Lightroom Workflow for Event Photography

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Lightroom Workflow for Event Photography

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Hi, I'm Phil Steele and I'm going to walk you through the workflow that I use in Lightroom after I finished shooting an event. I'm going to go through importing the photos, rating them, culling them down to the selects, grouping them into collections for delivery for various participants at the event, and finally exporting them and delivering them. If you have my full Lightroom Made Easy! training course you've seen all of these various steps and functions described in detail in that course, but sometimes it's still helpful to watch the whole process quickly through a real life example. I'm going to let you watch over my shoulder as I process the photos from a real event that I just photographed.

Last weekend I shot a three-day event in Los Angeles so I have over a thousand photos to process and deliver. This will probably take me a couple of days of work, so obviously for this video I'm going to speed it up. I'm going to show you just the highlights and not make you watch all the tedious grunt work. The first thing we need to do obviously is to import some photos. I'm going to go over here and click on the 'Import' button - I've already attached my memory card and here are the photos on it. I am going to copy these photos from the card to my computer so I'm going to come over to the right-hand column and do the usual things that I do. I like to use Custom Text so I'm going to custom name them as I bring them in. In this case I'm going to name it 'BIL-Conference-2015.' Let's put some keywords, the name of the conference is 'BIL,' '2015' is the year, 'events' and 'conference,' that'll probably do. Now I need to put them into the right destination. I've already created a folder on my computer where I'm going to put them, you can see I created a folder right here because I find it a little quirky if I let Lightroom create the folder, so I just do that by hand and then I go find that folder in Lightroom and put them in there. So, '2015' and there it is. That's selected, now I should be ready to go. I'm going to let it import the photos. Here they come. I obviously won't make you watch that, I see there's over a thousand on this memory card and I have a second memory card also. I'm just going to go through the exact same process with the second memory card after I get the ones off of this one. I'm going to dump them all into the same folder, and then we'll go from there.

Okay, now the photos have all imported and I can see that I have 1511 photos here. I definitely need to get that number reduced rather dramatically, but before I start going through them one by one and deleting them and rating them and fussing with them, I'm going to do a little preliminary setup work that will help me be more efficient. The first thing I'm going to do is create a few collections that I'm going to use to sort the photos into. I'm going to go down here to the Collections panel and I'm going to click on the little plus sign. First I'm going to create a Collection Set, sort of a parent level collection that all of the others will go inside. I'm going to call the parent one 'BIL Conference 2015.' I'm going to create that and you can see that appeared right here at the top of the Collections panel. Now I'm going to create a few more inside that one, 'Create A Collection' and it's already checked off automatically, it knows that it wants to put it inside the collection set I just made, it's kind of clever that way. I'm going to call this one 'sponsors,' I'm going to have a little collection of photos of goods that were provided by sponsors of this event because I've already been asked if I can provide photos of the sponsors' goods, that's pretty typical for an event. So I'm going to make a collection where I'll group those photos. I'm going to create that and you can see it created it right inside the the 'BIL Conference' parent collection that I created. I'm going to make a few more for individuals. Sometimes when I'm in an event like this I'll end up doing a few little portrait sessions or headshot sessions or impromptu for people if they're just standing in a place where there's some good light and they want some photos that they might use then I'll create a few photos for them and I'll send them to them afterward. I've got a few people who I know did that for. I'll make one for Alexis, make one for Christy. I wish it wouldn't scroll down every time. I'll make another one for Fedje, I can never remember how to spell her name, I think that's right. I'll make another one for Elisabeth and one more for Meg. I guess they all tend to be women don't they, but I guess I'm a single guy, what can I say?

