Follow These Tips for a Smoking Fast Workflow

Shooting and editing photo sessions can be time consuming and altogether frustrating if you don't have a streamlined system. Here, a seasoned pro gives away some great tips for shaving time and frustration from your workflow.

Streamlining my photography workflow is a constant struggle for me. I'm always seeking out ways to make things run faster, more smoothly, and with better end results.That's why I was happy to find this gem full of great tips for cutting clutter from my system and upping my productivity.

In this video, photographer and instructor Tony Northrup shares several valuable tips for keeping your workflow streamlined. One aspect of this is to take advantage of modern camera features such as dual card slots so that you can shoot raw and JPEG simultaneously and WiFi capability so that you can quickly upload those JPEG images to a laptop or smartphone for quick sharing.

Additionally, Northrup suggests something here that I have never considered: he does a lot of culling and rating of images in camera.This seems like it would be more time-consuming than uploading to a computer to cull, but I can see the value in this if you have some downtime before you have computer access, especially when traveling or other scenarios where you have a long wait and some time on your hands.

His workflow involves a lot of work in Lightroom, and since I’ve always used Adobe Bridge and Camera Raw instead of Lightroom, I’ve been inspired to look into making that change. He gives a lot of tweaks you can make in Lightroom that should speed up your workflow and your computer performance.

Faster card readers, upgrading software and hardware, and tweaking software preferences are all great ways to speed up your workflow and increase your productivity. Do you have any additional tips to help overhaul a photographer’s workflow? Share them in the comments.

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24 Comments

Rob Mitchell's picture

One main tip: Photo Mechanic.

Bang though the files as fast as you like and select your good ones.
Select all selected photos, move to another folder.
Close Photo Mechanic.
Open LR, import the folder that contains the selection. As described, build previews.
Edit, export, done.
Then import al the others when you have time, making food, or doing the washing. Flick through to see if you missed any keepers, if not, select all, delete from disk.

Tony Northrup's picture

My problem with Photo Mechanic has always been that it only shows you the low-resolution previews that are built into the raw files, which were never enough for me to see if a picture slightly missed focus or if there was a bit of camera shake. It's good enough to eliminate some pictures that are completely bad (like someone blinking) but (for me) the benefit was never enough to overcome adding an extra step in the workflow, much less spending $150.

Additionally, the latest versions of lightroom have gotten MUCH faster for culling. If you have previews built, you can flip through pictures just as fast as Photo Mechanic.

user-156929's picture

First time I've agreed with you! ;-)

If you used PM and recent LR then you know that “just as fast as” is kind of optimistic :)

Of course you can set Photo Mechanic preferences to render a preview from the raw files, though it does take longer. And the embedded jpg preview in Canon files at least is not low-resolution. So Canon + PM is easy peasy.

While they may have gotten faster for culling that still isn't taking into consideration building the preview time. I also find if I'm questioning the focus I just zoom in on whatever subject I'm shooting. If I do end up seeing something overlooked after culling I can just go around the image number and generally find a similar photo. It doesn't seem like an extra step if its culling down hundreds - thousands of images that would be have to be built.

William Howell's picture

I like Tony and Chelsea, been a subscriber of theirs for several years, but I’m tired of being nickel and dimed to the poor house!
Yeah, I know it’s only ten bucks a month, but you know, 10 bucks here, 10 bucks there and soon we’re taking about real money.

Here is how I import and process for free.
Mac and Nikon user here, so, I import into Image Capture, then I export to my folder of choice in the finder. Then from the finder I export to Nikon’s Capture NXD to process the raw file. Then I can export as a jpeg to wherever, or finish the raw in Photoshop.

This method is rock solid, relatively quick and you can tether, for Free!

I just had to subscribe to CC, because CS5 is now broken for me, with the new updates.

Zoli Tarnavölgyi's picture

What's the problem with Bridge?? Cull, copy selected photos to another folder than import... You can even cull from the memorycard, if needed.

Spy Black's picture

Bridge is agonizingly slow. I'm on a PC, and I use a relatively unknown app called FastStone Image Viewer. This app is fast! I use it to sort out what I want to process, or to decide if the image is good out of the box or needs to trashed. Has basic image editing features, handy for jpegs. $25 "donationware" program worth every penny!

Simon Patterson's picture

I use Bridge and Faststone. Both excellent tools.

