• todd@toddeswenson.com

Lightroom: Workflow Review


The other day, I wanted to use Lightroom for my post photo shoot workflow, but had so many issues just getting the import function to begin working that I gave up and used Aperture, which continues to work beautifully and without hiccups. About a week and a half later, I decided to give Lightroom another shot. I still had issues getting Lightroom to do an import.

Here’s how Lightroom faired during my 30 trial:

Clearly an issue. The (new) interface seems simple enough, maybe even too simple. When you click the Import button, you expect it to work. When it doesn’t and frustration ensues, what do you do? You can always add groups of images to the catalog, which is exactly what I thought about doing since after 45 minutes of trial and error attempting to import I had to give up.

But then I launched the Creative Cloud application manager and learned there was an update available, one that apparently reverts to the classic import experience. I installed the update and gave the import function (classic experience) one more chance.

And to my dismay/delight, it worked.

But working after this amount of time spent is unacceptable.

The classic import experience seems too basic. It contains options to add metadata (keywords only). Presumably, if location were coded into the file itself, it would pick up that information. But for those of us who haven’t invested in GPS tagging devices, then it’d be nice to be able to add at least the city, state, country information into the metadata fields upon import.

The speed at which it builds your import seems slow. Maybe it waits until it’s actually copied the file over to the new destination. Or maybe it’s just slow. Either I’m impatient when it comes to the beginnings of my workflow or I’ve been spoiled in the past. Either way, I expected more.

The progress bars were a nice touch, though. At least that gives me a sense of how much longer it will take. And I’m glad it can run more than one operation at the same time.

This took a bit of getting used to. I wanted to use keyboard shortcuts to do 2 things. One give the image a star rating and two give an image a color rating. While I was able to give star ratings, I was unable to give images color codes. I could only “Pick” images, which flags them for another type of sorting.

Since I had culled this shoot once before using Aperture, I think I may have gone a little faster than I otherwise would’ve. I did make mostly the same selects 2 week removed, which is good.

I did have to go back and “find” some of the others that I liked the first time around, just to be sure I had all the images I previously delivered. It turns out, I “missed” about 4 or 5 of the deliverables. But I did select all, but one of my top picks on my first pass.

Before we get to editing, here’s an image straight from the camera. These are images full resolution 5760 x 3840 pixels. Go ahead all you pixel peepers, give them a good look.

The first image was exported as an original from Aperture.


And the second was exported from Lightroom.

Kesharra-Lightroom Original

For me the one from Aperture is a bit more true. The second has a touch less detail in the darks and is slightly warmer in temperature.

There’s really not much to say here. It works as described. A few differences, but mostly similar to Aperture. My one complaint: there’s no skin smoothing brush. But Lightroom comes with Photoshop and Aperture’s skin smoothing brush is easily recreated. But like I’ve said before, why would I want to open a new application to do something prior to exporting for delivery? I wouldn’t.

And to compare Lightroom edits with Aperture. Here’s the image noted above edited by Aperture.


And here it is using Lightroom.

Kesharra-Lightroom Edited

For me the skin tone is truer in my Aperture edit, plus the skin smoothing brush just helps the image look it’s best. And in all genres of photography, the final image needs to be perfect. More from my headshot photo shoot with Kesharra Weston.

And just to reiterate, the mobile (iOS) platform isn’t something I’d ever use on a regular basis. The differences between a screen designed for editing and one designed for consuming content are stark.

I like that functionality and options that are built right in. I can choose the destination, change the file type, change the color space, resize/fit, resample, sharpen, add a watermark, open in Photoshop. Just about everything a photographer could possibly want. I can even set presets, which I’ve found in the past to be a huge time saver.

Bottom Line
Knowing it isn’t the only application out there. I’d keep looking. I haven’t been impressed, but that’s not to say it isn’t a good choice for some. If you want Photoshop, well, then this is the one for you.

Lightroom has a number of other features, some advanced, but mostly they’re features I simply don’t use on a regular basis for my workflow. 

The key question for me: Can I use it for digital (photo) asset management and image editing for delivery? Yes.


Todd E. Swenson is a headshot and portrait photographer based in Tacoma, Washington and will travel down the street or around the globe to make amazing pictures for you.

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