After-Birth Processing Part 2: Lightroom Workflow for Birth Photographers

OK so now that Lightroom is all set up the way you want it, here is my step-by-step for what I do from the moment I sit at my computer after a birth:

Lightroom Import Dialog Box
1. Use a card reader to copy as DNG from my memory card to my external hard drive and simultaneously import to LR. Apply keywords that are generic to the whole shoot. (Examples: “newborn” “Maternity” “outdoor” “indoor” “birth” “Park City Hospital” and “(client last name)”. And my most important tag: “model release” which means I have permission to use the images. Because I have done mostly births so far, many of my clients have not been OK with a model release. I want to know which ones I can use. I put all my photos on an external hard drive in one big folder by year. Because I use LR keywords and collections to find my photos, I don’t care so much about folder structure, particularly by date. How often do you think “I want to find that photo I took in June 2006?” – for me, never. I think “I want to find that photo I took up at University Hospital that showed the tubs!” – and I’m not likely to remember when that was, so going into LR and filtering for the keywords “University” and “bathtub” or looking in the collection for “(Client Last Name)” is much easier! You could do this any way you want, doesn’t really matter that much.
I personally skip making second copy on another hard drive. Mainly because I import everything and THEN cull and delete. When you do this, LR doesn’t touch that second copy you made, so you end up saving a lot of rejects if you do it that way. I back up my photos in other ways instead. One backup on site, and CrashPlan online backup.

2. I then go through the collection and tag EVERY photo with either an X (ones to be deleted) or a number 1-3. The higher number, the more I like it. When I’m done rating them, I delete the ones tagged with an X. Sometimes I’ll make a second sweep, especially if there are many shots that are similar and I haven’t taken the time to carefully compare them on the first sweep. I deliver only the best to my clients, and shots where dad is blinking or mom has a weird look on her face are deleted immediately.

3. I use the spraypaint can to add keywords to individual photos, if needed. So if I took macro detail shots, I’ll add the “detail” keyword to just those shots. If there are breastfeeding images, I’ll add the keyword “breastfeeding” to just those shots, etc.

4. I filter and look at just the ones flagged with a 3. If there is enough images there, and they have a good variety, I just edit those. If I need more (either in # or in variety) I go to the 2s and then the 1s. At this point if there are any more that didn’t make the cut, they’ll get deleted, too, but generally at this point I have my collection pretty well set. I aim to deliver about a hundred images, but the length of labor and how much mom allows me to shoot may mean there are more or less. I never promise a specific amount because there is so much variety.

5. Once I have chosen the ones to edit, I’ll select all the images in that session and create a collection. I have 5 collection sets for my professional work: 1-ToEdit, Maternity, Birth, Newborn, Other. When creating the collection for this shoot, I make a collection by client last name + date. Initially, I put it in the “1-ToEdit” set. (The number one is there to keep it on top of my list). When I am done editing the images, I drag the collection to the appropriate Collection Set. So within the Birth collection set there are collections like “Rosier November 2009” “Van Alfen May 2010” “Donaldson July 2010” etc..
Basic Panel Screen Shot
6. Editing. So much has been written on this I won’t even start. I liked the online courses by Chris Orwig at lynda.com and Matt Kloskowski at Kelby Training. I do have a Pinterest Board with lots of LR editing and organizing tutorials you might want to check out.

7. As I edit, I’ll often change the ratings up to a 4 or 5 for ones that are really fabulous. The reason for this is I have “Smart Collections” set up to keep track of my best images. I don’t have to remember to add them to the collections with smart collections. LR just adds them whenever it detects a photo that meets criteria. So I have 4 smart collections:

  • All photos tagged “Maternity” with 4 or more stars and the tag “model release”
  • All photos tagged “Birth” with 4 or more stars and the tag “model release”
  • All photos tagged “Newborns” with 4 or more stars and the tag “model release”
  • All photos tagged “Other” with 4 or more stars and the tag “model release”
  • So when I am looking for a new image to blog, or for my web site, I can check the smart collections and very easily see what is available.

    8. When I am done editing, I export a full sized, high resolution copy to a folder called “Clients” into a subfolder with the clients last name and year. Within that folder these images will go into a folder called “Print size”. Then I repeat the export process with the settings changed to export for the web. Those go into a folder called “web size”.

    9. If a client has ordered a slideshow, I use the full size images and create it with ProShow Gold and save it to the client folder as well. When I am completely done, the entire client folder is burned to one disk for my client, and one disk as a backup for me.

    by Andrea Lythgoe
AshleyMarch 31, 2013 - 8:25 am

Hi, found this link through CM! This is great, Thank you! Just trying to figure out a workflow for myself and some organization. So you have a copy of the RAW file on your computer, on your external hard drive, and on Crashplan? And then have a copy of the edited version in both web and print size in all 3 places as well?

AndreaMarch 31, 2013 - 1:40 pm

Hi Ashley!
You can read more about my backup strategy here:
http://www.maternalfocus.com/utah-birth-photographer/for-birth-photographers/only-you-can-prevent-photo-loss
I have copies of the original RAW on my EHD, Crashplan, and on a backup CD. I keep copies of the edits all three places as well, but keeping the original RAW + cataloged edits is more important to me. I can always create another .jpg as long as I have those!

__