Spy Black's picture

Yes, Bridge certainly has it's uses (I also use it), but sorting images out rapidly is not one of them. :-)

Zoli Tarnavölgyi's picture

I'm on Mac, maybe this is the reason, but Bridge has no speed issues for me. I know Faststone, I used it also, when I was on PC, yes, thats fast! (too bad, that the colors are so fake in that, like in so many PC apps)
But honestly, If you're that fast to cull, that you need something faster, than LR or Bridge, you do something wrong with your photos, to skip them so fast...:-)) (kidding) I need e few seconds to decide usually, do I need that or not, so LR is more than perfect to me to cull images. Yes, I have to import them, but during that, I do something else.

Spy Black's picture

I work on Macs all day in the studios I freelance in, and Bridge sucks even worse in the garbage can Macs I work on. Full screen preview in Bridge is absolute garbage, unless you make renders full res, in which case it becomes even slower!

PC color is only as good as your monitor calibration. Faststone also has built-in ICC use option, no problem with color on a PC.

Jenny Edwards's picture

Zoli I've been a big fan of Bridge for years. I need to explore some of the things Tony suggests for making LR faster and see if they can be applied to Bridge and ACR. Change is hard, lol!

user-206386's picture

A workflow for a specific shooting style. There are many shooting styles and locations and as many different workflows. While this may be fine for your average run-and-gunner freelancer youtube vlogger, it's useless in, say, a studio where the photographer is tethered to C1 and previewing on a color calibrated monitor in composition mode. Which they should be.

Spy Black's picture

Although I partly agree, not all studios have everything tethered. There are 6 studios where I work, only 3 are tethered. Not all products can be shot tethered. Sometimes you need the flexibilty to move around, especially with larger products where you also have crew moving large products in and out of the staging areas.

user-206386's picture

As I said, as many different workflows for many different shooting styles.

Rob Swackhamer's picture

I must have an amazingly odd workflow by comparison. After copying the card over I actually look through them using IrfanView as it has plug-ins to view RAW files and is really quick about it. Once I find an image that has edit potential I'll copy the file to another folder. Once I've done that I'll do a few more passes through that folder to really pick out the best ones. From there I'll bring them all into Camera Raw via Photoshop so I can look at them in Filmstrip mode so I can built a starting point for a consistent look I want across the images and then further editing on each one as needed. The only time I go into Lightroom is to export them out as JPGs.

As for keeping things organized I do that on my own as their own project folders on the hard drive. So I don't need another app to do it for me.

Definitely far from the norm but going that route has helped me work a lot faster.

zeissiez lee's picture

Not sure if I’m the odd one here, I choose low res cameras to speed up workflow.

K G's picture

I wish people would stop promoting shill Northrup.

dave l's picture

Tonys culling in camera could be why his cards fail, isn't deleting in camera a cause of corrupting cards? (or so we’re taught these days) He also says he doesn't like photo mechanic because it shows the low-quality preview embedded in raw file but isn't that same low-quality preview the same one as your camera shows you? Not to mention the cameras LCD can lie, IMO so many pix that look great on LCD are crap on computer.

To cull i use a $10 mac viewing app called apolloone which is the fasted app I've ever used to go thru view raw files. If I don't want to sit in front of computer ill add the a ”cleaning” Lightroom catalog and sync it to Lightroom mobile on an iPad Pro which you can grow thru them very fast... IMO, this is the only good use lightroom has left, except lately every time I open this catalog lightroom continually tries sync some +30,000 images even though there's only ever a couple thousand pix in there at a time and now takes several hours to even get to new pix ugggg. Typical adobe. Tony says the current version of Lightroom culls as fast as photo mechanic.... He must either have a magic copy of Lightroom or his version is going faster to try and impress Chelsea lol.

Zoli Tarnavölgyi's picture

Interesting, I also heard, that deleting from cards is not a good thing, best to avoid it. So I just shoot, import everything to LR, cull, than I delete, what I don't need. Simple, safe. I think, if somebody need a faster app than LR to cull, something is wrong with a the photos, he/she takes, if he/she can decide in a half moment, that that's a bad photo. :-))) Usually I need a few seconds, to decide or compare.

I came here because I was interested in workflows for sports photographers and didn’t find a solution. I need to upload a few action shots within 15 minutes of kick-off and more images as the game progresses. While this is happening, I need to continue shooting. The best solution seems to be hiring an assistant who can process images as I send them through. I use Photomechanic and Lightroom. I don’t have a picture desk to ftp images to.