My Workflow

This is an update on the steps I take when I come home tired and thirsty from a trip around Bangkok with a card full of pictures, a flat battery and need for a hot cup of tea and a shower.

I don’t like the word workflow but everybody seems to be using it.

This differs in many respects from the posts I have made before about how I use Lightroom, my backup strategy etc. I’ve modified things with experience. I used to write down the steps as a Microsoft Word document.  I think it is better to document it here. Maybe it will help people and perhaps I’ll get some helpful feedback too.

You can click on any of the screen shots below to get a full sized view.

Import

  • When I get home I take care of my camera first:
    • I plug the Nikon Coolpix P6000 into its charger.
    • If I used the spare battery on the trip I have the flat one in my trousers (pants) pockets. (I don’t put the flat battery back in the camera case because I will probably forget to recharge it.) I plug that into the separate charger I bought.
    • I also give the camera a quick clean using a lint-free cloth I got for my glasses.
  • I boot my Compaq CQ40 laptop. The Lightroom catalog should already be backed up from my last endeavours.
  • After logging on to XP I mount the backup drive with TrueCrypt encryption.
  • I put the kettle on for a nice cup of tea.
  • I load the SD card into the PC’s card reader and import all the pictures into Lightroom. I have Metadata presets to set Copyright information and basic location metadata. As I’ve usually been many places in Bangkok I use the “Thailand-Bangkok” preset. I set the rating to 3-stars by default and adjust later while I am adding keywords.
Import Dialog Box

Import Dialog Box

  • I have a Develop Preset that I favour for my pictures. It’s called “Ian – Enhance Contrast”. I apply that automatically to the pictures as Lightroom imports them. It is a good starting point for any adjustments I make later.
  • I use the file names as allocated by the camera. That enables me to see at a glance which camera I used to take the photo. (DSCN = Nikon, IMG_ = Canon, DSC = Sony).
  • I also set Lightroom to back up the files to my attached USB drive and to convert RAW files to DNG. The backups are of the original RAW files.
  • I use a folder hierarchy by date, so all photos taken on a particular day are in the same folder. 2009…2009-09…2009-09-16 and so on.
Import

Import

  • I find it is better to let Lightroom import and create previews undisturbed. Although the import is running in a separate thread or process it slows Lightroom down so much that it is a pain to use. Sometimes I am impatient and start keywording before it has finished. Note that making the 1:1 previews takes longer than importing the photos from the card.
  • I make myself a cup of tea while the import is happening.
  • Once the import is finished Lightroom ejects the memory card. I replace it in the camera and re-format the card. I have read that periodic card reformatting is a good thing to do but I have no evidence either way.
  • If I have used two cameras I repeat the process for the second camera.
  • Lightroom puts the imported files into a temporary collection called “Previous Import”. I usually work in that collection for the rest of the steps here.
  • If I have imported a lot of pictures (> 200) I backup the catalog at this time, selecting the option to check the catalog’s integrity. It does not take too long even with 42,676 and counting pictures. My catalog is 928MB.
  • The longest backup step is checking the integrity of the preview cache. I wish I knew exactly what this does.
    • My Lightroom 2 Catalog Previews.lrdata directory tree is an amazing 20.4 GB (42,773 Files in 31,481 Folders according to Windows.)
    • I have Lightroom set up to discard 1:1 previews after one week. The Camera RAW cache is capped at an additional 1GB. (I do not back up the Preview directory tree. If I lose everything I can always rebuild it.)
Doing a Backup

Doing a Backup

Doing a Backup

Doing a Backup

Keywording Pass 1

  • I hide the left hand panel (F7) and make a first keywording pass through the photos in Grid View. This is where I add the PLACE keywords. For Bangkok I organize the keywords by the district (khet) the picture was taken IN. In some cases I’ll add a second OF place keyword for significant landmarks. For example pictures of Baiyoke Tower 2 (the tallest building in Thailand) from the apartment get a “Baiyoke” keyword as well as a “Din Daeng” (my khet) keyword.
Keywording

Keywording

  • As I take many pictures in the same khet the PLACE keywording is very fast. I can select many pictures in Grid view and add the keyword one (Ctrl+K goes to the keyword pane).
  • I have Lightroom set so that it writes the keywords to the pictures files as XMP. This means that every time I add or alter a keyword Lightroom updates the file. This is fast and I don’t notice a performance hit.
  • There’s a “Metadata Status” field in the Lightroom Metadata pane (Ctrl+4) that should always say “Up to date”. That’s an additional bit of insurance that if I lose my Lightroom catalog and all the backups I can restore (all?) the metadata from the picture files.
  • I generally use Solo mode for the panels on the right hand side of the screen.
  • Note that selecting multiple pictures in the Filmstrip at the bottom of the screen in Loupe view isn’t the same as selecting them in the Grid view. Keywording in Loupe view only affects the one displayed picture.
  • During this pass I also delete any obvious duds and mark some with a Red tag (needs more research by me), Yellow tag (for Flickr), Green (f0r Picasa Web) or a Purple tag (ask someone who reads Thai).
Deleting a Dud

