How to Import and Organize Photos in Lightroom

I’m not a professional photographer. But I do take a lot of photographs, and if I’ve learned anything in my time behind a camera, it’s that it helps to learn from the pros.

Two months ago, I had 6,500+ photographs on my hard drive. I had no idea which ones I liked best, when they were taken, or whether they were worth keeping. More worryingly, I had no back up copies of any of them in case of a disaster. In short, my photo organization was a mess.

My photography workflow:

  1. Download images to ‘Raw files’ folder on desktop
  2. Create new Lightroom catalogue (or use existing)
  3. Import photos with generic keywords (rendering 1:1 previews)
  4. Rate photos 1 or 2 (delete / happy to keep)
  5. Filter to view 1 star images and remove from Lightroom and hard drive
  6. Select all 2 star images and review again, marking any up to 3/4 star
  7. Downgrade any images if required and remove as above
  8. Batch rename the remaining images and mark as a Red label (unprocessed) or Yellow label (unprocessed part of panorama)
  9. Process 3/4 images in Lightroom and add proper keywords and captions (with an option to downgrade but remembering to rename if I’ve done so)
  10. Export processed images, either direct from Lightroom via a plugin to my photography website or to a ‘Processed images’ folder on my desktop (sometimes via Photoshop if needed)
  11. Change the raw file for exported images to a Green label
  12. Exit Lightroom, choose to back up catalogue and regularly remove older back ups (I save to my hard drive and to a portable)
  13. All files are backed up regularly by Apple’s Time Machine (though I do manually if I’ve made a lot of changes)

Workflow summary:

  • 1 star – delete
  • 2 star – happy to keep for archive
  • 3/4 star – publish on photography website and share (e.g. blog, Twitter, Facebook, 500px)
  • 5 star – keep aiming for!
  • Red label – unprocessed image
  • Yellow label – unprocessed panorama
  • Green label – processed and exported

As a result:

I’ve spent 2 months of evenings/weekends choosing and processing photographs (my wife thinks I’m nuts)

  • All my photographs and Lightroom catalogues are stored in two places: on my hard drive and a portable hard drive
  • I’ve cut images down from 6,500 to 5,200
  • All are rated 2, 3, or 4
  • All are named consistently with location and date
  • I can find any photo very easily

Which may not mean much, but it makes me feel much more organized!

About the Author:
Written by UK mountain and adventure sports photographer, Colin Henderson. I specialize in adventure photography, e.g. people hill walking, backpacking, trekking and mountain biking. Find out more at my website.

The new version (Lightroom 4) was just released:

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