Tips and Tricks

My Cataloging and Editing Process in the Adobe CC Suite - Lightroom and Photoshop

So I'll be upfront and honest that this method of cataloging with Lightroom is not unique to me. In fact, it's a method that I adapted from the great folks over at Phlearn. Nevertheless, there are some key things that I do a little differently and I thought it would be worth sharing here. 

Now, I take hundreds of photos every week and they can range from some architecture geared toward Instagram to headshots for a paying client. No matter what, though, all of my images go through the same process. I've found it to be incredibly impactful for organization, which is so valuable if you ever have to look back for an image. One last note, this is my process and it may not work for you. Use what you can, adapt what you want, and see what works best for you.

Now, my D800 is set to save all images as duplicates on the SD and CFast cards, each of which are RAW, not JPEG. RAW files can be huge, so I keep four 32gb SD and four 32gb CFast cards on me at all times. I'd rather be safe than sorry. Once the shoot is over, I like to get my memory cards backed up as soon as possible. I'll begin by importing the files into my Lightroom catalog. At the time of writing this, I have catalogs divided by year. So, for the sake of demonstration, a photoshoot from April 2, 2018 would go into the 2018 catalog. From there, I'll rename the folder by adding a descriptor, which would look like as follows: "2018-04-02 - Stephon's Portrait Session." I've found this method to be invaluable because I can typically remember the general time period in which a photoshoot took place. I've then added the name of the person who was photographed and the type of shoot it was. This is great when I have to search for a shoot and I don't exactly remember the date. 

Moving on to the files themselves, I rename each images with the below structure (we'll stick with the same shoot as referenced above): "Stevens-Stephon-20180402-7131." This file tells me that it's a photo of Stephon from our shoot on 2018-04-02 and that it's file number 7131, which makes life easy if a client asks for a specific file because they can just give me the last four digits. And if any of my files get moved out of a folder, I know which shoot it belongs to at a glance. Unfortunately this file structure does not do too much for my SEO, but I can dig into my efforts there more fully later. 

My next step is to add my preset copyright data for that year and move onto organizing. Within the "2018-04-02 - Stephon's Portrait Session" folder, I'll add four additional folders: Capture, Master, Selects, Output. The Capture folder is made to house all of the RAW files; Selects is for images that need to be retouched, typically in a TIF format; Master is for images that have been retouched - still TIF; and Output, which will get two nested folders itself: High Res and Web Res. All Web Res image files get "-WebUseOnly" added to the end of the filename upon export. This helps me to ensure I don't send 72 PPI files to print because that would be awful. Be safe, so you don't have to be sorry.

After I've created all of the folders, I'll drag and drop the RAW files into the Capture folder and begin editing. I'll typically edit for color correction, sharpness, tones, etc. in Lightroom and leave removing any objects (even small things) for Photoshop. Once Lightroom edits are done, I'll export an image as a Select, which is a 300 PPI TIF file. That file will get edited in Photoshop, which means I'll be typically adding layers and trying to edit to be able to remove any changes I've made at any point. There are occasions when I'll merge layers, but it's more of an exception than a rule. Retouched files are then moved from the Selects folder to the Master folder. At one time, I was saving the edited Photoshop files as an additional file in the Master folder, keeping the original Select file, but this started taking up too much space. Instead, moving the file helps me keep track of what's been retouched and what hasn't.

To export images for print or web use, I'll go back into Lightroom, sync my Master folder, and export the images in their appropriate folder. This whole process makes it easier to go back and pull the correct images for a client in a matter of minutes. 

One thing that I didn't mention earlier is that I backup my SSD drive that I carry with me to three other hard drives at home (one of which is backing up to the cloud). Then, all client-delivered images are saved to Google Drive and shared with the client. Technically, it's up to them to back them up, but we know how that goes.

If you’re interested in seeing Phlearn’s video on the process, check it out here.