Keeping It Simple: My Workflow


A few weeks ago a few of my followers asked what my workflow is. The short answer: Import via Lightroom or PhotoMechanic, pull into Photoshop, save as new file. I’ll keep my discussion with LightRoom as most people don’t use PhotoMechanic. But the main difference between the two programs is that after ingesting the images in PM, you must export to external editing software for the most part.

As I don’t have a need to upload a million photos, I’m pretty critical of what I do upload. With this in mind, I may go out for a 5, 6, or 7 hour shoot and only upload 2 or 3 photos. Quality over quantity.

File Structure for My Raw Images:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photogray

I’ll also must state a clarification with some terminology I’m accustomed to. When I worked at newspapers, editing was the process of choosing which images you want to tone. Post-processing was the term used to tone those images.

But before I get into my workflow, there is one thing that is just as, if not more, important than how I ingest and tone my images.

That is how I save and archive my images. I know of someone who just imports their photos willy-nilly and the file are everywhere. No organization what-so-ever and they don’t even change the filename as they import. This will lead to lost files, irretrievable images, and cluttered hard drives.

First, all the raw images are ingested into a folder with a simple naming convention: YYMMDD-SubjectNamesPlace-NNNN. Example, a night at Artist point shooting star trails would be “150119-StarTrailsArtistPoint-0001.” This folder is contained in one I call “Pablo’s Imports.” This keeps my raw files in order and separate from the edited versions. I use the 4 digit number as I shoot a lot of sports, weddings, so I sometimes hit the thousand image mark.

So the folder name would be “150119-StarTrailsArtistPoint” and the files would be renamed 150119-StarTrailsArtistPoint-raw-0001, etc. The “raw” part of the name is removed after toning and saving. This helps differentiate between the raw and toned images during a search.

Tip: Always Rename the Images. DO NOT keep the camera generated file name.

Especially if your camera is NOT set to continuous file numbering. In other words, each time you put in a new card, it resets the numbers to 0001. This keeps you from having to guess which one of the files with the name “DSC_0033” is the one of your mom.

Example, let’s say I like “150119-StarTrailsArtistPoint-raw-0018.nef” and pull it to tone. After I work on it, I save the file with the new name “150119-StarTrailsArtistPoint-018.psd” as a layered PSD file in my main image folder “Pablo’s Fotos.” For the most part, single images usually go straight into this folder.

However, if I have more than one image from a shoot, I create a new folder titled “150119-StarTrailsArtistPoint-Edits,” again using the “-edits” to differentiate it from the original in search results. Inside this I create added folders called PSDs, HiResJpegs, and LoResJpegs.

File Structure of Edit Photos:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography
Every week, I then copy all my new files onto two separate external hard drives to archive. I also use Apple’s Time Machine to keep my laptop backed up. Especially after I’ve installed new software. This saved my ass earlier this year when I lost my laptop in a fire. Just hooked the new one up to TM and VOILá!!! Restored.

During import I make sure to have a complete caption which starts off “© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography” then describe the photo. In the description I include place, city, state, day, time of day (morning, evening, afternoon, night) and date (Jan. 22, 2015).  This is a generic caption for the shoot. During editing, I add complete caption information.

Example of generic caption when importing: The Sehome Mariners host the Lynden Lions  in varsity boys’ basketball at Sehome High School in Bellingham, Wash., on Monday evening Feb. 2, 2015. 

Basic Caption in Lightroom – Including all IPTC info:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography

When a photo is edited, I complete the caption using the 5 Ws of journalism: who, what, where, when, why, and add information pertinent to the photo.

Example of detailed caption of edited photo: Lynden guard Sterling Somers (13) wins the rebound from Sehome guard Marcus Montag (23), left, and Tanner Clark (24) during the second quarter at Sehome High School in Bellingham, Wash., on Monday evening Feb. 2, 2015. Sehome defeated Lynden 69 to 67 in overtime.

While filling out the basic caption, I also fill out all the other sections in the IPTC fields. Creator, source, location, city, state, country, title (usually the shoot), copyright info, and keywords.

Especially keywords. When I upload to my site, my photos have both a caption and keywords. Not too much worried about titling every single photo. But, for the sake of SEO, I fill these out to help rankings. You can customize the keyword for each images. It’s a great time saver to do this while ingesting the images.

TIP:  Fill out all the IPTC information for better SEO. 

A note about keywords. If you’re stuck about what keywords you should use, think about writing a detailed caption explaining the photo. Then extract the information from that.

Always add city, county, state, country, and emotional feeling, your name, your business name,

If you need some better guidance, one good way to figure out how to keyword a photo, visit some of the stock agencies like Getty or iStock and see how they keyword. They are very descriptive in keywording.

Moving on. After the photos are done importing, I stay in the Library module. On the right is a subsection called “Collections.” I create a new collection and name it using the same protocol. In the box, I make sure “Set as Target Collection” is checked.

To Create a new Collection, use the Drop Down Menu:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography

Dialog Box – Make sure to click the “Target Collection” box:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography
While still in the Library module, I scroll through the imported photos. While evaluating which ones I like, have good exposure, focus, composition, moment, etc., I add it to the new collection I created by simply hitting the “B” key. This becomes my rough edit. I leave the scrutiny to my final culling.

The photos I’ve added to the collection will have a little white dot in the upper right of the icon in the filmstrip. The filmstrip is the lowest panel with all the images you just imported.

The filmstrip with indicator:
© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography

Once I chose my images and they’re in the collection, I go to the Collections tab and choose the folder that has those images. I take a little extra time to critique the photos and further pare down what I want to post-process. This save a lot of time in the processing of your images. Why tone images that you won’t use?

Also, when in the Library module, I go to the Metadata panel on the right and add detail to the captions. This saves a tremendous amount of time after I’ve exported the final images. I don’t have to go back and correct the information.

Usually upon completion of first toning, I just export the image to Photoshop and further refine it if needed. However, if this is an event such as a wedding or birthday party, after I’ve post-processed images I need, I then go back to the Library Module to export them as jpegs to a new folder.

I keep it simpler when I’m shooting sports, news, or general assignments for editorial use. For those shoots, I use PhotoMechanic. A much simpler program for ingesting, captioning, and editing. Same workflow essentially, but with the exception the only photos I post process are those for publication.

Thank you for stopping by to read and view my work. Feel free to comment, critique, or just ask questions.

Also, feel free to share and reblog, link to, and add your site in the comment section.

Paul “pablo” Conrad

Follow me on these various Social Networks:

  1. Follow Me on Google+
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Paul Conrad is an award-winning, nationally and internationally published freelance photographer living in Bellingham, Whatcom County, Wash., north of Seattle in the Pacific Northwest. His work has been published in newspapers and magazine throughout the United States and in Europe.

His clients include Getty Images, Wire Image, The Bellingham Herald, and many local business in Whatcom County. Previous clients are Associated Press, the New York Times, L.A. Times, Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News, and many others.

His specialty is photojournalism covering news, sports, and editorial portraits, he also is skilled in family portraiture, high school senior portraits, and weddings. He is available for assignments anywhere in the Pacific Northwest.

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