At Mosaic, we spend hours a day speaking with photographers. We often hear that photographers wished they spent less time in post-production. As modern photographers we just take a lot of photos. While our goal is to take fewer but make more impactful photos, we still need to spend a lot of time finding the best photos to selectively show our clients or to show our friends. We are the curator of our own photos.
Digital Asset Management – DAM – refers to your whole workflow from before the shot to the archival of your photo. One of the important aspects of this process is to catalog images. This is a give and take. You have to invest some time upfront so that your editing and searching process later is easier in the long run.
I never metadata I didn’t like…Corny jokes aside, adding metadata like keywords, flags, ratings and stars can add value to your photos while saving you time. What we typically hear is that people don’t use metadata, because it takes too much time. Using this method, you can spend less time and get more value from your cataloging workflow.
You only want to spend time developing and editing your best photos. You don’t want to edit every photo. But there are also photos we don’t want to delete.
As I import photos into Lightroom, I add keywords to the whole shoot. Maybe this is the destination (Spain), client names, location (studio, park, church,), style (portraits, boudoir, etc.) or holiday (Christmas). This takes almost no time and makes it easy to find photos later.
After I import my photos into Lightroom, I take a quick glance through the import in the library mode. I then rate every photo. That is right… every photo. I know this sounds like a lot of work, but Lightroom makes it easy to go through many photos quickly. I also selectively delete my photos. I don’t delete very much, but if the photo is just not very good or out of focus or a rapid fire shot where I have 7 similar photos, I will delete.
Here is how to rate and cull quickly in Lightroom. In Library mode I prefer the Loupe view. I then keep my fingers on the numbers (1,2,3) and my thumb on the “x”. After I rate the photo, I use my right hand to arrow to the next photo. Using this method I can go through several hundred photos fairly quickly.
One of the good tricks about Lightroom is that the numbers will star rate the photos. One the hidden tricks is the Rejected Flag.
When you press “x” the photo will become grayed out and the photo will be set to “rejected”. After you are done going through all of the photos, you can “Delete Rejected Photos” from within the photo menu in Lightroom.
I use the star ratings heavily. Most of photos are rated either with a 1 or 2. 1 star means I want to keep the photo but I don’t want to spend anytime editing or cataloging them. 2 stars indicates that I like the photo enough to spend some time editing it. 3 star photos I am proud of. 4 and 5 star rated photos are my best. You should have relatively few 5 star rated photos and loads of 1 star photos.
Keywords are an easy way to spend loads of time…but they are also very helpful when used selectively. Keywords are a great way to find photos later. For instance if you wanted to find photos taken on your vacation to Spain, you can just type in the word Spain… I would rather do that than have to remember the date of the trip and hunt through my images using my folders.
I then create a filter in Library mode. My filter is for equal to 2 star or greater photos. You can do this a variety of ways in Lightroom. I tend to use the filter interface above the filmstrip at the bottom of the screen. You can also bring up the filter bar by pressing “”.
Since I have made the preliminary cull, I know I only want to add keywords to my good photos. I tend to add names for my family members for my personal collection. This makes it easy to find “good photos of Caroline” (my daughter). Select multiple photos and add keywords to many images at once when possible. For instance, select all of the Madrid photos on the Spain trip to add the keyword “Madrid.”
Developing the images takes me the most amount of time. I often don’t get as much time as I would like. For this reason, I then create another filter and first edit my best photos. For me, these are my photos equal to 3 stars or above. I will then, time permitting, go back and edit my 2 star photos. Occasionally, when I am in develop mode, I have done such a good job that I will re-adjust my rating (or conversely, I get a better look at a photo and move it down a notch).
Lightroom is a very powerful cataloging tool. Don’t rely too much on your memory or your folder structure to find your best photos. You might have an amazing memory, but when you take 10,000+ photos you need a structure to find your photos quickly. Use Filters, Searches, Metadata, Stars, Colors and the other tools that Lightroom gives you to help show off and find your best work quickly and efficiently.
What other tricks do you have? Add them in the comments section below!