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How to Speed-Up Your Lightroom Workflow by Using Photo Mechanic 5

This article will give you an overview of how you can speed-up your workflow by using Photo Mechanic 5 in conjunction with Lightroom (or Photoshop). Give it a read and see if it might help solve any issues you may be having with a sluggish workflow using Lightroom.

The issue

Lightroom is by far the most popular program for many photographers as it offers a very streamlined workflow. Lightroom is a one-stop program where you can download, select, edit, and export images.

However, Lightroom has one little drawback. Speed. It isn’t the fastest program out there for quickly going through photos and selecting which ones to edit and which ones to pass. Even with Smart Previews, Lightroom takes some time to render previews and its importing is a little sluggish; especially when downloading larger raw files.

Using Photo Mechanic with Lightroom

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a program that would allow you to download photos and select the good from the bad, and do it much quicker than Lightroom? Well, there is! It’s called Photo Mechanic. In this article, I’ll explain how implanting Photo Mechanic into the start of your workflow will dramatically speed up your workflow and complement Lightroom.

So, what is Photo Mechanic?

Photo Mechanic is a standalone image browser (similar to Adobe Bridge) that lets you view photos with convenience and speed. It is largely used by photojournalists as its speed of downloading (referred to as “Ingesting”), full support of IPTC and EXIF metadata fields, and the use of code replacement and variables can quickly speed up the captioning time of images.However, it is now also being used more and more by wedding photographers for its ingesting and culling speed.

However, it is now also being used more and more by wedding photographers as well for its ingesting and culling speed.

How does it fit into a Lightroom Workflow?

Photo Mechanic complements a Lightroom workflow. By following these steps, you will be on your way to trawling through all your holiday snaps in, well, a snap! Below, I’ve outlined which program to use in each step so you’ll be able to see where the transition begins.

1. Ingesting – Photo Mechanic

As I’ve mentioned Photo Mechanic is much, MUCH faster at ingesting, or downloading, images than Lightroom. It also supports concurrent downloading, which means you are able to download from more than one memory card simultaneously (with Lightroom, you must do each card individually one at a time).

You can specify in the Ingest dialog box where you want Photo Mechanic to add and save the photos, and if you want to put them into their own folder. It is a good idea to have  Photo Mechanic ingest the photos to where you want them to be stored. This will speed things up a little later down the track. Once Photo Mechanic has ingested the photos, you are able to view the photos at full-screen much faster than Lightroom as Photo Mechanic does not work from a catalog and therefore renders image previews much faster.

Photo Mechanic and Lightroom workflow

  • Top Left: Any external drives, hard drives, memory cards, etc., will be shown in this box. You can choose if you want to ingest the whole card, or only selected folders on the card if you have created any. You will also notice an Auto-Ingest option. Checking this box will automatically ingest photos when a card is inserted.
  • Bottom Left: This is the format for how Photo Mechanic will set up the folders where you will store your images. In this example, I have selected, “into dated folder then with name”.
  • Top Right: Here, you point Photo Mechanic to where you want it to save the photos.

2. Culling and Rating – Photo Mechanic

Once I have all of my photos on my computer I am ready to go through and sort them out. This is where I decide which ones are keepers, ones to maybe consider, and ones that just won’t work. For this, I use the star ratings (1 to 5 stars). Because Photo Mechanic renders the previews much faster, I am able to go through all of the images far quicker than what Lightroom can achieve.

For many photographers, this is where the most time is lost. When you’re in the preview module, as soon as you hit numbers 1-5 (1 for one star, 2 for two stars, and so on), Photo Mechanic will instantly move to the next photo; one less keystroke than Lightroom. That one less keystroke may not seem like much, but if you’re going through hundreds or thousands of photos, it can really save a lot of time!

Photo Mechanic and Lightroom culling and rating images

This is the image preview panel. It is in this panel where you add ratings, etc.

  • Top Left: These are the navigation tools, delete, different view options, etc.
  • Left: This is a thumbnail preview of photos in the folder. The current photo is highlighted with yellow.
  • Bottom Left: This displays the current photo’s start rating.
  • Bottom Right: These are the star rating and color class filters (you can choose to sort by any rating or color and display only those images). Currently, all star ratings and color classes are selected.
  • Top Right: This is the camera info or EXIF metadata (shooting data).

3. Editing – Lightroom

Now that all of the photos are sorted and you know which ones you want to edit, it’s time to bring Lightroom into to the workflow. Because you directed Photo Mechanic at the Ingest stage as to where you wanted the photos stored (their final location), all you need to do in Lightroom is point it at the folder. In the Import dialog box in Lightroom, using the “Add” option will leave the photos in their current location and Lightroom will just add them to the catalog.

If, however, you didn’t point Photo Mechanic to the photos final destination, you could use Lightroom to move the photos where you want them with the “Move” option (not often recommended by LR experts). However, this would take longer than using the “Add” option and this article is all about speeding up the workflow wherever possible!

The data transfers from Photo Mechanic to LR

Once Lightroom has added the photos to its catalog, all of the ratings on photos that have previously been starred in Photo Mechanic should be carried over to Lightroom. You are now free to edit the images.

As a side note, if you would prefer to use Photoshop to edit images using Adobe Camera Raw, or any other program for that matter, you can also do this from Photo Mechanic. You just need to tell it that you want to use Photoshop – or another program – as an external editor. Pressing Command-E for Mac, or Control-E on Windows, will open the images in Photoshop or whichever program you selected to edit them.


This is the Lightroom Import dialog screen. On the left is where you select the folder of photos to be imported. At the top is the different import options. In this case, “Add” is selected, so the photos will remain in their current location and only be added to the Lightroom catalog (not copied or moved).

Over to you

Do you use other programs in your workflow to help speed it up? I’d love to hear what other programs you use. Feel free to share in the comments below.

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is originally from Melbourne, Australia, but now resides in the UK. He specializes in sport and editorial photography and is a photographer with the worlds leading digital content suppliers. You can see more of his work by following him on Instagram.