An Example Lightroom Workflow (with free checklist!)

Lightroom is an absolutely amazing program for image editing and image organisation. It has saved me countless hours in post-processing, due to the fact that I can do so much in one little program! (If you don't yet know the full beauty of Lightroom, check out this post with 8 Reasons to Love Lightroom Even As a Hobbyist

One thing that does also help save you time is making sure that you have a solid workflow in place. A workflow is simply a series of steps that you do each and every time to an image, and in a specific order. Of course you will not do exactly the same steps all the time, but a workflow simply allows you to have a framework so you don't feel like you are starting right from scratch the whole time. 

In this post, I'm going to show you an example workflow for working in Lightroom. Every person's workflow will be unique, depending on many different factors: for example, what you shoot, whether you shoot professionally or as  a hobbyist, what you use your images for, how you back up your images, and so on and so on,  but it should give you a jumping off point to creating your own exclusive workflow.

Ready? Let's dive in! 

Lightroom Tutorial for Beginners | Lightroom Tips

Before I forget: if you are new to Lightroom I've created a Lightroom Starter Kit just for you guys! In it is a step by step guide to importing, an editing checklist, an export cheat sheet and three presets, so you'll definitely want to grab it. Hey, did I also mention it's FREE?! Go here to grab your copy.

Got it? Great!

Let's dig into the workflow then shall we?

STEP ONE: Upload & Import

The very first thing you are going to need to do is get your images from your memory card onto your computer.  I recommend that you use Lightroom for this, which means that Lightroom is both importing the files to the catalogue, and saving them onto my hard drive in one step, rather than two. . At this point you should also choose whether to convert all RAW files to DNG upon import.  

STEP TWO: Cull, Rate & Reject

Next, take some time to cull, sort and rate your images.  Sort through your images and decide on the keepers, the rejects and the maybes.  You can also rate them at this point, or assign them into different categories depending on what you are going to be using the images for. For example, at this point you may want to assign them as for use on Instagram or a photo book and so on. 

It's also a good idea to keyword your photos at this point too! 

I go over an entire process for this (and help you to create your own) in Launch Into Lightroom, as this is where much of the beauty of Lightroom happens - you can do SO much here to help save you time further down the road, and help keep your image collection super organised. 

STEP THREE: Delete Rejects

You should probably also delete the rejected files from Lightroom and from the hard drive. You don't need rejected files taking up more space on your computer!  The only time I would keep these Is if I were a professional photographer on a paid shoot, JUST in case I needed them again. The benefit of being a hobbyist is you have no-one to blame you for tossing that file out should you wish to do so!

Basically, all those out of focus, really badly composed images should just go. 

STEP FOUR: Develop

At this point, you should have only images left you want to edit, so it's time to take the files through to the Develop module for editing.   For me, my first goal in Lightroom is to create the image I wish I had taken in camera, so I'm adjusting exposure, shadows, darks, highlights, contrast, noise reduction, cropping and straightening to get the "perfect negative".   If I am only editing in Lightroom, I'll go on to do some extra's, like vignettes, split toning, black and white conversions and so on.  This is a process I go over in depth in my Launch Into Lightroom course, since you can do so freakin' much to your images there!  

Remember you can get your little hands on a cheat sheet for a suggested editing workflow in my Lightroom Starter Kit, and you grab that right here: 

STEP FIVE: (Optional) Edit In Photoshop

For many people, all the work will be done in Lightroom.  However, If you also have Photoshop, you may want to take these into that program for further editing. You can simply right click on an image and choose "edit in Photoshop" and Lightroom will take the image and open it in Photoshop for you. Once you have finished your edits there, Lightroom will save the photoshop version within Lightroom for you.  I keep Photoshop editing to a minimum to save time! 

STEP SIX: Export JPEG's To Hard Drive

Now that you have completed your edits, it's time to get these finished files into a useable format (Remember, Lightroom doesn't actually apply your edits to your images until you actually export them) I personally like to have JPEG's copies on my hard drive, so I export the finished files from Lightroom as JPEG's, and these are kept in their own folder, but within the master folder for that activity, so that everything is in one place.  (any PSD files are kept in the same location too)  

STEP SEVEN: Export to SmugMug / Flickr / Facebook

You can also export images from Lightroom directly to places like Facebook or Flickr.  This is great as it's an easy way to share your images with the world!

I personally use SmugMug for my image back-ups, and I love that can upload my images to SmugMug directly from Lightroom as it's such a time saver. 

STEP EIGHT: Add Photos to Photo Books

Another time-saving feature of Lightroom is the ability to create Blurb photo books directly within Lightroom.  I try super hard to add my photos into my yearly photo book as I go along, to save me having a huge job at the end of the year. (This usually works until around April - and then the backlog seems to form again!) 

STEP NINE: Back Up Lightroom Catalog

This final step is super important: you need to back up your Lightroom catalogue to a different location from the first, so that the edits are not lost should anything happen to your catalog, for example, it became corrupted. 

Whoa! That sounded quite long didn't it?! Don't worry, it sounds much more time consuming than it actually is, and you may do more or less than this depending on your own personal preferences.  

If you want a step by step guide to making the most of Lightroom, then check out my Launch Into Lightroom course. It walks you through EVERYTHING you need to know to get organised, create a kick ass workflow, AND how to edit your images to perfection, from start to finish.