Now I'm going to go back to the folder. I've got all these little places where I can sort the photos into later, as I need to. The next preliminary step that I want to do will make it more efficient for me to rate these with a star rating system in numerical system. I'm going to assign a three-star rating to all the photos in the sets. Right now the first one is selected and I'm going to select the last one, I'm going to click here, three stars. I just assign three stars to every photo in this set the reason I do that as a starting point is because I'm not going to keep any photos that are worth less than three stars. If they're worth less than that they just get deleted. There's one special little exception that I make and if you took my Lightroom course you know I use a one-star rating on a photo if I want to keep it as a useful example of a mistake. Something that might be a lesson or a teaching opportunity, I'll keep. I'll give one start to photos that are what I call useful errors or useful mistakes but that's kind of rare. In general, I don't keep anything that's not worth at least three stars and then as I go through I'm going to make essentially three sets. There'll be three-star photos which is sort of like the big set of the ones I keep. Four-star photos are ones that will go into a public set that I'm going to share and five-star photos will be my favorites. They'll be the little special set that I want to share and say these are the ones I think of the best photos from this event. The only ones that will ever see the light of day and public will be the four-star and five-stars photos. The three-stars are just ones that I'll keep in case there's some use for them at some point, or in case they're part of those that I want to share with people that don't go out in the public sets. It might be photos of people who I took a little special headshot session with or something like that. Now I'm going to start going through them one by one and I will rate them with a certain star number. I will mark them with the 'X' if I'm going to delete them and I will crop them, maybe adjust them if they need it, and I'll try to do as much of the work in one pass as I possibly can. Obviously it doesn't all get done in one pass but the more of it that I can do in one pass then the less work that will be on subsequent passes.

So I'm going to open up the first photo and I'm going to start. That's not bad and I have another one that's kind of the same thing and I have to choose which one do I want, this one or this one? I'm going to keep the first one because I like the light better and I'm going to go to the second one I'm going to mark it with an 'X' for delete and I'm going to go back to the first one, and I don't like this stop sign in it so I might as well right now go over to the Develop module and just crop this thing so it will be done, I won't have to deal with it again. I'm going to crop out that you. I don't want to crop out the sign because that's part of the interest factor of this shot, and I'll just crop their legs off a little. Okay, that's good enough, I can live with that. So I'll move on and let's think, is this a three, four, or five star? I think this will be a four-star photo. It will go into the big public set, not my favorites but into the big set. I don't need this one of her because I already have one so I'll delete that one, and then I've got another two of this guy, I've got one with flash which is over-flashed one without flash which is underlit. Let's see if I can do something to recover that one. So let's bring up the shadows, maybe bring up the exposure - that's kind of cool - I think I like that one better than the one where he's lit with flash and it's just too much so I'm going to delete the one with flash. And this one... do I need to crop it or do anything to it? I don't want to crop the sign, it's kind of set up in the rule of thirds already, maybe I'll just leave it alone and I will give it a four-star also. I'm just going to keep going through like that, choosing. I think this one of these guys ordering food from the waitress, that can probably just be a delete. This one of this girl is not bad, I might do a little retouching on it. For now I will keep it and give it a four-star, I might come back to it later. Ah, same girl let's see. Do the close-up or do the sort of contextual one? she's out of focus in that one so I'm going to delete that one. I'm just going to follow this process through and I'm not going to have you watch me do this because this is going to be hours of work, we got 1,500 photos. I think you get the idea of how I'm going to go through and maybe I'll show you a few special cases as they come along, but for now I'm going to go offline behind-the-scenes, crawl through the set working like this and then I'll let you catch up with me when I get to the end.

Okay, I've gone through the whole set now and I've culled it down from over 1,500 to a little more than 400. I rated them all as I went through and I deleted a bunch obviously, and now what I'm doing is I'm just going through and looking for things to put into the collections, like this little set of headshots that I did of Alexis here, I just drag that into the little collection that I made called Alexis so that I can send those to her. So I'm making a pass right now and creating my little collections. Alright, now I made all the little collection of individual people and sponsors. Next I need to make a couple more collections because I want to have a collection that's the four-star photos that I'm going to put out in public on Facebook so that the organizers of this event can have them, and then I'm going to have a smaller collection of five-star photos that I'll put on my own website as my favorites from the event. So I'm going to make another collection, and I'm going to call the first one 'BIL 2015 Favorites.' That'll be my smaller set, I'm going to put it inside the 'BIL Collection,' I'm going to create that. Why does it always scroll this thing? Now I'm going to create one more, I'm going to call it 'BIL 2015 Large' because that's going to be the full set, everything. So now I have a place to put the filtered four and five-star photos.

