How to Edit 500 Pictures in 4 Hours: My Lightroom & Photoshop Workflow

How to Edit 500 Pictures in 4 Hours: My Lightroom & Photoshop Workflow

When I get back from a family vacation, I have piles of laundry and cards full of pictures all vying for my attention. Since we need clean clothing, laundry often wins.  But once the clothes are cleaned and neatly put away in our closets, the real fun begins – organizing and editing photos from the trip.

cruise 107 600x410 How to Edit 500 Pictures in 4 Hours: My Lightroom & Photoshop Workflow
pin it4 How to Edit 500 Pictures in 4 Hours: My Lightroom & Photoshop Workflow

After our recent vacation on the cruise ship Allure of the Seas, which took us to the Eastern Caribbean, I went through the same process with my photos as I do after ever vacation.  I always get asked questions on how I get through such large amounts of photos in a timely fashion. Here’s how!

Below I will explain step-by-step how I take 500+ photos off my cameras and in 4-5 hours have them uploaded to Flickr, Facebook and/or my personal Smugmug account.

1. Take CF card out of Canon 5D MKII – attach it to the card reader for my Mac Pro.

 How to Edit 500 Pictures in 4 Hours: My Lightroom & Photoshop Workflow

2. Import photos into Lightroom 3, organized by date and keyword coded for the specific trip.

Screen shot 2011 04 26 at 12.21.32 PM 600x346 How to Edit 500 Pictures in 4 Hours: My Lightroom & Photoshop Workflow
pin it4 How to Edit 500 Pictures in 4 Hours: My Lightroom & Photoshop Workflow

3. Take SD card out of Canon G11 point and shoot camera – attach it to the card reader for my Mac Pro.

4. Import photos into Lightroom 3, organized by date and keyword coded for the specific trip.

5. In the Library Module, I do a process of elimination round – I go through every photo, spending 3-5 seconds on each, and decide if I want to keep it.  If I like it, I press the P key (which is the shortcut for setting a PICK), if I do not want to keep it I click the X key (which is the shortcut key for REJECT). From our most recent vacation, I narrowed from 500 down to 330. IMPORTANT: I have the Cap Locks key on. In doing so, it skips ahead to the next photo each time I click the “P” or “X” key.

6. Once I have eliminated rejects I take them out of the catalog. Go under PHOTO – DELETE REJECTED PHOTOS. Then you get this dialog box. You can choose to Delete from Disk which permanently removes them from your computer or Remove which takes them out of this catalog.

Screen shot 2011 04 26 at 12.26.57 PM 600x321 How to Edit 500 Pictures in 4 Hours: My Lightroom & Photoshop Workflow
pin it4 How to Edit 500 Pictures in 4 Hours: My Lightroom & Photoshop Workflow

7. Now it is quick editing time.  I don’t usually do full edits in Lightroom since I use actions once in Photoshop. I switch to the Develop Module and work on one photo from each new lighting situation and environment. I adjust the exposure and white balance if needed. If the photo was at a high ISO, I use the noise reduction. I also let it detect my lens using the Lens Correction algorithm. After editing one image, I sync all other similar images, then move to the next one, adjust, then sync. I repeat this until I get through all the photos.

8. Now I export them so I can work in Photoshop CS5.  My process may make some cringe.  If it does, close your eyes.  I do not do the round trip from Lightroom to Photoshop and back to Lightroom. I see value in that however, I just want speed and am not concerned with indexed layered Raw files for vacation and family images.  I firmly believe that neither way is right or wrong – it is situational. Here is what I do. I go to FILE – EXPORT. it brings up the dialog box below. I pick what folder I want them exporting into, I label the subfolder, and I set to 300ppi. I then choose sRGB, JPEG, Quality 100.  You will need to decide if you prefer aRGB or another color space and if you prefer TIFF, JPG, PSD, DNG, etc. The lab I use prints in sRGB, so once in Photoshop I like to be in this color space.  As for file formats, it depends what I am doing, but for most editing, I start with a jpg, and save to other formats, like PSD if I need the layered files for future use.

Screen shot 2011 04 26 at 12.40.14 PM How to Edit 500 Pictures in 4 Hours: My Lightroom & Photoshop Workflow
pin it4 How to Edit 500 Pictures in 4 Hours: My Lightroom & Photoshop Workflow

9. Do you ever love something so much that you wish you were the one who came up with it?  That is how I feel about the product I use in the next step of my editing: AUTOLOADER. No joke, I cannot imagine editing without it. Now that I have you curious, I’ll explain. Autoloader is a Photoshop script. Once you set it up for a specific group of photos, which tells it where to save the photos and what action you want run, it does all the work… ok – most of the work anyway. Imagine this: you press the F5 key. Your first photo pulls up. An action that does everything you possibly wanted done on the photo runs, then it stays open with layers in tact for tweaking, masking or any opacity changes. Once you move a few sliders and make sure the photo is perfect, you click F5 again. The photo saves without you having to do a thing.  The next photo opens. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. It keeps doing this until all your photos are edited, even if you need to close Photoshop and come back another day.  It even remembers where you left off.

