Checklist For A Basic Editing Workflow - Daniel Livingstone Photography
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Checklist For A Basic Editing Workflow

Checklist For A Basic Editing Workflow

No matter what project I’m working on, whether it be a fashion photoshoot, client event, or even personal work, I make sure to have a clear and comprehensible workflow the second the final image is taken. This is my personal checklist as a professional photo editor.


Before I even begin to look at any of my images, I need to make sure that they’re all organized in the right place. This means I need a folder on the correct hard drive with a designated naming convention and at least one backup of the entire thing. Ideally, I would have one backup off-site and one on.


Once my organization is complete, I begin to import my photos into a catalog system like Adobe Lightroom or Phase One’s Capture One. I personally prefer Adobe Lightroom because of how simple the Library and Develop tools are. The next step is rating and tagging photos. This allows me to quickly sort my images based on several factors. My personal system goes as follows:


0 Stars: The photo won’t be touched

4 Stars: Previous 5 stars that don’t make the final edit

5 Stars: Images that are definitely going to be edited and/or retouched



Depending on the project, my basic adjustments are going to vary depending on the exposure and scene. This is pretty much true for all my Lightroom adjustments. For the “Basic” panel, I typically lower the highlights and raise the shadows to bring out some extra dynamic range in the image. A slight contrast boost also helps the image pop.


When it comes to presets, I’m typically against using other people’s preset settings for Lightroom. I don’t have an issue with presets in theory, but I also don’t think they should be relied on. It’s important to know how to control Lightroom’s adjustment settings before slapping on pre-baked edits. I do have my own presets that I use to quickly edit, however, they don’t modify the “Basic” tab at all. They serve more as color palettes for the image to give me an idea of different moods I can play with.

After the general lighting and color settings are established, I can focus on more specific things like crop, straightening, profile corrections, and so on. 


If I take an image into Photoshop for retouching, I have a very specific workflow for my layer order.  The first step in Photoshop is always duplicating your background layer to have an emergency backup within your document. From there, I will edit small blemishes, flyaways, and other minor details before moving on to Frequency Separation and skin retouching.

The first half of my retouching involves layers that are “pixel-based.” They are the bulk of the retouching and actual manipulation of what’s photographed. I usually group these layers into a folder titled “Retouching.” The second half is comprised of adjustment layers like Curves and Hue/Sat that are all named and grouped accordingly. These go into a group titled “Light & Color.”

My final steps in Photoshop pertain to the specific job I’m working on. This can include cropping, changing the aspect ratio, resizing, and other formatting needs per project along with saving the master copy as a PSD in the “Edited” folder next to the original RAW files.

To see the final result of this guide, check out the link for my Southwestern Summer Editorial. If you’d like to know more about digital workflow and data management, I offer both remote and on-site tutorial sessions. Send me an email so we can talk!

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