As a public service today, I thought I’d share my photography workflow, such as it is. Now, over the past year or two, I’ve had a consistent workflow that I’m not super happy with. There are two parts of my workflow that didn’t thrill me: (1) my photo editing software of choice does not handle Fujifilm RAF files very well and (2) the inability to incorporate my iPad into more of my workflow.
Recently, I switched to Lightroom CC (though I’m maintaining my old Classic library as well). The move to CC finally allowed me to use my iPad not only throughout the process but as my primary photo editing tool. This allows me to edit far more often on the go, and in more casual environments (e.g., sitting on my couch rather than at my desk). Lightroom still isn’t the best an interpreting my RAF files, but there are workarounds for that.
So I thought it would be worth showing my pre- and post-Lightroom CC workflows for you all today, so you can see how it’s changed. But let’s start with what and how I shoot.
I shoot primarily with my Fuji X-T2 in Lossless Compressed RAF + JPG. On occasion, I will shot with my X-T100 as well (when I know my attention will be split between wildlife and landscapes, or on the rare occasion when I’m hired (or more often volunteered) to shoot an event. My most common subjects are wilderness landscapes and wildlife. I also shoot a lot of families, at the moments, that’s a lot of cat photos with occasional shots of nephews, parents, siblings, cousins, etc.
My Old Workflow
My old workflow was fairly basic. Almost all of my editing was done on a traditional laptop computer. I also focus on quick edits, only doing more complex edits for special photos. The steps below are also for my photography only. I do take videos, and keep those separate from my photos, but don’t currently do anything with them.
- Import RAF+JPEG directly into Lightroom Classic in an Imports folder (I go back and forth between one on my laptop SSD and one on my external SSD, both APFS formatted), in folders by date code (yyyy-mm-dd).
- Add a description after the date code for each folder
- Batch apply my Fuji Film Simulations to all imported images via a plugin
- Pick my keepers
- Merge panoramas and HDR photos where necessary
- Move all my keepers into a subject-organized folder system on an APFS formatted external SSD
- Remove the rest from Lightroom, move them to an external HDD RAID (HFS+ formatted) by date
- Do further edits on my keepers
- Depending on the photos, create or add to a gallery in SmugMug via my Lightroom plugin
- Depending on the photos, export for use (often for my blog)
What I Didn’t Like
I’m often out with just my iPad, and I wasn’t able to find a workable way to incorporate it into my workflow. Basically, the only thing I can do with it is step 9 (editing) and maybe step 6 (picking my keepers). And even then, only when I remembered to manually create a synced collection for them to go into. I couldn’t import to my iPad since I shoot RAF+JPG and that could really screw with my process. And because of how manual the process is to sync, I couldn’t reliably access or use my photos on the go. I tended to use SmugMug for this more than Lightroom.
I’m also not super happy with how Lightroom interprets my RAF files, and I’ve been trying to evaluate how I want to shift my workflow. I’ve considered moving to Luminar when they come out with their DAM. I also considered shifting to Lightroom CC, although there are a few features it still lacks that I use heavily in Classic (smart albums, my current folder structure, SmugMug plugin connection, and the ability to batch restore Fuji Film Simulations that RAW photos were taken in). I’ve considered converting my RAF files using Iridient X Transformer. I’ve considered shooting in JPEG only, but I’m not crazy about its limitations.
My New Workflow
With all that weighing my mind, I decided to seriously try Lightroom CC, while still maintaining a mostly mirrored copy of my library in Lightroom Classic. After some painful problems, that finally led to the workflow I’m currently using.
On my iPad or in Lightroom CC on my Desktop
- I still shoot RAW + JPEG but now import only the RAW files to Apple Photos on my iPad Pro. The JPEGS get wiped eventually since Apple Photos won’t import them both.
- I have Lightroom Mobile set to auto-import photos to a specific album, so after import to Photos, I open LR Mobile and wait for it to import everything.
- I then go through and move any photos to merge into Panos or HDR into an album named “To Merge.”
- That leaves me, often, with quite a smaller number of photos to work with. I then begin picking and doing first round edits on photos (at the minimum this is re-applying Fujifilm Simulations. Sometimes more. Enough so that I can see the potential of the photos.
- Often, this first round of edits is the final. But some photos do need more. I generally flag those to come back to later.
- Once I’m done, I move all the unstarred photos remaining to an album titled “To Archive,” leaving me with my final picks.
- I usually then add those to multiple albums:
- A keeper album to make sure all my smart previews stay locally synced to my iPad.
- One (sometimes two) album within my organization structure. (This replaces my folders in Classic and is the way I find all my photos, so it’s important that all my photos are in one of these folders, otherwise, they will become lost, floating in the abyss that is the Lightroom CC ecosystem.)
- A “To Classic” album that I use as a backup to my
- First I make sure CC is open and done syncing originals and changes from my iPad (I often leave it open to sync locally when I’m out and about).
- In Lightroom CC for Mac, I begin saving the images in “To Archive” as Original + Settings into date coded folders on my archive drive. I do this manually since CC won’t export by date. I give each folder a date code and a description.
