In the first blog in this workflow series I described how I use Photo Mechanic to ingest images from my camera cards, adding appropriate metadata at the same time to ensure that when the images go online they will be easily found by search engines.
So now the images are safely imported onto my hard disk and it is time to import them into my current Lightroom Catalog.
How you organise your catalogs is a very personal matter and I’m not convinced really makes much difference to how Lightroom works. Mine reflects how the images are stored on disk. Here is how I do it:
- A catalog for each year
- Broken down into subfolders for each month
- Each event or set of images starts with the date to keep the folder chronological e.g. 12-3 Equine photoshoot with Zara and Mike
- Sometimes I will create subfolders within a shoot folder if the contents needs to be organised, or some published and some not.
The Import Process
So, in the Library module of Lightroom I choose Import from the bottom left-hand corner, just above the filmstrip (Ctrl-Shift-I for speed).
The import dialog will default to any digital camera cards you have mounted on your computer at the time. My images have already been ingested (I use “ingest” to refer to the process of moving my images from cards to the computer, “import” to refer to the process of adding them to the Lightroom catalog) to my computer. So I select the hard disk which contains my images (always separate from the operating system disk for safety) and drill down to the folder which already contains my images.
At this point Lightroom changes the relevant action at the top of the dialog from Copy to Add.
There are some important settings on the right-hand side of the import dialog, so let’s take a second to study these.
To speed up the process of editing I always choose the option for Embedded and Sidecar previews to be generated at import. It adds a few minutes to the import process but keeps me sane when I am editing by speeding the process of moving between images.
If you have a lot of free space on your drives and want the best performance possible while editing then also select Build Smart Previews. If you choose to do this, you should also make the most of it by choosing the “Use Smart Previews instead of Originals for image editing” from the Develop section of the Performance tab in Lightroom Preferences (not Catalog settings).
Here’s why I don’t. My current active catalog is always kept on my main operating system disk, an SSD. This is the most efficient place for the catalog in terms of speed of access but, importantly, it has limited space. Smart Previews take up a lot of space. The choice is yours.
In the Apply During Import section of the Import dialog you will see I have chosen a Develop Setting to import automatically. Sometimes I do this and sometimes I don’t. My saved Develop Settings are camera specific, containing settings for colour profile, calibration and so on. If all the images in an import are from one camera body then I can apply that setting on import. If not, which is much more common, I select None in the Develop Settings section and then apply them later after selecting all the images taken with a particular camera body.
Everything is as it should be so I now choose Import in the bottom-right of the Import dialog and wait for Lightroom to process the images it already has on disk.
At this point I move over the Develop module and start to edit my images. First, I tap R and adjust the crop of an image to how I want it. This is always the first stage for me. Then I start at the top of the develop tools to the right of the main window and work downwards if I think it necessary.
Every image is different. Some require editing, some don’t. A few words of caution though:
I always use a camera specific colour profile and not an Adobe one. Whatever you choose to do be consistent so that images are too.
Consider White balance carefully. I fix mine in camera for the lighting conditions. If those conditions change, I adjust the white balance. It is rarely set on auto in camera, normally indoors, with multiple light sources which are different colours e.g. social events, conferences.
I hardly touch the Whites slider. For me it doesn’t just affect the top of the histogram, so I use Highlights if I have to.
Some tools, like Clarity and Dehaze can be very unflattering, so use with caution and learn which images benefit from their use and which definitely don’t. It is also very obvious when they have been used, not always a good thing. The same goes for Post Crop Vignetting, which can focus the eye. Use in extreme moderation.
Remember the difference between Vibrance and Saturation. Saturation affects all colours, resulting in orange faces very quickly (did you know the predominant colour in skin tone is orange, not red?)
I nearly always make some small HSL adjustments to particular colours, depending on conditions.
Always use a significant amount of Masking with your sharpening. It keeps the sharpening effect to the focused areas of the image and prevents distracting sharpening of out of focus areas.
Normally at this stage my images have a standard set of metadata. For example the IPTC Headline (which will be the page title when the image is online) probably contains the event the image was taken at. If we publish images which all have identical metadata then search engines will see the images as the same and only index one of them.
Before I publish I now do the more specific metadata changes. To do this I enter the Library module in Lightroom, highlight a small group of images to which my changes will apply and edit the Keywords, Headline and Description fields.
I try to remember the Ws rule applied by photo libraries: Who, What, Where, When, Why? Be careful though. Search engines only read and display a certain number of characters, so keep it concise and relevant.
At the start of this process the Headline field might look like this:
Langham Horse Trials, 2019.
and when I have finished:
Bob Smith and Unicorn, Showjumping, Langham Horse Trials 2019.
In this way I hope to ensure that each different competitor will be indexed by the search engines. It also makes my website more searchable by visitors, arguably much more important.
With SEO in mind, I always try to remember to change the filename of my images before publishing.
In the Library module, in Grid view, hit F2. I use a custom filename format which automatically inserts a sequence number on the end of a custom text filename e.g. Bob-Smith-Unicorn-Langham-Horse-Trials-024.jpg. Experiment to find the right recipe for your personal preference.
Publishing via Publish Services
There are several ways to publish images from Lightroom but I normally use one of the Publish Services.
Publish Services are a Lightroom plugin which enables the direct export of images to an online service. Photodeck host my image library and they have a specific Publish Service which hooks into their API and enables me to make changes to my site from within Lightroom.
As you can see from this screengrab I have three instances of the Photodeck Publish Service. One outputs JPG files at 90% quality and full size for client delivery; one files with a long side of 1400px at 80% quality and finally one at long side of 2048px and 80% quality. The different settings are for different types of gallery and use, which I won’t go into.
When each instance is created Lightroom generates the existing Photodeck folder and displays it. I can then navigate to where I want the new gallery to go, create the folder and gallery structure I want, and then drag the images I have edited to the new gallery.
In the screengrab above we are looking at a gallery on my website, as seen from Lightroom’s Publish Services. The top row of images have been altered since the gallery was published and now appear as Modified Photo to Re-publish. The image in the second row and below are as they appear online, as well as in Lightroom.
Working this way removes the need to export files and then upload them. It also means that whenever an update is made to metadata, or an image is re-edited, Lightroom recognises it as being out-of-sync and marks the image for republishing.
Exporting for offline use
There are, of course, many times when images are needed for offline use, or for use online elsewhere. In these situations I use Lightroom’s standard Export dialog, using the Ctrl-Shift-E shortcut.
I have a set of presets here to speed up the process, particularly when exporting for prints.
Any questions? Leave a comment below.