The SECRET to my fast editing is a combination of AUTOLOADER and my BIG BATCH ACTION This is how I tackle 300+ pictures in record time.

I do one-on-one sessions where I work with photographers on creating their Big Batch Action, since this action is very individual specific. If you are interested, please contact me for more details after reading about it on the MCP Website. If you want to make your own big batch action, you would carefully stack and layer actions.  You would need to take out stops and remember to look for one action having layers that might cover another up. It can be tricky, but if you’re strong in Photoshop, you may be able to do this on your own. No matter what, always make duplicates of the actions before attempting this.

10. Remember at the beginning I mentioned getting them ready and uploaded online? Next step, batch all my photos with an action that adds my frame and logo. Using Photoshop’s image processor, in a few minutes I run every photo through an action I made that resizes and adds my logo in the corner. Then I upload to whatever websites or blogs I desire and I am done.

 How to Edit 500 Pictures in 4 Hours: My Lightroom & Photoshop Workflow
 How to Edit 500 Pictures in 4 Hours: My Lightroom & Photoshop Workflow

Jodi Friedman, MCP Actions

Jodi Friedman is the founder of MCP Actions. She designs popular Photoshop actions and Lightroom presets that make editing faster, easier and more fun.

More Posts - Website - Twitter - Facebook - Pinterest - Google Plus

Previous Post:
Next Post:

31 Comments and 6 Replies

  1. 1
    michelle burke says:

    This is amazing… Thank you for sharing. I lightroom 3 similar to elements?

  2. 2
    Pam says:

    LOVE these editing tips… tips Ive been meaning to do but haven’t yet, Ive been deleting photo by photo lol. Need to play more this weekend after my photoshoot!

  3. 3
    gcpickering says:

    excellent post. Thanks !

  4. 4
    Kristen says:

    BOO YAW! I’m lovin this!! Thanks so much!

  5. 5
    Gina Harpur says:

    Very interesting & appealing subject. Your process sounds like something that would save me a lot of time! I would love to do a one-on-one session. I’m in CA so it would have to be done remote. How do I set up with you?

  6. 6
    Ann says:

    Awesome! Thanks for the tips (:

  7. 7
    MegganB says:

    You always have perfect timing for me Jodi! I just got LR3 and I was struggling to find a rhythm – thanks!!

  8. 8
    Vera says:

    Thanks for such an informative post! I’ve been struggling with my speed (or lack thereof) and workflow, so this really helps!

  9. 9
    elizabeth s. says:

    This is exactly what I needed!! Thank you for sharing!

  10. 10
    Amy W says:

    Thanks for this info…I love all of your tutorials/advice/tips etc actually and really appreciate the time you take to share! :)

  11. 11
    sara carter says:

    Priceless. I WILL be contacting you regarding those highly individual actions.

  12. 12
    Rhonda B. says:

    Jodi – first of all – love this post. I took the batch action class and swear by it! I tend to over-shoot and thank goodness I took you batch action class and got Auto-loader! But I have a problem uploading to Smug-mug from LR. Does yours take a long time? Maybe it’s me? What kind of card reader do you use? Love this post. I’m going to try this way next time! Thanks and chat with you soon!!


  13. 13
    Angel says:

    Was there anything deleted from this post? I read it the other day and could have sworn there was a step you described for the culling process outside of LR, to skip the time it takes each image to load. I came back today to read that part again and don’t see it. Maybe I am confused though and read that somewhere else. Thanks so much!

  14. 14
    Janice says:

    Love the tips and info! Can you explain the difference between Aperture and Lightroom? Why do you prefer one over the other? Thanks so much!!

  15. 15
    Kebiana says:

    This was an extremely helpful article, thank you! I’ve always struggled with the best way to manage the sheer number of images I take, and didn’t understand the lightroom import dialogue very well. You just cleared things up for me brilliantly! Also, autoloader looks great, am going to have to check that out for sure…

  16. 16
    Stephanie says:

    I absolutely love this post. Thanks so much for posting it. I shoot hundreds of photos at softball games and can get overwhelmed when I have three a week. I don’t use Lightroom (I use either iPhoto with the assistance of iPhoto Library Manager and Aperture, too), but will see if I can adapt your process to my tools.

    Thanks again. Great post!

  17. 17
    Anya says:

    Do I need to do the big batch action thing as well as get the autoloader?? Or can I just do autoloader?

