The workflow is becoming more and more important in photography works and it remains a mystery for many amateurs. Having said that, I am no professional on both photography and workflows, but thanks to this book and a couple of years of experience, I arrived to the below workflow, and find it to work pretty well with & for Adobe Lightroom.

Note this is a picture-by-picture workflow! I use another workflow for stitching panoramas and for HDR.

Processing Workflow (4th Version)

Keep on reading for the walk-through.

1. Import

First and foremost I need to stress how important being organized and rigorous all the time is. You cannot change your sorting system or workflow events just like that. And this thinking starts at best at the very moment you connect your memory card to your computer. For each trip or session, I create a folder, with at least 3 subfolders: ‘RAWs’,  ‘JPEG-fullres’ and ‘JPEG-xxx‘. Lightroom manages folders very well now. On some occasions (i.e. long trips abroad),  I create a specific Lightroom catalog.

Note: my definition of RAW is ‘unprocessed file’ so it can actually be a JPEG, a TIFF file or whatever other file types.


I recommend you to add a copyright preset and input a couple of keywords for the batch you are working on. This avoid you key that information in again when publishing your pictures.

Apply Metadata during import

2. Flag

Once all is imported: 1st review. Press the keys ‘p’ to pick or ‘x’ to reject a picture. I use the filters functions to double-check if I actually flagged all the pics. This first review is only intended to remove all the crap you know you will never use. Once this is done, I filter again to see all the rejected ones and go ahead deleting them form the hard disk. This step is actually pretty new in my workflow. I added it, as my camera generates 25MB RAW files and I cannot afford keeping dozens of useless files anymore…

3. Label

2nd review: color-code each picture. It is good to avoid mixing up the two first reviews; with hindsight, you get a better decisions.

Reds will be deleted, Yellows may be processed, Greens will most likely be processed. In case of large series of the same picture, if one picture makes green, then all the series become green as well. There is a reason for this: applying the processing settings of one picture to a series of similar (in terms of lightning and exposure) pictures, is three clicks away.

Colors Labels

4. Process

This is where the workflow may get tricky: with experience, I now can quickly decide how many times I will process one particular picture. So I just have to create as many virtual copies as I need and process them separately (or sync them separately). For each new copy of the file, a new workflow start where the copy was created.

Once a picture is processed, I label it blue. This allows me to know where I am at if I need to export some pictures quicker than the others, or simply because there are too many pictures to process them in one working session. If I need Photoshop, the integration between the two software is good enough to be seamless ; so I do not have to detail this here.

5. Review

3rd (!) review: I assign a rating to each file. Everything I want to export will get at least a 3*** stars rating. 1* or 2** ratings mean a processed file (blue), won’t go out of the Lightroom catalog.

With a quick filter to find and select all the Blues at least rated 3***, I turn those to the Purple label, and the export part may begin.

Ratings & Color Labels

6. Export

Everything Purple will get exported at least as full and web resolution JPEG files, it’s quite automatic now.

I created several Export presets to quickly export what I need to export. The web resolution is usually what I call “W600”. The height of the picture is variable whilst the width will be 600 pixels. That’s a great size for this blog. I sometimes use other sizes for different purposes.

Export options

Finally, all these exported files are stored in the LightRoom catalog as well.

7. Alternate processing

I sometimes like to use third-party (= non-Adobe) software for additional post-processing work; such as DxO Optics, DxO FilmPack or Poladroid. I stored the resulting files in another folder, usually called “ExternalEdits”. These files may not have the metadata and labels I would like them to have. So I sync the folder with Lightroom to have all the pictures in the catalog. From there I can add the missing metadata through the files sync features of Lightroom.

Synchronize folder

Synchronize folder (metadata updates option)

8. Publish

Finally, that’s what photography is all about: sharing the pictures! Now that you have all the files (JPEG and of two different dimensions), it is pretty easy to do what you want to do with them. I do not use the LR3 Beta so I cannot comment on the new Export features. That will probably come later.

Closing comment

There are no one right way to manage your workflow. The above is only explain mine as I work fine with it. Over the time Lightroom helped me a lot to streamline the workflow and the features coming up will allow me to be even more productive. Photography is about taking pictures, sharing storied and emotions, it’s not about computer processing and redundant file handling. Use the workflow that allows you to be efficient and with which you are the most comfortable.

Any questions, let me know!