The next thing we're going to do is isolate them so I'm going to make filter. I'm going to filter by 'rated' and I'm going to filter by 'greater than or equal to four-stars,' four-stars and higher. Now I'm going to select everything that's displayed in this set. I'm going to click on the first one and click on the last one and I'm going to drag them all into the 'BIL 2015 Large Collection. There are 408 in there. Now I have to change the size of my thumbnails to be able to click off and get it to unselect. Now I'm going to change the filter, so it's five-stars by clicking on that. Five-stars and higher. I'm going to do the same thing again: click on the first one, click on the last one, drag them to 'BIL 2015 Favorites' in my collections, there's 159. Now I've got everything grouped into collections the way I want them. Now for these that I'm going to publish, I might actually go in and rearrange them a little bit. I might go into this collection and drag some things from here to there if I want a different photo at the front, or a different photo at the end, or to ungroup some things that are similar to each other. I won't make you watch me do that but you can just drag them from place to place, moving them around like that. When they're in collections, it remembers the order. So if you choose to export them in a filename order that will preserve that order, then anybody that you send them to will see them in that order. I talk about this much more in my Event Photography course. Now I'm going to go into these collections, see if I want to rearrange anything and then I'll come back and we'll talk about exporting them.

Now it's time to start exporting some of these collections. You can see in this one I made a small rearrange when I drag this logo thing to the front of the set because I kind of like to lead off with something that sets the context like that. But otherwise most of these photos I just left in their natural order. So the first thing I'm going to export is this set of favorites that I'll put on my own website. I've got to select them, so I'm going to select the first one, select the last one, I'm going to export all 159 of those. I'm going to click the 'Export' button. I'm going to make a temporary subfolder on my Desktop because these are just temporary files, I won't keep them around forever: 'BIL 2015 Favorites.' I've just got them all isolated in their own little folder for this set and I'm going to name them in a way that puts the file names in order so that no matter where I upload them, if they get put into alphabetical order I want them to come out in the right order that I've got them in, so I'm using a custom file naming template. I've got a whole video devoted to this elsewhere so I'm not going to repeat it all right here but I like to make a custom template and you can see it will put it in this kind of order, where it will say 'BIL 2015 LA' and then it'll number them: 001, 002, 0003,so that way they'll stay in the order that I've chosen to put them in.

I'm going to resize them to 1800 x 1200, that's a sort of arbitrary resizing on my part to what I think is reasonable for viewing on the screen. Nobody needs these things full-size. When they're uploaded to Facebook they don't need to be 30 megapixel photos. I usually resize them down to something that's a decent size to view on-screen. A little bit of sharpening, copyright info - I am watermarking this set with a little watermark in the corner that says 'Phil Steele Photos Copyright.' I won't watermark the ones that I'm sending to individuals, like the headshots that I did. Those are a gift to them so I won't put any marks on them, they can do what they want with those. But these that I'm putting out in public, I'm going to put little watermark in the corner and I think that's pretty much it. I'm going to pull the trigger on the export and we'll see how it looks.

The export is complete and here it is on my computer and you can see here the files I created. You can see they have that naming structure that I was talking about: 001, 002, 003 - and they're in the order that I chose to put them in. You can tell by this filename over here where it says 'temp,' this is actually a temporary workspace where I put photos that I'm just going to delete later because these are all temporary exports that I'm going to use. Some of them I'll upload to Facebook, some I will upload to my own website, some I will deliver to individuals by putting them on Dropbox and then sending them a link to the Dropbox folder, but eventually I will just delete all this because this is all just junk that takes up space on my computer. These are not the originals of these photos. These are an exported set reflecting the changes I made to them: edits, tweaks, the ordering I made. So this is purely a temporary workspace with these exported photos. Once they're all uploaded and given to the individuals I would just delete them all to free up the space again.

Alright, I've uploaded those photos to my gallery website on SquareSpace, I put them here in the events category, so I open that up there it is: 'BIL 2015 LA,' that's the new set. I'll click on that and here's the first photo and you can see it's got my little watermark down at the bottom that was applied automatically from Lightroom during the export. Here they are! So I'm going to go through the same process now with each of the other collections that I made, export them to a temporary folder and then upload the photos either to Facebook if I'm sharing them with the organizers of the event or to Dropbox if I'm sending them to an individual. I'll go through them one by one and deliver them and then I'll be done.

If you do event photography or are interested in event photography and you want to learn more, I have an entire course: 25 videos, more than six hours long on event photography called Secrets Of Successful Event Photography. It's available on my website at If you want to learn more about Lightroom and how I do this stuff in Lightroom that I just breezed through here, I also have an entire course on Lightroom called Lightroom Made Easy! also available on my website at, if you're interested I hope you'll check them out. I hope you found this helpful and I look forward to talking to you again soon.