  18. 18

    You got me interested in autoloader, and using the keywords in LR, didn’t know those features existed.

  19. 19

    Simply great post !!!! i like this post very much thanks a lot for sharing :-)

  20. 20
    Amy says:

    Thanks for sharing! Very helpful!!

  21. 21
    Carolyn says:

    thank you for sharing your workflow! it’s given me a lot of useful tips I’d like to incorporate into my own workflow.
    As for the LR>PS>LR process: I never go back to LR after my edits in PS. I’ve never understood the reason why… is it to store your edits in LR? I’m confused as to why most people do this. (I am sure there is a good reason… I’m just not sure what I’m missing!)

    One of my other questions concerns digital negatives… do you archive these to a backup disc(s) and then remove them from your computer? I ask this in the interest of saving hard-drive space. My poor iMac is an archive for thousands of DNG files… I just got a MacBook pro and don’t want to bog it down by using it as a storage device, except for my most vital files. (Does this make sense?)

    Just curious as to how others deal with managing and archiving files!

    • shelley says:

      Carolyn- I used to keep all my photos on my laptop until it got so bogged down that the computer would barely run and I had to remove all the photos. I now use an external hard drive to store all my photos, and easily draw from that drive to get to the images. Once the external drive is full, it gets stored away and I start a new external hard drive. In the long run it makes it so much easier when we want/need a new computer when all our images are stored on the old one. Just an FYI!

  22. 22
    Allie Miller says:

    I tried.. and it works… organizational strategy! Genius!

  23. 23
    Cheryl says:

    Thank you for this information! It filled in several of my editing gaps.

  24. 24

    [...] The past few years on our trips, I took 300-500 images.  This year, I went a little crazy and took 900+. After unpacking and starting the laundry, I popped in the CF Card and SD Card from the two cameras.  I dumped all the photos into Lightroom 4. I then went through the photos, did picks and rejections, fixed white balance as needed, and then exported them to jpg images.  I explained the process after last year’s vacation: How to Edit 500 Photos in 4 Hours. [...]

  25. 25
    Jenn says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this – my vacation photos take me days to edit!

  26. 26
    Chris says:

    Why not just add your watermark in lightroom?

  27. 27
    Thatgirlblogs says:

    Can’t wait to try this tomorrow… Thanks!

  28. 28
    Michael says:

    interesting method, but it sounds like your still spending too much time per image. You are spending time rejecting images when you should really be concentrating on picking your images. the best method i learned recently is to look at batches of photos in Survey mode through LR. if you have batches of images that look the same, ie: bride and groom in similiar poses and background, go through survey and pick the photo you like. if you shot 12 images then it shouldn’t take you long to pick one image as your favorite. Once you have your favorites locked down, then start playing with exposure, contrast clarity, etc… and sync the moves back to the other images.

    the only reason i say this is I learned that you can take a few thousand images and get it done in 6 hours. your talking about 500+ images in 4 hours, which would you choose?

    I can sort of understand your reasoning to send images to photoshop, but with LR3 & 4 your able to add your ‘”secret sauce” easily without exporting to photoshop and batching the moves. Photoshop should be used on a need to basis. most plugins are compatible with photoshop and lightroom.

    someone made a comment about storing images on an imac. All of your LR catalogs should live on an external drive that is also being backed up. whether it is in the cloud or another external device. a long term method would be to purchase a drive that supports Raid 0 or 1 so you have redundancy. if one drive fails you still have the other to work from. you should not work on one external drive till it is full and that put it away. here’s a tip, when you import your images into LR, use one main catalog, but do not copy the images into LRs catalog. Keep the images inside your client folder and only ADD them, this way LR will still be able to see and read them and you will still be able to modify them. once your done editing your images and adding your secret sauce and you have fulfilled your clients wishes and it’s backup time then export that specific folder as a LR catalog back to the clients folder. when your ready to archive to dvd or HD, you have a complete folder structure with everything you need in it. at a later time you can go back to your working LR catalog and remove the photos that were rejected (or in other words images that were not picked for the client, you should never waste your time rejecting photos. here is a question, would you reject thousands of images???)

  29. 29
    Sandi says:

    I guess there is no autoloader for PSE? :(

  30. 30
    Lane says:

    Great workflow thank you! I’ve been using LR for about a year now. After editing in photoshop, l have been saving the edits in the LR catalog, and Then just exporting if I need to print, post etc. do you recommend this method or storing the edited files in separate folders outside LR? I’m struggling with the best way to manage and store so many pix and I keep getting this haunting feeling that the LR catalog will fail and all my edits will be lost. thank you!

  31. 31
    Joshua Smith says:

    Really an interesting workflow. I am going to have to check it out. I agree that going one by one through actions in photoshop is a pain.

Leave a Comment

Current ye@r *


Image Map