Editing Workflow Part 1: Overview and Optimising Lightroom.

I have read and received many questions recently about editing workflow and decided to write about my experience achieveing a good workflow structure. My way of doing things will definately not be same as someone elses and it may not suit everyone. An editing workflow should be something you can do in your sleep and therefore needs to be familier and structured, however it should also quite organic and you should be ready to rethink and evaluate as you learn new tricks or find new software.This year I have introduced four new pieces of software into my workflow, 2 of which I use all the time and the others as an when they are needed.


Traditionally my workflow basically involved Lightroom to import, catalogue and RAW editing, then Photoshop to do more detailed editing and finishing off, before going back to Lightroom to Export etc. This has worked well over the years, but I was finding it difficult to keep up with catalogue structures within Lightroom and sometimes trying to find images outside of lightroom became messy. I decided to change my importing and filing system so that I could find images without having to go to Lightroom. I moved from a descriptive filing system (eg, Commercial, Portraits, Landscapes etc) to a year and date one (i know obvious hey!). So I now have a 2012 folder with the months in subfolders and the shoots subfolders within them. I then Keyword images in Lightroom so they can still be indentified.

I no longer use Lightroom to import images from my memory card. Since discovering Media Pro one from capture one i have decided to use that software to import etc. Mainly this is due to it being slightly quicker to import and backup images, but mainly I just preferred to handle this outside of Lightroom. Lightrooms inport module is still very good, but it is personal preference. I then just add the folder to the Lightroom catlogue afterwards.

So the software I use in order of use:

1. Media Pro 1

2. Lightroom 3

3. Photoshop CS5

4. Photo mechanic

I will talk a little more about these in future blog posts.



Before starting a workflow it is important to have things set up correctly and running smoothly. Obviously the main consideration is hardware if you have an old computer with no power then you will probably struggle to get Lightroom to run faster than walking pace, although Lightroom does have quite low minimum requirements so can be used on some really old machines. Assuming you are running a reasonable machine there are a couple of things you can do to make Lightroom handle quicker.

1. Increase the Cache size.

Lightroom 3 uses the Adobe Camera Raw engine when you are working in the develop module. Adobe Camera Raw generates large previews everytime you make a change within the develop module and stores these in the cache folder. This is how you see the changes straight away. Now for some reason Lightroom 3 defaults on installation to a cache size of 1GB. When the cache file is full Lightroom will delete the oldest image file and this happens very quickly when working with modern RAW files. This causes the long delay in loading time when switching between images in the devlop module and sometimes when making adjustments especially when using the healing tools and adjusment brushes as they rely on this cached previews. The best thing to do is to increase the size of your cache folder depending on how much hardrive space you have available. Ideally the cache file will be stored on a fast drive that does not contain your OS. A small SSD would be excellent for such purposes. However it can be put anywhere ad it will be better than the default option. Mine is stored on my main hardrive (hopefully this will change soon) and I have it set to a size of 40GB (maximum is 50GB).

To change the cachse setting you go to Edit > Preferences you then got to the "file handling" tab (see image below) choose the cache file location and size.

Adobe camera Raw Cache


2. Create Previews on Import.

I mentioned previews earlier and again this is a good practice to get into when importing into Lightroom. Lightroom relies a lot on previews when using the library module and depending what you tend to do in the library you can set to render previews on import so that you filck through your library quicker. If you just look at full screen images in the Library you can set to render "standard previews" these previews will take up less hard disk space, but will enable you to flick through images quicker. If, like me, you like to check focus using 1:1 views then rendering "1:1 previews" is a good option. It really speeds up the process in the library module. The main downside to this is that it takes a bit longer at the import stage, but I prefer that to sitting there waiting for previews to load. The rendering option is on the import screen (see image below).

Import screen


Thats it for this post. You should find that Lightroom will handle a little bit more efficiently. My next post will talk about speeding up and optimising Photoshop. Thanks for reading, please contact me with any questions about Lightroom or anything else for that matter. I run regular 1to1 and group tuition on Lightroom, photoshop and general photography. Contact me for more information.