this article as I wanted to keep it simple and focused on the workflow. But, for those that do a lot of culling, there is no better way than doing it in Photomechanic.

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    • Daniel Thullen

      Wow, another $150 for software. I think for the time being I’ll stick to Lightroom.

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