How to Speed Up Your Photo Editing with the Right Lightroom Workflow

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Processing photos is fun for me. But as much as I like doing it, I like being out in the field making new photos even more. That’s why I’ve developed a Lightroom workflow that helps me get the job done as quickly as possible.

Following these steps, you’ll learn how to make adjustments to a whole batch of images and then apply image specific adjustments to bring out the best in each frame.

Before you begin, choose a batch of photos taken at the same time under similar lighting conditions. I usually go through and pick my favorite photos from a shoot first, and then work on those.

How to Speed Up Your Photo Editing with the Right Lightroom Workflow

Step 1: Make Global Adjustments to the First Photo

In the Develop Module, pick the first photo in your batch and make the following adjustments to make it look its best.

Remember there are no rules with the sliders other than a little goes a long way. Just go with your gut. And if you’re not sure what a slider does, just take it to one extreme and then the other and you’ll be able to see exactly what is going to happen.

Camera Calibration

You’ll find this at the bottom of the develop module on the right-hand panel. I like to set this first because it makes such a dramatic difference to the color and contrast in an image. Simply go through the drop down box and pick the one that looks the best.

White Balance

Next go up to the top of the develop module and start working your way down. The first slider is white balance and there you can choose from the items in the drop down box. Again, simply choose the one that looks best.

Highlights and Shadows

Try darkening the highlights by moving the slider to the left and lightening the shadows by moving the slider to the right. You don’t want to go so far that you’ve removed all contrast from the scene, just enough that you have more detail in the highlight and shadow areas.

Clarity

The clarity slider will add contrast to the edges of things making them appear more crisp. Try nudging it a bit to the right. On the other hand, if you want your image to be softer and dreamier, you can move the clarity slider to the left.

Vibrance

The vibrance slider is more subtle than saturation since it adds color to the parts of your image that are already less saturated.

Sharpening

Most photos need a little sharpening. In the Detail Panel, try moving the sharpening slider a bit to the right.

Vignette

In the Effects Panel, add a slight post-crop vignette to draw the eye into the frame by dragging the slider slightly to the left.

How to Speed Up Your Photo Editing with the Right Lightroom Workflow

Before any adjustments in Lightroom.

How to Speed Up Your Photo Editing with the Right Lightroom Workflow

After the basic adjustments have been applied in Lightroom.

Step 2: Sync Settings

In the Develop Module, select all the photos in your batch (including the one you just edited) from the filmstrip at the bottom of the screen. Then click the Sync button at the bottom of the develop panel.

How to Speed Up Your Photo Editing with the Right Lightroom Workflow

Voila! All the adjustments you made to your first image have now been applied to the whole group.

Step 3: Make Final Adjustments to Single Photos

The following adjustments need to be made to each photo individually since they are rarely the same in a batch.

Crop and Straighten

If necessary, use the crop tool to adjust the crop. Maintain the aspect ratio of your image by holding down the shift key on your keyboard while you crop. You can also use the angle tool located inside the crop tool to make sure any horizon or shore lines are straight by drawing a line from one side to the other.

How to Speed Up Your Photo Editing with the Right Lightroom Workflow

Don’t Miss a Dust Spot

Using the spot removal tool, check the box next to “Visualize Spots” below the image to help you see the dust spots more easily.

How to Speed Up Your Photo Editing with the Right Lightroom Workflow

Radial Filter

Use the radial filter tool to increase the exposure very slightly on your main subject which will help to draw the viewer’s eye to it. Remember to click the “invert mask” checkbox to affect the area inside the circle. Otherwise, the default is to affect the area outside the circle you draw.

How to Speed Up Your Photo Editing with the Right Lightroom Workflow

Radial Filter in Lightroom.

Summary

I find that processing photos is more fun when it doesn’t take forever! Now with time saved doing basic processing, you may choose to take your photo into another photo editor to add special effects. Or you can just call it done and get back out in the field doing what you love: making photographs.


Want more? Try Anne’s Lightroom video course: Launch Into Lightroom to learn everything you need to know to get started in just a couple of hours.

Read more from our Post Production category

Anne McKinnell is a photographer, writer and nomad. She lives in an RV and travels around North America photographing beautiful places and writing about travel, photography, and how changing your life is not as scary as it seems. You can read about her adventures on her blog and be sure to check out her free photography eBooks.

  • Arthur_P_Dent

    I would do the dust removal earlier in the process and as part of the global adjustments, since the dust is likely to be in the same spots on all the photos.

  • Thanks Anne. Was not aware of the dust removal tool, but will start using it asap. Great redial filter trick too. Another tool i will start using:-)

  • Thanks @Arthur_P_Dent:disqus great tip.

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  • Nauman Gul

    Thanks for this one Anne. A lot of help for a noob 😛

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