My Travel Photography Workflow

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Basic Travel Photography Workflow:

This is my basic workflow for Lightroom and photography while not at home. It works around the premise of a "package" folder. This package folder contains everything for the trip. This folder (will contain subfolders for:

  • Lightroom Catalog
  • RAW files from memory card
  • exported JPG's for publishing or printing

The advantage to this approach is because this package folder contains the lightroom catalog and raw images within it from the start. This package can be moved to any computer, or hard-drive easily. All the Lightroom links and database will continue to work as long as everything stays within the package folder. 

The basic plan:

  • I create a folder to house all images/raw files from camera card, exported jpg's, and Lightroom catalog specific for this trip. 
  • raw files are organized in subfolders by the day they were taken
  • raw files remain on SD card even after imported onto computer Lightroom catalog, also organized by day (i'll explain this in the document & video)

I know for most, reading this kind of technical stuff is confusing, so i've also included 3 videos throughout the post, that show and explain the entire process. 

Lets Begin: 
I'm going to use my recent trip to Vietnam for the example. 

Creating the Photography Project Folders

1 ) Create Project Folder on computer, this folder will contain ALL information for the photo project you are currently working on. It will be easily transferred and moved around. 
2 ) Create sub-folders within the main folder. These folders will help you stay organized. 

Example:

This is the basic folder structure. "Vietnam - Eric Kim February 2016" being the main package folder. Export (for exported jpg's), Images (for RAW files),

This is the basic folder structure. "Vietnam - Eric Kim February 2016" being the main package folder. Export (for exported jpg's), Images (for RAW files),

3 ) Once you have created your *Package* folder and the subfolders. Its time to create a new catalog for this project. Open up lightroom and select "Create new Catalog" This catalog will be ONLY for this project, and all the files will be contained within your main Project folder. Create this catalog within your package folder. 

Once you have created a new Lightroom Catalog within the package folder it should look something like this:

At this point, you have a folder for exported JPG's for publishing on the web or printing, a folder that will contain all your RAW images from your camera, and your Lightroom Catalog.

At this point, you have a folder for exported JPG's for publishing on the web or printing, a folder that will contain all your RAW images from your camera, and your Lightroom Catalog.

Why: The question people ask is why? Why go to this much trouble? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this approach?

For me, the two big advantages are:

1) Organization (advantage): I don't need or want a GIANT catalog with 300,000 images in it from every shoot i've ever done. Lightroom seems slower, and its just overwhelming. I'd rather group photos into smaller projects and just work within the project. 

2) Mobility (advantage): With everything housed within a folder, Lightroom doesnt look outside the folder. You can move the package and its contents anywhere (external drive, another computer, dropbox, etc) and everything will stay together and intact. Lightroom will still be able to find all the files and you wont have any issues. Because my primary computer is a laptop with limited harddrive space, this makes it very easy to pull projects on and off the drive.

Disadvantage:

1) You don't have one giant catalog with all your images. This workflow was setup because of my laptops small harddrive, but i use it for my desktop too. If you really do want a giant catalog with all your images. I'll show you how to incorporate this workflow with a large catalog at the end of this post.  

Transferring Image files from camera to Photography Project Folders

4 ) Take lots of photos!

5 )It's time to transfer your images from your memory card to your project images folder. I personally don't care for Lightroom's import dialog to copy the files for me. I'd rather copy the files myself, making sure they are exactly where i want them. Within the package image folder I create a new folder for each time I import images. Once the folder is created, i simply drag the DCIM folder from my cameras memory card to the newly created images folder. This guarantees the images are organized the way I want them. (yes, I know it's kind of OCD..) 

Good quality large memory cards are reasonably cheap. On a good amazon sale you can purchase a 128gb SD card for under 100.00. That should be more than enough for a week or two trip.  

After each transfer of your image files to your computer is complete, I go to the memory card and rename the DCIM folder to the corresponding name of the folder on your computer. This trick essentially *locks* your original image files on the SD card and gives you a safe 2nd copy. Your camera only is able to access files in the DCIM folder. If you rename this folder to something else, your camera will ignore that renamed folder on your SD Card. When you plug the memory card back into your camera, your camera will notice there is no DCIM folder and create a fresh one, for your next outing. Your previous images will be safe on the card, but you will no longer be able to view the images on your camera since they are no longer in the DCIM folder. Your camera can only access files in the DCIM folder. (does that make sense)

Here is a view of my memory card by the end of the 8 day trip:

Here is a view of what my memory card looked like by the last day of the trip. You'll notice the standard 3 folders: DCIM, MP_ROOT, and PRIVATE. These are the ONLY folders your camera can access. The other folders safely store all the images from the trip, but your camera is unable to view or access them. These folders can easily be accessed from a computer. 

