For the purist at heart and those who just love to go out there and shoot photos, things can start to get really complicated as you add layers and layers onto your photography workflow process. Today I tackle on describing what I go through from a Lightroom processing workflow perspective as I pop the card out of my camera and into my digital PC. As many of you who follow my blog already know, I am a purist in simplicity, good design and ease of use. After all my moto is one camera, one lens and keeping it simple. Focus on your creativity and worry less about gadgets, gear and all the complexities of a camera menu and dial system. This is the road that leads me to the Leica line of cameras, I just feel that the principles of how the Leica cameras are designed align with every philosophy of how I want to use a camera. Once you have this, then you are in photography bliss, barring the one setback any of you know about going down the Leica path (ahem cha-ching). My current camera, the Leica Q really has taken me to focus on not worrying about lenses and other items, but just take the camera and go.
Getting your Base Set
Before you even make the first visual adjustment to your photos, I usually start of with setting the base of the images collection. For example my Leica Q has a color profile that is imported but not set to the image. What I like to do first is set the base settings that will be consistent for each and every image of a particular photo shoot. This will make your process much quicker as you can set it once then move on to the specific adjustments for each photo. Here is a list of things that I do for each collection of images after importing into Lightroom.
- Set the color profile
- Set the location and common metadata
- Set the copyright information
- Adjust the amount of sharpening I generally like
Once you have set the base settings for your image you then select and apply it to all the remaining images. This will save you time setting it for each and every image you process.
Presets and Accelerators
Often times I see the use of presets and just slapping it on an image and calling it a day. Photography is not just getting the shot from your camera and slapping a preset on it and moving on to the next. Many times we forget that the art and creativity process is end to end. When you have a shot that you thought through and composed in an artful manner, the post processing workflow and editorial process should deserve the right amount of time and respect as well. I often appreciate the image better as I massage the look of it to my desired liking.
Don't get me wrong, presets are a great accelerator for editing your images. I have recently been using the landscape presets and brushes available from Sleeklens and find it very handy to accelerate your workflow process. There has been a lot of work and refinements made to create these presets and recommend using it to improve how you can quickly move through your workflow. I have also liked how this particular product has levels to the preset so that you can combine and compound different combinations to get the look you like. But my advice for all photographers out there looking at products like this is to understand first what these presets are doing to achieve the look. By doing so you can slap on that preset as a starting point then make finite adjustments to get to the right look of your image. If you slap the same preset on each image of your collection, more often than not it you will run into images that just look off. By understanding how to make the same preset adjustments manually first, you can master how to quickly use these accelerators to the betterment of your workflow.
Presets are great, it will get you out of that funk of worrying about spending too much time in post processing hell. Its also a culmination of other photographers works. My only recommendation is to understand the Lightroom world and how the presets work under the hood, this way you can master the use and adjustments of presets and brushes.
Understanding each adjustment section
Prior to starting off with adjustments my advice is to manually make those changes to each image you take first to understand how to manipulate your images. Presets really are a quick setting of common adjustments to those sections of Lightroom. So once you understand what each section does, the better off you are in knowing what changes to make should a preset not look the right way for you. What I generally do is apply a preset and then go to the affected section to reduce/increase specific levers to tone up or down the adjustments made. Once you get to this state in your workflow process then you will really reap the benefits of those accelerators. What I generally go through for each Lightroom adjustment sections is the following:
- Basic: Setting the exposure, highlight and shadows to the right contrast and exposure
- Tone Curve: I generally leave this as default unless I am going for a very high contrast look for example and increase this to an S curve.
- HSL/Color/B&W: I spend a good amount of time here in either color or black and white. Color correcting the colors or the tones in a black and white image
- Gradual Filters/Brushes: This is really image specific but are good options should you need it to adjust parts but not all of an image.
Once you have made your basic adjustments to your post processing workflow. The last layer I go through is now looking at the image at a whole and making the small finer changes. This guides me to seeing the images get as close to what I want the final image to look like. This is time spent on small minute changes but have a slight impact in accentuating your images. For example dodging and burning highlights on an image in Photoshop, sharpening edges, or increasing shadows on particular areas of an image where I need just a little bit more detail. This will be time spent just looking at your image and deciding if there is any small adjustments you still need to make.
In summary, this post does not go into detail of each and every lever of Lightroom as that warrants a full training module and video. What I wanted for you as a reader is to understand what my overall workflow looks like from an approach perspective so that you can start to plan out how your workflow works best for you. Each of us have our own taste in terms of how we want to render our images, thus imposing specifics in my style will likely be different for each and every reader. What I hope to portray here is that learning your style and workflow is a process and experience that we all struggle with. It takes time to get to where you want to but trust me that once you understand your process you will be better off. Being ignorant of the intricacies is ignoring what you can do with the tools in front of you. Avoid the general process of just slapping filters, once you do so you begin to build your style and brand that will separate you from the rest.