My beautiful wife :)

I use Adobe Lightroom version 5 as my digital assets management (DMA) and as my retouching tool. I go to Photoshop once or twice a year if I have a very specific demand that I can't do in Lightroom (Liquify for example). So here is my Lightroom workflow.

Import dialog box in Lightroom

Import dialog box in Lightroom

Importing my photos

The first thing I do, once I get home after a shoot, is to transfer my photos to my computer. If it is for a client, I checked the Make a second copy to: checkbox and save a copy on a WD Passport drive. I can't sleep well until I have three copies of a photo. That external hard drive will be kept off site. I can't say where, it's a secret. :P

While I'm in the Import dialog box, I enter a few keywords, select a good location on my hard drive, be sure to select my copyright preset in the Metadata section and sometimes, apply a preset right there (sharpening for example). You can also choose to rename your files, but that is not something I usually do.

I told you I want three copies of the photos. Once they are all imported, I back them up on another drive inside my computer. I use a small software named Syncback. You can automate this process. I DO NOT ERASE MY CARDS BEFORE I HAVE THREE COPIES OF MY PHOTOS. 

Collection Sets and Collections

I create a Collection Set for this client if it is the first time we work together. After that, I create another collection set for that specific shoot.

I create a couple of collections inside that last set.

  • All photos: As you can guess, all the photos from the shoot goes there;
  • First selection: That's where I will put my picks on the first screening;
  • Client's selection: The photos the client wants, and that I need to retouch.

Editing Process

My Lightroom is set to auto-advance, so each time I flag a photo or define a number of star, it goes to the next photo. For my first edit, I use the flag system in Lightroom. The shortcut are P (pick), U (un-pick) or X (reject). I put Lightroom in full screen mode and hit P, U or X on each photo of the session. It goes pretty fast. After that, I select all my Picks and put them in my First Selection collection. To select them quickly, when you are in grid view in your Library module, click Attribute in the top toolbar and select the flag. It will show you all the photos you picked.

An alternative way to do this is to right-click on your First selection collection and click Set as Target Collection. After that, instead of using the flag system, you click on the shortcut B to send a photo to your target collection. I started using that method last year. I'm still using both actually. Try it :)

Library Filter Toolbar

Library Filter Toolbar

Quick Adjustments

After my first selection, I do some quick corrections to my photos. The first thing I do is set the right white balance. If you did it in camera, with a gray card and a custom white balance, you don't need to bother with that. I also adjust the exposure for over and under-exposed shots. It takes only a few seconds per image.

proofing gallery

I use Zenfolio for my online galleries. There are many other services available: SmugMug, Pixieset,, Shootproof, etc. I upload my first selection to a private gallery, and I send the link to the client. He/She, will be able to look at it at home, with no pressure from anyone. Once the client has made his selection, I pick them in Lightroom, and put them in the Client's Selection collection.

Social Media

If I have the client's permission, I will retouch one or two photos, and put them on social media. I do that the same day, or the day after the shoot (if possible). They usually love it, and they share it with their friends, which are all potential clients. It is an important part of my workflow. Word of mouth is how I get most of my clients. Put your work out there for people to see and to share.


Once I have the client's selection, I go into the Develop Module and start my retouching. I do 99.999% of my retouching in Lightroom. I'm used to it and am really efficient with it. Once a photo is retouched, I set the label to green (shortcut 8). That means I'm done with that one. If the photo needs more retouching but I'm tired, I will set the label to yellow. If the image needs to go into Photoshop, I choose a red label. It allows you to see your progress in the Library module, in grid view.

final gallery

I make another online gallery and put the final images there. That is another backup for me. Once the images are there, i can rest easy. I have copies of them on my computer, off site and online. I don't make DVDs anymore (except for weddings). Many of the new computers don't even have a DVD player. I explain to the client that once the product is delivered, it is his responsibility to make backups of it. I have unlimited storage with Zenfolio so I don't delete my galleries.

My yougnest son and my wife checking the menu

Some differences for weddings

I have many memory cards when I get back from a wedding. Instead of importing them straight from the cards, I copy the content of each one to an external drive first. After that, I import them all at the same time in Lightroom. Be sure to check that the number of pictures on each card corresponds to the number of photos your are copying to your external hard drive. Double check that you copied all the cards.

For weddings, I don't do proofing gallery since I am the one selecting the photos. I use the same process for my first selection. After that, I usually do the process again and put them in another collection, aptly named Second Selection. I check the second selection to see if I have everything I need, every important part of the day.

At this point, I usually still have too many photos. I probably have 2 or 3 copies of the group shots, for example. I start retouching the photos and cull them more while retouching. When I get to a place where I have 3 copies of the same photo, I check them with the Compare tool (shortcut C), choose the best one and remove the others from the Second Selection collection. 

I set up an online gallery with the final images for the clients. I also burn a personalized DVD, and package it in a beautiful case. If they want an album, I make a first draft for them. From experience, it's the best way I found to make albums. If you ask them to select photos for their albums, it often takes a LONG time. Sometimes, you also end up with way too many photos to make a beautiful album. I make the first draft, and they can ask me to changes some photos or sometimes redo a page. I never had a client reject the draft entirely. For me, it speeds up the process and the bride and groom can get their album faster this way.

Some tips

  • Take breaks! That is especially important in the retouching phase. Your eyes get tired and you will work for nothing, because the day after, you will think your photos look like crap.
  • I saved a lot of time when I went from rejecting the photos I didn't like to picking the best photos I shot. This way, you can do it in one pass instead of many. Look at your picks and if you see something is missing, go back to your All Photos collection and pick them up.
  • Set a specific deadline with the client for his selection. Make that deadline short. One week is good. After a week, if you don't have the selection, send another email to the client to remind him.
  • I use the Flag system of Lightroom but you can use the Stars if you want. Sometimes, I use that system.

This is my workflow. It is not THE workflow. It is just the one I'm using and am comfortable with. It evolves with time too. 

What about you? How is your workflow? Are you efficient?