Here is a view of what my memory card looked like by the last day of the trip. You'll notice the standard 3 folders: DCIM, MP_ROOT, and PRIVATE. These are the ONLY folders your camera can access. The other folders safely store all the images from the trip, but your camera is unable to view or access them. These folders can easily be accessed from a computer. 

Here is a view of my package folder by the 8th day of the trip:

After a week of shooting, this is what my Vietnam - Eric Kim February 2016 folder looked like. As you can see the "Images" folder has sub folders for each day. Day 3 has two folders because we went out and shot in the morning, then i imported my photos. We then decided to go out again and shoot after dinner. 

After a week of shooting, this is what my Vietnam - Eric Kim February 2016 folder looked like. As you can see the "Images" folder has sub folders for each day. Day 3 has two folders because we went out and shot in the morning, then i imported my photos. We then decided to go out again and shoot after dinner. 

As you can see, the SD Card folders and the folders in the Images folder in our package are exactly the same. You have two copies of all your images. This way if you lose your laptop, or lose your camera card, you at least have another copy. Its also very easy to keep track of what you have imported and what needs to be imported. 

Here is a Video of the process up until this point

Importing Images into Lightroom 

At this point, the images have been transferred/copied to your computer from the camera's memory card.  After that is complete you should rename the DCIM folder on your SDCard to the same name as the folder on your computer.  You have an empty Lightroom catalog. Its time to import the images into Lightroom. Simply drag the images folder from within the "Images" folder in your package folder onto the Lightroom icon at the bottom of your screen. This will pull up the Lighroom import dialog. Your images should show up. There are a few items we want to adjust and modify on this dialog. Before hitting the "Import" button. 

1) make sure at the very top of the screen ADD is selected, NOT Copy as DNG, copy, or MOVE. You have the files exactly where you want them, so you simply want to ADD the images and keep them in their current folder. 

2)On the right side of the screen you want to make sure "Don't Import Suspected Duplicates is checked"

3)If you add an image preset to your images select it under Develop Settings

4)if you have a preset for your basic metadata information, select it under Metadata. I HIGHLY recommend you create one with your basic contact information and website. This information will be added to every image upon import. This allows anyone that sees yours image to pull up your contact information. It will be encoded in all your images. Look at another blog post for more about this feature. 

5) Keywords: add some basic keywords not only so you can find your images later, but also google, and all the photo sharing sites use these keywords to help others find and view your images. For this Vietnam trip, my basic keywords were "Vietnam, <city/location>, Eric Kim, Workshop, 2017, Sony, A7rII, Alpha, Darrell Miller Photography, Darrell@darrellmillerphotography.com"

6) Then you hit "IMPORT", your image files will be added to the catalog and will be ready for culling and editing. 

7) Thats really it! You're ready to go.. At this point you have all the images from your card copied onto your computer, in the Lightroom catalog, and the images are safely stored on your memory card just in case. (you have a 2nd copy)

Make sure "Add" is chosen from the top menu bar, this ensures that photos are added in place, not copied to another location. Check "Don't Import Suspected Duplicates" and finally add basic keywords and tags. 

Make sure "Add" is chosen from the top menu bar, this ensures that photos are added in place, not copied to another location. Check "Don't Import Suspected Duplicates" and finally add basic keywords and tags. 

Culling Images in Lightroom

Now that your images are in Lightroom, its time to cull those images and decide which images are worth showing to the world. I'll describe my culling technique. 

Culling Round 1:

1) WAIT.. WAIT A WHILE.. I know everyone wants to go through their photos immediately after taking them.. You're excited to show the world what cool adventure you went on.. but my best advice is to WAIT.. Wait a week.. a month.. Wait until the excitement over the trip is gone.. Wait until the emotional connections with your subjects, the situation, or the trip itself are all gone. If you wait you can look at your images more objectively. It wont be about the excitement, the emotion you had during the process of taking the photos.. instead it will be about the composition of the image, the emotion the images express, and the images themselves. 

2) At this point it's time to cull your images and begin to decide what images deserve some attention, and what deserves to be thrown away. I use the star system along with the *reject* flag. 

