There are plenty of great image editing softwares out there, I just happen to use Lightroom. You can spend hours watching videos and reading blogs about people's workflow in Lightroom and there is no shortage of content. I think everyone is a little different, so I'll tell you what works for me.


First things first, you have to get your images off your card and into Lightroom. I import directly into Lightroom using a template setup that creates a new folder, renames files, adds keywords, and applies basic development settings. It's an easy process that can be time consuming because I also have Lightroom build 1:1 previews of all images. It takes more time up front, but it saves me loads of time in my development cycle.

After I complete an import, I always run 2 backup processes: the first is Apple's Time Machine to a G-Technooogy external 8TB drive and the second is Carbon Copy Cloner to a matched internal drive.Note, I don;t format my cards until I'm on location for my next shoot. It's always nice to have multiple, multiple backups.


Once my previews are built and my backups are complete, I quickly run through the images selecting the ones I would like to advance in the development process. I set Lightroom to auto-advance after a star rating is selected, and then I filter the images to only show those images without a star rating. Numerous times I have gone back through images from an old shoot and found several images that were worth saving and retouching. So, I don't delete anything. A quick pass punching numbers and I've got a batch of images ready to be processed.

Here's how I use star ratings:

  1. Rejects (I don't delete files, I just use 1 star)
  2. Technically Correct (not the selected image from a batch, but still sharp and usable)
  3. Initial Selection (untouched, out of camera originals)
  4. Retouched (corrected in Lightroom, but maybe not the final select from a batch)
  5. Finalized (external adjustments complete, favorite images)

Pair this with color labels and you've got the makings of a great system.


I use presets to adjust 90% of images and I copy settings across similar images before applying any local adjustments. The most important thing to note about how I use adjustment presets is that I don't completely adjust any image with a single preset. I have individual presets for every common correction I perform.

  • CVS - Adjusts Clarity, Vibrance, Saturation
  • LENS - Adds Profile Correction and Removes Chromatic Aberration
  • NOISE - Removes Noise at Different Instensities
  • SHARP - Sharpens for Landscape or Portrait
  • SPLIT - Tones for Warm or Cool Highlights
  • VIGN - Adds Pre-Crop Vignette


I make these basic corrections first because it's easier to sync these settings between images and it speeds up the process of individual adjustments. After the basic corrections are complete, I'll go through the selected images one by one and straighten horizons, add graduated filters, remove spots, and add adjustment brushes as needed.


Color labels are an important part of my workflow, and I use them to designate portfolio quality images. I use a single Lightroom catalog with several hundred thousand images, so color labels help me sort images by genre.

After running through the star ratings, I select final images that will go into my portfolio and onto the website. A 5-star image with a color label is what I deem portfolio quality. I use color labels as noted:

  • Red - Outdoor/Adventure
  • Yellow - Personal/Family/Friends
  • Green - Architecture
  • Blue - Commercial
  • Purple - Wedding/Family/Portrait

Note that I don't color label any image that doesn't have a 5-star rating.


Once all of this is completed, I'll use presets to export images for different outputs. From there, I'll share with clients via DropBox, upload to my website, add to print materials, or other final destinations. In all honesty, I rarely use the other features in Lightroom. That's not to say they aren't great.


I hope this helps. This wasn't meant to teach you how to perform any of these tasks or create the presets, there are books and videos created for that. Instead, this was meant to outline how I use Lightroom on a regular basis.