Deleting a Dud

  • I’ll also rate pictures I like a lot with 4 stars and less than average but still acceptable pictures with 2 stars. Hardly anything gets 5 stars (best of the best) or 1 star (I am ashamed of this picture.)
  • Note that a picture can only have one coloured tag, so I can’t mark anything as Red+Yellow. That’s a minor inconvenience.
  • I do not use text tags, but some pictures I imported from Thumbs Plus still have them. I am trying to eliminate text tags from my Lightroom.
  • At any time while in Loupe View I will make a Stack of very similar pictures – perhaps with the best one at the top. (You can move pictures around in a Stack with the mouse as well as using right-click menu selections).
Stacking Similar Pictures

Stacking Similar Pictures

Stacking Similar Pictures

Stacking Similar Pictures

Stacking Similar Pictures

Stacking Similar Pictures

  • After the PLACE keywording pass I usually do another catalog backup and have a shower.
Completed Keywording Pass 1

Completed Keywording Pass 1

  • You have to exit Lightroom to do a backup and I find that is beneficial. Sometimes when I have worked on a lot of pictures (>500) for a long time Lightroom locks up.
    • I suspect the old bugbear of programmers – memory leaks. As it is a database I have only lost the changes I made to the last photo I was working on when that happens.

Keywording Pass 2

  • My second keywording pass is mostly in Loupe view.
  • I have to remember to Expand All Stacks that I made in Pass 1 otherwise Lightroom only shows me the top image in the stack.
    • I think it would be a good idea to have an option in Lightroom to propagate metadata changes to all the other pictures in the stack automatically.
  • The majority of my photos are of vehicles (air, road, rail) and I add keywords for what it is (e.g. a Hino AK bus), who owns it (Bangkok MTA) and for buses and coaches the route (bus line) it is on. That sounds like a lot, but Lightroom’s keyword suggestions really come into their own here.
  • For example, if I see a Bangkok MTA Hino AK bus on route #2 all I need to type is “2” in the keywording panel and Lightroom automatically suggests “AK” (nested within “Hino”) and “Bangkok MTA” since it has seen that combination so many times before. I can zip through this at a rate of knots as long as I have seen similar vehicles before.
Keywording a Bus

Keywording a Bus

Keywording a Bus

Keywording a Bus

  • I do not use Lightroom’s saved keyword sets. You can only have 9 keywords in a set and that isn’t enough for me. I find the combination of the suggested and most recently used keywords supply 90% of my keywords without my having to type much.
  • I use keyword Synonyms a lot (possibly to excess). For example I have That transliterations of city, province, district and street names. I have local language translations for vehicle manufacturers and so on. This is mostly showing off on my part but it builds an impressive keyword list when I upload to Flickr or Picasa Web.
  • I have other useful keywords set up for places and people, but that is too involved to go into here. I have invested a lot of time in setting up the keyword hierarchy and that makes routine keywording very easy.
  • If I have several similar pictures, e.g. in a stack I’ll return to Library Grid view to add keywords to them all. If there are a lot (>10) I’ll use Sync Metadata because Lightroom field filling gets very hard to use with many pictures selected.
Synchronize Metadata

Synchronize Metadata

Synchronize Metadata

Synchronize Metadata

  • During this second pass in Loupe View I will also perform some Develop mode editing to pictures that I like a lot (4 stars) or wish to upload to Flickr. It’s easy to press D for develop mode or R to go directly to cRop mode.
Cropping

Cropping

  • I have never used Quick Develop in the Library Module. If I want to do something I want the full set of Lightroom’s tools available to me. However, I could use a Quick Crop tool in the Library. The mode change from Library to Develop and back again just to do a crop is a bit slow.
  • For many vehicles I have keyword synonyms for the machine tags I add to my pictures. For example veh:man=Hino, veh:model=AK.
  • I rarely need to add new keywords to Lightroom any more. But if I do it is easy and Lightroom optionally will apply the Keyword to the selected picture(s) automagically. That’s a nice design touch.
Adding a Keyword

Adding a Keyword

  • I have to be careful I don’t add keywords by mistake by mistyping one.  That’s not a nice design touch.
    • I wish Lightroom would optionally disallow dynamic creation of keywords. Periodically I have to check none have shown up in the hierarchy. I have Lightroom set to create new keywords under a category called ‘ZZZ’ which is always at the end of the list.
No New Keywords

No New Keywords

  • I will add Captions and Titles to interesting pictures at this stage. Every photo I upload to Flickr has an appropriate caption and I also add them for my own benefit. Ideally every picture would have a Caption and Title. I keep the Titles brief but sometimes I have very long Captions.
  • If I want to add text information that won’t be seen by anybody else my Vehicle Metadata plugin has a free form Notes field.
  • I’ll also re-rate pictures or even delete them at this stage. i usually delete pictures immediately rather than using the Reject flag (X).
  • Panoramas are a special case. I’ll select all the panorama sections and group them into a Stack (Ctrl+G). Then later I’ll make the Panorama in Photoshop.
  • I also use Stacks for sets of exposure bracketed pictures.
  • After every photo has its WHERE and WHAT keywords I will generally do another catalog backup and drink more tea.