- Reject Flag - "x" on your keyboard marks an image for deletion, but it does NOT actually delete the image yet. It just marks it for deletion when you choose to "delete rejected images"

- 1 star, something that has some potential, "1" key on your keyboard

Quickly flip through your images and do one of three things:

- if its blurry, unusable, or just junk press the "x" key, this will mark the image as a "reject," The image wont be deleted, just marked for deletion.  (if you accidently flag something as a reject and you want to unflag it, press the "u" key)

- press the "1" key to give the image 1 star if its an image that is in focus, and could possibly be something you might want to edit and post. DO NOT EDIT YET. 

- do nothing, just pass the image by. This image is in focus, but there are other images in the series that are more interesting or better composed. 

Once you've done this for all the newly imported images.. WAIT.. walk away.. go pet a puppy.. go work out.. step away and clear your head.. I recommend you wait 24 hours.. Then.. 

Culling Round 2:

Go back into lightroom and filter your images to only display images with 1 star or above. Again flip through all images, and this time with a more critical eye give any image that stands out 2 stars by pressing the "2" key. Still NO EDITING.. 

Once you've done this for all the 1 star images.. WAIT.. walk away.. go pet a kitten.. go work out.. step away and clear your head.. I recommend you wait 24 hours.. Then.. 

Culling Round 3:

Go back into lightroom and filter your images to only display images with 2 stars or above. Again flip through all images, and this time with an even more critical eye give any image that stands out 3 stars by pressing the "3" key. If you need to adjust exposure or crop a little.. Do it.. But no major edits at this point. 

Once again, WAIT.. step away.. 

Culling Round 4:

At this point, you should have narrowed down your images quite a bit.. by 3 stars it should be significantly less than what you started with.. if its not.. flip through your 3 stars and drop some of those images back down to 2 stars. This is also a pretty good time to decide how many images you need for the final project. Depending on the project that could be 5 images .. or 30.. Once you kind of have an idea of how many images you want in the final project. Flip through your images again, look for images that flow or fit together, that aren't just good images, but fit the project. Do more editing if necessary, adjustment brushes, spot removal or whatever.. photoshop if necessary.. presets.. etc.. Then assign the image 4 stars by pressing the "4" key. 

Last time WAIT.. step away. .

Culling Round 5:

Last romp through your images. Really decide how many images you want in the series/project. Flip through your 4 star images and with a very critical eye find the ones that work the best together. Do a little more editing if necessary. Make sure all the images have roughly the same white balance/tone.. and work well together. 
If you have more images than you need for the project, let someone else look through your images and help you narrow it down. 

<Here is a video showing the process with 100 images>

At this point its time to export the images for print or for web. 

Some people really dig in deep for exporting images.. I keep it simple.. but some settings change depending on what you plan to do with them. If you are printing the images, you want them full size and high quality. If you are only posting on Facebook, the settings will be different. 

I select the images that i need, and select "export." The options i change are the following:
- Export Location: 
- Export Location -> Specific Folder (Select the Exports Folder withing your package folder)
- Check the "Put in subfolder" - give the subfolder a name that corrisponds with what you are exporting. 
Example: "Day 1 Hanoi Favorites v1"

- File Naming:
- check "rename to:" - Custom Name - Original File Number. 
- Custom Text: <give the series of exports a name> 
Example: "Day 1 Hanoi Favorites v1"

File Settings:
-Image Format: JPEG
-Color Space: sRGB
-Quality: 85%

(for facebook i shrink my images)
Image Sizing:
Resize to Fit: Long Edge CHECK "Don't Enlarge"
2048 pixels for facebook


Press the "Export Button"


Once this process is complete, you will have a folder within your package folder with all your exported JPEGS. At this point i use a color coding system to mark which images i've exported out of the catalog and given to client or posted online. 

- Yellow - Exported out but not posted online or given to client: "6" key
- Green - Exported out and given to client: "8" key

Reasoning: Often times i want to export out a group of images but i dont want to post all the images at once. I want to post 1 or two a day for a couple of weeks, this keeps peoples attention and gets them to keep coming back to my instagram or facebook. Its hard to keep track of what images i've posted and which images i havent. This simple color coding system helps you easily see what has been posted or given to the client and what hasnt. 

If you decide to go back and do some more editing to an image, or a client asks you to edit the photos a little differently, i go through the same process for exporting, only this time i change the export sub-folder to v2.. v3.. or so on.. so i can keep track of every image i've given the client or posted online. 

Click Here to Watch a Video of the process of Importing Photos, Culling, and Exporting photos.