Taming Your Photo Library – Part 3

Taming Your Photo Library – Part 3

So we’ve covered a lot of information over the last few weeks including organizing your library, renaming files, automating your backup process, archiving and even some recommendations on what hardware and software to use to help streamline your workflow.

So in this final chapter on the topic, I want to discuss how my specific work flow has developed for when I am prepping and shooting for a race (or other on-location event) detailing my processes. No as has been said before, this is just my workflow and may not work for you, but it should give a good starting point for you to decide what does and doesn’t work for you. Ready? Lets get started!

So, you’ve spent a day at a wedding, sporting event or political rally and have hundred if not thousands of photos to process and get to your clients… Now what?

My first step is to manually copy all the images from my SD memory cards to my working HDD. I have three memory card readers which helps make this process faster. The little bit extra to buy a USB3 card reader will pay for itself in the speed it copies your cards likely the very first event.

File naming won’t come into play yet, we’ll come back to that…

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Once the files are copied, I fire up Photo Mechanic 5 to rate and cull the images. Why Photo Mechanic and not Lightroom? Because Photo Mechanic was built specifically for this purpose and it blows Lightroom out of the water for speed at it, even if your Lightroom library is on an SSD HDD, PM is still faster.

My little trick to make this process as fast as possible is simple. I use a three number rating system. 1, 2 or 3. That’s it. I position my left hand on the left side of the keyboard with three fingers on the 1, 2 and 3 keys and my right hand on the arrow keys. I open two windows and make them as large as possible so I can quickly see if the current image is as sharp as I want and I dive in. 🙂

With my left hand, I rate the image and then with my right hand, I scroll to the next image with the arrow keys.

Using this method, it typically takes only a second per image to look at it and decide if it’s a keeper or not. PM used the full resolution JPG image stored inside the RAW file to be able to show you a full res image immediately without having to create “previews” like LR does, which is the principal reason I use PM for this stage. Why 1 through 3? Well, 1 means it’s a tosser and will eventually be deleted. 2 means a keeper for the gallery, 3 means a great shot that will likely make it to the weekly slideshow or be sent to the local media for publication. Once everything has been rated, I immediately delete all the 1 star rated imaged.

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Yes, this took me a while before I was comfortable actually deleting photos, but your HDDs and Lightroom catalog will thank you later. 😉

Now that all the tossers have actually been deleted, it’s time to import the images into Lightroom. I could easily use PM for keywording before importing the remaining images into Lightroom, but I prefer to import them into LR and sort them into sub folders first as you’ve seen in the previous posts and as you can see in this screen shot…

Once the images have been imported, I rename the files and divide them up into sub folders. Renaming is very simple, I select all the files in the folder in LR and use a preset that allows me to type in a “Race Name” which LR uses to build a file name that looks like 160402_LucasOil100_9999.jpg. This way, I’ll never have a duplicate file name and when the clients order a print from the gallery, the filename isn’t something like _IGP2345.jpg. And if you have a LR catalog like me containing 210,000+ images, there are probably a couple of _IGP2345 image names. 😉

Renaming 100 images takes about 1 second with Lightroom.

Sub folders may not apply to your event, but for the motorsports events I cover, it helps me keep the galleries at a manageable size. Rather than having one massive gallery of up to a thousand images, I keep things like Heat Races and different racing classes like Legend Series or Lightning Class in their own sub folder.

Create Sub-folderThis is really simple to do. Simply single click on the first image in the series you want to move to a sub folder, scroll to the last and [Shift]-Click on that image to select the group. Then [Right]-Click on the folder name and select the “Create folder inside…” option give the new sub-folder a name and make sure “Include Selected Photos” is checked to automatically move the photos to the new folder all in one step.MP_ 2016-04-02_06

Once I have everything sorted the way I like it, it’s time to start keywording the images.

This part is probably the longest and most labour intensive part of the whole process. I scroll through the folder and [CTRL]-Click each image that contains a specific car number. Once I reach the end of the folder, I select the “Add Keywords” box in the Library module and use another little shortcut software called Texter for Windows.

Texter is a tiny piece of software that lets you create shortcuts or “hotstrings,” as they are called, that are automatically Texter Setupreplaced with longer strings. Very much like your phone’s auto correct feature, except you control what and when specific terms are replaced.

