My minimalist digital workflow

My minimalist digital workflow

Workflow is a very important part of the photographic process.  When I first got into Digital Photography I didn’t really understand what all the fuss about workflow was.  Is this really that complicated of a topic?  Well it can be.   Things get messy quickly especially if you start shooting a lot and have 1,000s of files and don’t have a system for managing them.   It also has a profound impact on how quickly you work.   Everyone has their own flow that works for them.   As with everything, there is no right or wrong, just simply find a workflow that works best for you and your needs.   My approach is minimalist and simple as I am posting daily I need to be quick.   Perhaps too simple for many but it works for me.

This is a topic I get a lot of of emails on so I thought I would explain the flow I follow so I documented out my workflow for yesterday’s posting.   If anyone has suggestions for my work flow, I am very happy to hear them as I am always looking to improve.   A lot of people spend hours in Photoshop and create some really amazing images.  I am not one of those people.   I prefer to spend what little free time I have on taking photo or blogging and don’t really want to spend a lot of time inside working on my images.   I am also working to a deadline with my blog so whatever post processing I do needs to be effective and efficient.    I am also not that skilled in Photoshop so when I do decide to do things in Photoshop it takes me a while…

As I mentioned in my Free eBook How I Shoot, I shoot RAW without exception as RAW brings a lot of significant benefits such as the ability to non-dystrutive changes to things like  white balance, brightness, contrast, and a whole host of other things.  So the first thing you need to do when shooting RAW is important your photos to a RAW editor.  I use Adobe’s Lightroom for my RAW editing and management of all of my files.

My digital workflowOnce my photos are imported I quickly go through them and reject the ones I am not keeping by hitting ‘x’.   You can see them getting grayed out.  I also tend to not take a ton of photos.  I think one of the benefits of shooting a range finder is you tend to shoot less shots which really helps with your workflow…Lightroom offers lots of ways to rate your colors with stars, colors, numbers.   I find breaking them into keep/don’t keep works for me.

My digital workflow

Once I have my ‘keepers’ I rename my folder to the name of the event or blog post for the day.   My filing system in Lightroom is very straight forward, I have 4 main folders; Family, Photography, Blog and Misc.   In my blog for example, I simply have a folder for each blog posting.  Over time I will probably archive a year off but I like sorting it by post name as that is typically how I go back looking for images if I am not using the meta data to find what I am looking for.

My digital workflow

I don’t have as much free time as I would like for photography and blogging.  I get asked a lot how I am able to keep up the pace I do with the blog.   Honestly a lot of it has to do with being very focused when I am in my workflow and following a very strict workflow.  I also avoid distractions like talking on the phone or watching TV while I am doing it.   I typically do very little, if any, post processing on my photos but if I need to tweak white balance, exposure, remove dust or correct the framing of the photo if I wasn’t quite right.    Below are the main control panels in Lightroom.   There is so much you can do but I typically just use the ones I have unlined in red;

Black and White – As I am shooting in RAW if my intention is for a Black and White photo, I simply convert it to monochrome.

Exposure – If I was under or over exposed and didn’t bracket I use this to adjust my exposure.

Blacks – Rarely if I am not getting the look I want, I will increase blacks a bit.    The Leica is great at this so it’s not often I need to do this.

Contrast – I use this a bit more than blacks to improve the contrast in a photo.

Post Crop Vingetting – I use this to darken up the edges of the photos.

Other than these, I will occasionally use the crop or spot removal tools.   If I am posting up 20 pictures I will probably only touch 2 or 3 of them with Lightroom other than converting to B&W and .jpeg

My digital workflow

After I have my keepers I do some simple tagging of the meta data to make them easier to find later.    For example, this photo of the Jiyugaoka Train Station that I am putting on my blog I might tag as; blog, Jiyugaoka, Jiyugaoka Station.

My digital workflow

Once you have tagged a photo, can you easily sync across multiple photos…you can move very quickly if you are doing it as batch work.

My digital workflow

Now that I have chosen and tagged my photos…now it times to review to see if there are any tweaks needed.   I noticed I didn’t like my cropping on this photo…I actually snapped it while on the train and couldn’t get it just how I wanted it.  I like the signs to be right aligned.

Jiyugaoka StationA quick adjustment with the crop tool gives me what I want…

Jiyugaoka StationI decided to convert the last four flash photos to Black and White…

PInk Cow Shibuya

In Lightroom you simply need to click the Black and White button in develop.  I know there are a lot of enhancements you can make to improve your B&W photos but I am pretty happy with what my Leica produces.   As I was reviewing the photo I noticed I had a piece of dust or something showing up in the picture…

PInk Cow Shibuya

A quick use of the spot removal tool and all is good again…

PInk Cow Shibuya

That’s it for my workflow…  a posting of images.  Now it’s time to export them.  I don’t bother naming them as I keep everything in Lightroom to manage so I simply call them the name of the blog post and a sequence number to help me keep them in order when I upload them to my blog.   I make sure the color is sRGB so the colors are web friendly.   I choose a middle quality to keep the image size down.   I really hate going to photography sites where every photograph is 2MB and it takes forever to load.  I usually just end up leaving.  I sharpen for screen and then I am done.

