Workflow Troubles


Today’s Question: My workflow works for me, except:

I start by downloading from my memory card to Lightroom. I then rename each photo on the hard drive (the Windows explorer way). Next I open the raw files in Photoshop, work on them, and save them. Now I have exactly what I want on my hard drive, but can’t access the photos through a metadata search in Lightroom.  I keep digging this hole deeper day by day, GB by GB (actually TB by TB now). But I really like the workflow. How can I import the original and edited photos back into Lightroom? Help!

Tim’s Quick Answer: The key to a workflow in Lightroom that includes the use of other tools (such as your operating system or Photoshop) is to either perform work outside of Lightroom before importing photos into your catalog, or to ensure you initiate all tasks related to your photos from within Lightroom.

More Detail: If you prefer to rename your photos outside of Lightroom (rather than taking advantage of Lightroom’s ability to rename your photos for you), I recommend performing that work before importing the photos into your Lightroom catalog. For example, you could download the photos from your media cards to your hard drive, rename those photos within your operating system, and then import the photos (with the “Add” option if you’ve already copied them to the intended storage location) into your Lightroom catalog.

If you rename photos outside of Lightroom after importing the photos into your Lightroom catalog, it is possible to synchronize the folder to recover the photos that will have gone missing in the process. However, you will most likely lose some of your metadata updates in the process.

If you want to use Photoshop to optimize your photos, I recommend that you consider using Lightroom’s Develop module for the initial adjustments, which are the equivalent of using Adobe Camera Raw. You can then use the Photo > Edit In > Edit in Adobe Photoshop command to send a copy of the image (as a TIFF or PSD, depending on your Preferences settings) to Photoshop. When you’re done working with this image in Photoshop, you can simply choose File > Save followed by File > Close in order to save the updated copy of your photo, with that derivative copy included within your Lightroom catalog.

While there are some ways to mostly work around the process of initiating all tasks within Lightroom, that type of approach includes the very real risk that you will lose metadata for your photos, or have that metadata get out of sync in terms of your Lightroom catalog compared to the files on your hard drive. In other words, if you don’t initiate your workflow tasks within Lightroom, you could be creating a mess for yourself.

My recommendation is to either implement a workflow that truly revolves around Lightroom, or to no longer use Lightroom and instead implement a workflow that perhaps revolves around Adobe Bridge and your operating system.