If you’re anything like me, on an average weekend you’ll shoot somewhere around 300 – 400 images at several different locations. When you return home, you load these into Adobe’s Lightroom 2 and begin the long and difficult task of sorting through this mountain of images, deciding which to throw out, which to keep (just in case) and which to further process for display on a website or for printing. I approach this critically important task with a wide range of emotions, from pure joy at finding a few well composed, tack sharp images to downright embarrassment at finding dozens of out-of-focus and poorly exposed images.
This whole process really bogged me down until I watched a few videos by Matt Kloskowski at Kelby Training. Matt talked about his workflow and organization in Lightroom’s “Library” module and how he sorts the wheat from the chaff in his image collections and collection sets. I’m not going to give away all of Matt’s secrets since I highly recommend buying an annual subscription at Kelby Training. There are quite literaly hundreds of training videos to view from some of the top photographers and instructors in the world like Joe McNally, Moose Peterson, Matt Kloskowski, Laurie Excell and Scott himself.
Back on topic, the one “key” to organizing and culling through all these images in Lightroom 2 is the use of Collection Sets and the Collections they hold. Take a look at the image above and you can see what I mean. For each place that I shoot I create a new Collection Set from the name of the location. Under each Collection Set I create two Collections, “Keepers” and “Select”. The “Keepers” are just that, images that I plan to keep and perhaps display on my blog or print later. The “Select” images are the best of the best in the “Keepers” collection. These are the images that will definitely be processed in the “Develop” module and exported for display on my website or blog or for printing.
Just how do I sort through 300 – 400 images to find the 10% “Keepers” and 2% “Select” images? Well, everyone has there own method but my workflow is fairly simple but sometimes painful. I use a three-pass system which generally takes under one hour to complete.
- Objective Pass – Find all the poor exposures and out-of-focus images and flag them as “Rejected”. Purge all these rejected images from Lightroom and from the primary drive where they are stored by selecting “Delete Rejected Photos” under the “Photo” menu.
- Subjective Pass – Find those images that are in focus, well composed and visually striking. These are my “Keepers” and my selections here are purely subjective.
- Professional Pass – Go through the “Keepers” to find the few images that I think are outstanding (or could be made to look outstanding with further processing). Not merely “in focus” but “tack sharp”. Not just visually striking but emotionally compelling. My criteria for this pass is simple and brutally honest. Would I want Joe McNally, Moose Peterson or William Neill to look at these images?
I’ve found that following this type of selection logic and workflow really lets me save time, disk space and heartache by culling each shoot’s images once and only once. By concentrating my “development” time on the few “Select” images, I find the results to be much more concise, professional and personally meaningful. And isn’t that we’re all looking for in our photographs anyway?