You will notice I don’t put watermarks on my photos.  I know this is a heavily debated topic.  People with any reasonable Photoshop skill can remove a watermark with ease.   I let people use my photography and simply ask for a link back or a credit in return.   The image sizes I am putting up aren’t huge so you can’t do too much with them anyways.   This approach works for me and I get contacted all the time by people asking to reprint my photos and often asking for a larger size.   I suppose if this was my profession I might take a more serious approach but right now it’s a hobby and I am happy for the exposure and this approach has served me well.  I am going to play around with one of the reverse search services to see where my photos are showing up on the web.   Should be interesting.

So that’s my workflow.  If anyone is interested in the blogging aspect, let me know and I’ll considering writing that up.

Exporting Pictures from LightroomComments and feedback are always welcome.   If you like what you saw today, please share it by clicking one of the links below.   Thanks and see you tomorrow!


  • antwerpenR

    Great stuff. I love your postings. Do not know how you find time. Indeed a good workflow helps. I use Aperture but this translates ok! Yes. Would be interested to hear abou the blogging tools and workflow.

  • [Gm]

    Well, to each their own, and we definitely have different approach. You prefer to post a lot of photos in one post, while I prefer one-two photo per post. Like you said, it’s a personal preference :-)…

    I agree with your statement: “I prefer to spend what little free time I have on taking photo or blogging and don’t really want to spend a lot of time inside working on my images. I am also working to a deadline with my blog so whatever post processing I do needs to be effective and efficient.”

    However, I do it differently. I shoot less, hence I edit less, hence I upload/post less — still keeping one-day-one-post quota, though :D…

    Anyway, thanks for sharing your workflow. It always interested to see how others do this :-). Cheers.

  • Eric Parker

    thanks dave – interesting – vastly different from the way I work but I love to read workflow descriptions as there is always something to learn.

  • Dave

    How do you work Eric? Please share a little…

  • sergey

    Great post on workflow… I’ve always like the fact that you very little editing to your photos. Love the blog!

  • Dave

    Thanks Sergey… Appreciate the comment.

  • Chris Manning

    Thanks for posting this! I’m a lightroom user, but I struggle with finding a workflow that works for me and isn’t too time consuming. This looks like it might be the way to go!

  • Will Marlow

    Fantastic post. I’m sure this will be helpful to beginners and amateurs, and I can say from experience that having a sensible workflow will help ensure that you don’t waste time digging through your image archives every few months to find a needle in a haystack…

  • arefti

    Very interesting. It’s nice to see what goes on “behind the scenes”.

  • Alfie Goodrich

    Nice write-up. Dave you and I differ on the watermark issue. It’s my life, my work. And people don’t give link-backs all the time so my minimalist watermark is the only way people know the shot is mine if someone’s re-posted it without a link or name-check. My main gripe with Lightroom is that, like any product made by people other than the camera manufacturer, you never see you RAW files as nature intended them. Leica is really one of very few exceptions cos it uses DNG as a native RAW format and that’s an Adobe file system. For everyone else who isnt shooting a camera that shoots its RAWs directly as DNG, they should really have the manufacturer’s RAW software in their workflow as the difference between files opened through Camera RAW and the manufacturer’s software can be stark: different colour depth and rendition being the main one.

  • Dave

    Thanks Alfie. Good details on RAW. I will update with that information when I put in my photography section. For finding who’s using your photographs have you tried tools like TinEye or anything else to do reverse searches?

  • Dave

    Glad you enjoyed it Arefti…

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  • Simon

    great example of a workflow, 10x

  • Dave

    Thanks Simon. Glad you liked it.

  • Noah J. Katz

    Thanks for posting this. I have a workflow that works for me as well, but as you mentioned I like reading up on other way of doing things to maybe find little tidbits that might make my workflow that much better.

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  • Marvin

    I am new to photography and even fairly new to blogging. It was actually an eye opener on how other’s carry out their workflow and I must say, I learned a thing or two today. Thanks for sharing!

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  • http://www.RussWright.Net Russ Wright

    Thanks Dave, interesting to see other workflows. I use LR as well but use rating (hit 1-5 in LR) I bin the photos into groups that I later go through. If the photo doesn’t get a rating I toss it. Now I have a set of images I go through a second time to make the final selection. Generally the first pass gets me down to 10-20 % of the original. The second pass almost always happens days later when I’m a bit more distant from the shoot so I can be more objective. I rate them so only the highest get posted but some of the other images are still worth keeping in case there is interest in photos related to the ones I do post (have found people will buy multiple images – the one I posted and others that perhaps have the same subject). Way slower than your method, wish I could do it all in one pass. I think if I didn’t feel the need to keep non-posted images I could simplify the workflow. Hummm :)

    Oh, and I almost always put my watermark on the image for reasons Alfie stated.

  • Dan

    What is your take on white balance adjustments? do you leave it as shot or modify it? isn’t Leica’s out of camera white balance on the bluish side?

  • Dave

    Hi Dan – I do adjust white balance if it looks off. My Leica is usually pretty spot on with it so I don’t usually have to adjust all that much.

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  • Egon

    Love your site! Though this post has been a while I go I recently checked back to read you minimalistic flow again. I just noticed your picture export setting at 920 x 612 (240 ppi). How did you determine that? Is this the best resolution for your template? All the best from Singapore….

  • Dave

    Egon – 920 gives me the width I need for the blog’s design. I went with 240 as it gives me a reasonably high resolution image without being too heavy to load. A lot of people download my images for wall papers or whatever so i try to make sure they are good enough resolution.

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