It’s very easy to set up, but takes a little time to create all the hot strings you may need. I receive a spreadsheet from the race organizers with all the driver and car details at the beginning of the season and it takes me about an hour to update the hot strings for 8 different race series and several hundred drivers but it saves me many hours throughout the race season. 🙂

And sorry Mac users, I’m not aware of software for the Mac that does the same job, but I’m sure there is something available for you too.

Texter KeywordingSo, back to keywording… I keyword in LR and as mentioned above, after I select all the images in a gallery of a single car/driver, I simply type the hotstring into the Add Keywords… text box and press enter and the long string of keywords I’ve associated with the hotstring is added to the selected images just like magic!

Why do I keyword like this? Well you’ll see exactly why shortly. 😉

Once the keywording is all done, it’s time to export JPGs for the on-line gallery. Really, you ask? You haven’t edited anything!! And yes, that is correct. I do my very best to get the exposure and composition as close as possible in camera. It ain’t easy, I’ll tell you that and sometimes my longest lens just isn’t long enough. But I simply don’t have time to crop and edit nearly a thousand images in order to get the galleries on line within 24 hours. I so have a couple of presets that will sharpen and adjust contrast and clarity, but I rarely use them. Typically, when I receive an order through the gallery, *then* and only then do I take the time to edit the images that were ordered by my customers.

Because I use sub folders in Lightroom, it becomes a time consuming process to export the gallery images and maintain the same folder structure. LR only exports images into one folder at a time regardless of the structure in the catalog. To that end, there is a LR plug0in from Jeffrey Friedl. It’s donation-ware, meaning you can pay as little or as much as you want, but if you’ve ever spent an hour exporting single folders in LR, this plug-in is priceless! – and you can download it here: http://regex.info/blog/lightroom-goodies/folder-publisher

I won’t get into the use of the software, as it’s covered well at Jeffry’s blog. Suffice it to say, I simply select all the images in the main folder and drag them to the Folder Publisher’s publish service and click export. This creates a folder on my desktop that contains all the sub-folders and sorted images using the folder names as they exist in LR.

Once the export is finished, I move on to the last stet of my process, creating a gallery and shopping cart system.

jAlbum ScreenshotI’ve tried dozens if not hundreds of tools over the years I’ve been doing this and the only one that does everything I want is called jAlbum. www.jalbum.net is the home page and you can download and use the software entirely for free. I use the pro version, which costs around $80 or so and allows several “pro” features including the ability to turn off the jAlbum “branding” of the final web galleries. Try it, play with it and see if you need the pro features, but I suspect most will be perfectly happy with the free version.

So, I drag the exported folder to the main jAlbum window and it creates a copy of the files for me in my “Web Album” folder. I load a preset for my gallery and click “Create Gallery.” How easy is that?

jAlbum has available, hundreds of what they call “skins” which let you completely customize your gallery. Some are Flash based but the majority are now HTML5 compliant and you can even search the site for skins based on features such as being responsive – or automatically scaling based on the device it’s viewed from – if it includes a shopping cart, is it free, and a whole slew of other features. It may take you a little while to tweak all the settings to make your new gallery look just the way you want, but I highly recommend taking a little time and promise you’ll be *very* satisfied with the results. I’ve stopped using the LR web galleries tab entirely and I even purchased several plug-in LR galleries over the years. jAlbum has rendered them entirely useless.

You can even set the parameters and upload your gallery to your web host directly through jAlbum.

Gallery SampleHere’s a link to my 2015 Maritime Pro Stock Tour gallery page made using this process using the PhotoBlogger jAlbum skin with a few tweaks for each weekly racing gallery. I’ve also included the ability to password protect the full size images and allow only media outlets with username and password while general viewers can brows and download social media watermarked images for personal use or order prints using the built-in shopping cart and PayPal.

Lastly, remember I’d explain why I spend time keywording? Pick one of the Pro Stock galleries and type a driver’s name into the search box and see what happens. Here’s a hint, try Flemming, Hicken or Turple, since I know many of my readers here don’t follow racing enough to know the drivers names. 😉

Go ahead. I’ll wait…

Cool, eh? That way, teams don’t necessarily need to wade through a thousand images to find the ones they are specifically looking for.

And thus ends our series on managing your Lightroom catalog and photo library. We’ve covered a lot of information including some about other tools to help increase efficiency in your workflow. Thanks for making it this far with me!! 🙂

If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments or feel free to privately email me through our contact form.

Hope you enjoyed the series!