- Also in CC, I save all the “To Classic” and “To Merge” images as Original + Settings into a folder named “To Classic.” This folder is being watched by Lightroom Classic to automatically import photos.
- Once all the photos are exported, I’ll open Lightroom Classic, and allow it to start importing the photos there.
- Once imported, I move the starred images into their folder structure in Classic.
- Left with all the photos to merge, I’ll begin merging them into Panoramas or HDRs as appropriate. This can be a slow process.
- Once merged, I’ll edit the photos, starring ones that I decide to keep.
- The keepers I will export to a folder names “To CC,” and subsequently import them into Lightroom CC for desktop.
- I’ll add the keyword “Merged Panoramas” or “Merged HDR” to the photos as appropriate.
- Those photos will go through any more necessary edits and then add to the appropriate albums.
- Back in Classic, I’ll move the keepers to the appropriate folder and move or export the unstarred photos to the appropriate archive folder.
- Once I’m confident my photos are synced in Adobe Cloud, synced to my desktop, and backed up to my backup drive and in my Lightroom Classic library, then I’ll begin deleting photos from places they don’t need to be.
- I’ll delete all the imports from Apple Photos.
- I’ll delete the unstarred photos from the “To Merge” and “To Classic” albums.
- I’ll remove the photos from the “Imports” album.
What I Miss from My Old Workflow
The new workflow is great as far as allowing me the portability of working from my iPad. But there are things I miss from my old workflow.
- Merging panoramas and HDR right within CC. All the importing and exporting is a bit of a nuisance. Unfortunately, I ran into major issues when leaving sync turned on in Classic, so I had to turn it off to avoid losing any more data.
- Batch apply the original Fujifilm Simulations to all my images. Now, I have to go back and for each image either remember the simulation I chose or make the decision again. Additionally, making the change requires quite a few taps. It’s not quick. But I can copy it along with other edit settings, which does make some things easier.
- Batch paste edit settings to multiple images. I can only paste to one image at a time. Luckily, with my Smart Keyboard, I can at least use keyboard shortcuts to paste. However, sometimes it takes a few seconds for the smart preview to load, and until it does, I get an error message when I try to paste.
- Quickly add photos to multiple albums. Moving photos around on my iPad is slow. I wish I could multiple select albums to send photos to.
- Smart albums. This is huge. I used a ton of smart albums in Classic. Some for collecting my best shots in different categories and some for doing an analysis of my metadata (how many shots at different megapixels, focal lengths, lenses, cameras, etc.).
- Facial recognition. This is lower priority, but it made it much easier for me to tag people in photos.
- Ability to recover from errors. It’s too easy to make a mistake that you can’t take back in CC. And without a backup of my library, there’s no way to recover. CC is advertised as being always backed up, but it’s not really a backup. It’s cloud-stored, so if your hard drive fails, you can install it on a new computer and download the images again. But there are too many errors you can make that you cannot recover from. (Hence why I keep my Classic library as a backup for now.)
- A feeling of security in my organization. In Classic, my folders were organized into folders by subject. In CC, they are organized by date. Dates don’t have any meaning to me, and I cannot find my photos using dates. I have replicated the folder structure in CC, however, there is no way to tell if there are photos that are not in those organizational albums, floating out there somewhere. Nor is there a way to export my images in those albums, so if I ever had to leave Lightroom CC, I’d end up having to start completely from scratch. That is too scary for me to trust CC entirely.
- Import directly to Lightroom. This is an iOS issue, but when importing on the iPad, I have to import first to Apple Photos, then to Lightroom. It’s an unnecessary step and requires me to later delete them from Photos to avoid duplicate files.
- Import RAW + JPEG. I liked the security of keeping my JPEGs. I don’t really need the full RAW file. But I also don’t like the limitations of JPEG (no XMP sidecars, lossy export, every time you save it, etc.). I am at least comforted knowing that if worse comes to worse, I can use Fujifilm’s own software to re-create the JPEGs from the original RAF.
- Show in Finder. There is no way in Lightroom CC for Mac to show the original image in the Finder. This is a huge pain and requires extra work to look through the date folder structure to find the image original.
- Edit in 3rd Party Apps. Not being able to quickly find the original is especially painful without an easy way to open the files in external editors.
- Peer-to-Peer Sync. Prior to moving to CC, I used Resilio Sync to keep my photos in multiple places. This allowed me to sync photos from devices locally, without going over the internet (as well as remotely via the internet). This comes into particular use when traveling. Now, when I take a road trip, I’ll have to choose between working with photos on my laptop or my iPad. If I choose my iPad, I won’t be able to do Panos or HDR. If I choose my laptop, I’ll be stuck having to do edits when I have my laptop with me, and have time to pull it all out.
Despite these downsides, I’ve been continuing to use and dive into Lightroom CC. The Adobe team working on this product has been very responsive and helpful, and I have the sense that they want CC to be a serious photo editing tool. It’s just new, and it’s still building into what it will eventually be able to do.