The Before and After Series

One of the things I’d like to do better is to remember (!) what kind of editing I’ve done to take a photograph from the original in-camera capture to the “final” posted image that I’ve shared or published. I’ll often finish editing and image – publish it – and come back across it months later only to wonder how exactly did I edit this photo!

In the spirit of trying to do a better job remembering, I will share some examples of the process I’ve used for photos that I’ve recently edited. The first two posts use photos taken in New York City – over five years ago – during a workshop I was fortunate to take with the great photographer Jay Maisel.

But First – My Current Workflow!

Before diving into these before and after stories, here’s a bit about my current workflow – these days I’ve moved to mostly to a mobile workflow. My “system of record” for all but my iPhone photos is Lightroom Classic. When I take one of my “big cameras” out for a day of photography, I’ll come back and import the SD card into Lightroom Classic. I will usually also setup a new collection for that day’s shoot – and sync that collection to Lightroom (not Classic – used to be called Lightroom CC until Adobe renamed it again!). The sync will result in smart previews of all of the day’s images being uploaded to the Creative Cloud where they will be immediately accessible across my mobile devices (iPhone and iPads).

Once the smart previews have synced I can get up from my desktop computer and leave it behind.

Then I’ll typically go mobile – using Lightroom either on my iPhone or an iPad to quickly review the images and decide which ones I want to evaluate for further editing. This is a delightful process! If I decide to do some editing, I’ll do that in Lightroom as well and the edits will automatically be synced back down to my desktop master photo library on Lightroom Classic. Once I’ve completed editing the photo in Lightroom, I’ll export it to my Camera Roll (using iCloud Photo Library which also syncs across all of my devices). Once the image is there, I may open it for further editing in Photos (fine tweaks usually) or open it in Snapseed on mobile where I might further refine the edits and, finally, add a border (typically a narrow black border – 12 – with a width of -20).

This workflow works great for when I’m at home. It doesn’t work as well when I’m at a remote location or attending a workshop. The current limitation Adobe has imposed is that only one Lightroom Classic catalog can sync to Creative Cloud. If I’m in the field, I obviously can’t import my SD card into my Lightroom Classic master catalog as that only resides on my desktop computer at home! So, I’ll improvise – most often using a laptop running another Lightroom Classic catalog and import the SD card there. Unfortunately, because of the single syncing catalog limitation I can’t easily upload smart previews from that mobile catalog to Creative Cloud. So I’m stuck – and confined to a laptop-based workflow for editing. Once I get home, I import that laptop catalog into my master Lightroom Classic catalog and the catalogs will be merged.

There is an alternative workflow for use in the field – that’s to use my iPhone or iPad to import images from the SD card into the Camera Roll. Once there, I can import them into Lightroom on the mobile device which will sync the full images up to the Creative Cloud. Because I’m typically shooting RAW and JPEG together, I end up using a lot of storage on my mobile device and the uploading to both iCloud Photo Library and Creative Cloud – especially of the RAW images – can take quite a while – especially if the local WiFi is poor (often the case in hotels). Apple is releasing iOS 13 in a few months which is supposed to allow direct importing from SD cards into Lightroom – bypassing the Camera Roll/iCloud Photo Library steps and that will be a big help. We’ll see how that works once it’s available!

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