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Efficient post-processing with Adobe Lightroom

Photography / No Comment / March 29, 2012

ScreenshotAs time permits, I continue to work my way through a big backlog of Raw files. It is all too easy to take photos and leave post-processing for another day.

My strategy had been to work through most files that are worth converting to JPGs, optimising them in Adobe Camera Raw, opening them in Photoshop, using an Action that sharpens slightly and resamples them to 3600 by 2400 pixels and finally saving them at maximum quality.

Two major flaws became apparent with it, however: it was too time-consuming and I was cluttering up my hard disk with large files that, in all probability, would never be used. Trying out the Beta of Adobe Lightroom 4, however, gave me the opportunity to re-examine my workflow.

Adding keywords to files on import from my storage card, the routine that Lightroom encourages, is an eminently sensible idea. I had intended to tag my JPGs in Google Picasa, my image viewing application of choice hitherto, once I had cleared my backlog. Whether I would actually do so, given that it’s not exactly the most inspiring of tasks, is possibly another matter – but least new files downloaded into Lightroom will be properly keyworded.

Geo-tagging – adding latitude and longitude values to enable them to be displayed on Google Maps and other services – adds a further dimension to metadata. Lightroom implies that this should follows post-processing in your workflow but, to me, it ought to be part of the import process, assuming indeed that your camera did not record them  when the shot was taken.

I like the idea of using presets in the Develop module to accelerate post-processing. I have already created a couple of curves adjustment presets and no doubt many more will follow; being able to apply them to multiple images in the filmstrip is possibly the biggest time-saver of all.

In terms of output, the latest version of Lightroom offers a number of options, such as photobooks, standard prints, contact proofs and self-contained Web slideshows. What makes most sense to me, however, is uploading them to a photo-sharing site so that they can be seen by a wider audience. Flickr is the top-of-mind option for many photographers – and indeed it has built a huge community over the past few years – but at some point you will reach the free storage that it allows, currently 1Gb.

Google’s Picasa Web Albums imposes a similar limit, albeit with a significant caveat: files shorter than 800 pixels on their longest size do not count against it and, if you sign up for Google+, the allowance rises to 2048 pixels. This size is more than enough for uploading high-resolution images for display on large monitors and, if desired, printing at 300dpi.  Effectively, therefore, there is no limit here.

My revised strategy, then, is to upload many more images to Picasa (and stream them back through this site), only generating really big JPGs for printing at home when I need them. If you have lots of photos, how do you deal with them?

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