Adding Vehicle Metadata

  • Pass number three is special to my use of Lightroom. This is where I add Vehicle Metadata (State, Class, Registration, Fleet Type, Fleet Number and VIN) using the simple Lightroom add-in I wrote myself. That data is only in the Lightroom catalog as I have not yet learned how to write an “export injector” as Jeff Friedl does for his Geocoding metadata. Learning more about plugins is on my to-do list.
Adding Vehicle Metadata

Adding Vehicle Metadata

Lightroom Metadata Preset Ian 1

Lightroom Metadata Preset Ian 1

  • I do a third catalog backup after pass three.
  • I tried combining Keywording Pass 2 with this Vehicle Metadata step but the mode switches between the keywording pane and the metadata pane were distracting. I sometimes forgot one of the steps. Better I found to keep the steps separate.

Geocoding

  • Pass number four is for Geocoding. My Nikon Coolpix P6000 geocodes the majority of pictures I take (I often wait until it gets a GPS fix before taking photos in a new area.) The challenge is for pictures taken with my other cameras that cannot Geocode.
Genencoding

Genencoding

Genencoding

Genencoding

  • I have a Custom Filter set up in Lightroom that makes it easy to select the photos that are not geocoded. I can select those and pass them to Jeff Friedl’s Geocoding plugin. That works in conjunction with Google Earth.
GPS Filter

GPS Filter

  • I know Google Earth’s rendering of the  geography of Bangkok well enough now that I can geocode a set of pictures in Interactive mode quickly.
  • I have Google Earth placemarks set up for many important sites in Bangkok so I can zoom around efficiently, Alt-Tabbing to and fro between Google Earth and Lightroom.
Google Earth

Google Earth

Reverse Geocoding

  • The final step is to reverse geocode ALL the pictures. This populates Location, City, State / Province and Country fields in the IPTC information for the photo.
  • I use Jeff Friedl’s Geocoding plugin for this too. In theory this duplicates my WHERE keywords and I’d like to eliminate them entirely. But reverse geocoding is an imprecise process and it would make it hard to ensure I have found, say, every photo of a #1 Green Minibus taken on Charoen Krung Road if I had to rely on that data. Maybe it is better for “first world” cities but here in Bangkok the reverse geocode information returned can be very idiosyncratic.
Bulk Reverse Geocode

Bulk Reverse Geocode

Misc

  • At the end I’ll do various things like making Panoramas using Photoshop and uploading pictures to Flickr and Picasa Web using Jeff Friedl’s plugins.
  • I usually collapse all the stacks I’ve made at the end.
  • After all that I do a final backup AND Optimize the catalog and take a long break.

Housekeeping

  • Once a day I use the Config Backup plugin to compress the backups to a ZIP file. I find that ZIPping saves 80-90% of the disk space taken by the backups.
  • I move today’s pictures from my PC’s C: drive (Sriwara) to its TrueCrypt encrypted M: drive (Jusco).
Moving Today's Folder to M

Moving Today's Folder to M

  • I use Microsoft SyncToy to backup the pictures to another USB drive that I have dedicated for Lightroom. That’s a once a day task before I go to bed. It takes about as long as it takes to clean my teeth.
  • SyncToy will also Overwrite any pictures I have altered in Lightroom that day. If I edit a picture or change its metadata Lightroom re-writes it.
  • I keep statistics on my Lightroom database usage in an Excel spreadsheet. I’d like to be able to set up Excel to query the Lightroom Catalog database directly. I could do that with Thumbs Plus because it is a Microsoft Access database. With Lightroom I have to do it manually.
Excel Lightroom Statistics

Excel Lightroom Statistics

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3 Responses to “My Workflow”

  1. Rating Blog Posts « Bkkphotographer's Blog Says:

    […] problem is that people don’t agree what they mean. In my use of Lightroom I have a policy that pictures get three stars by […]

  2. Lightroom 2.4 Scare « Bkkphotographer's Blog Says:

    […] from my trip to Immigration using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2.4. I was using my normal multi-pass workflow which has worked well for me. […]

  3. Bangkok Reverse Geoencoding Challenges « Bkkphotographer's Blog Says:

    […] Reverse Geoencoding Challenges By bkkphotographer As I’ve mentioned before, e.g. here I like to geoencode all my pictures with the latitude and longitude where the picture was taken. I […]

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