It is always a good idea to have a tried & proven and established system in place to perform any repetitive task, this includes lots & lots of different things and more importantly the issue of post processing your images.

The first thing that I do once I have uploaded my original files to the computer and renamed them per my “File Naming Protocol” I will do a backup of the same files to second external hard disc drive, now that they are safely backed up, I can start to process these files at my leisure, which I will explain later on.

I currently use Adobe Lightroom for my image cataloguing, I find it easy to use and just as importantly it is also very quick, I have over a third of a million images in my library and it works fine, currently no real complaints, it is easy to import new images by simply synchronising the folders and it does the rest by itself, can’t get easier than that, by the way you can continue working while it does this too.

Anyway, once the images have been imported into the Lightroom library, I am able to bring up that folder and start viewing the images, either individually or as a screen full of small thumbnails.

I will browse these images and when I see something that I like, a simple click on it to select and press the spacebar to see a full screen version of it, if I like it, I then will give a score by pressing one of the numeric keys, I use the following numbers for my selection;

  • Press #1:    means that this image should be deleted, as it is an absolute failure, usually a shot of my foot or something simular, these will be deleted straight away or at the end of a session.
  • Press #2:     sometimes you will see an image that has something but you don’t have the time to look into it or start processing it at all, but it has something that you feel will make it a good image later once processed, these I call my seconds to comeback and view later shots.
  • Press #3:     These are the shots that I know there is something there, I usually will commence doing some post processing on them so by rating them as a three, I can come back at anytime and continue working on those files and hopefully take them forward to become a commercial image.
  • Press #4:     Once an image has been worked on and is looking really good, I will promote it to a “4”, this moves it up the chain towards an eventual release.  It still needs to be finished but is getting close.
  • Press #5:     When an image has reached this rating it is ready for release, everything has been done on it, it is now a special image that will be displayed on a wall somewhere in the world.
  • Press #9:     As I often shoot panoramas, I will mark a set of images with the rating of nine, this will mark them with a colour instead of a star rating, which can be searched later as required.

The great thing about this type of image rating system is that I can depending on my mood and the amount of time that I have to browse my image library is that it is not dependant on having to complete an entire folder, you just continue where you finished last time, or you can browse through any other folder in your library and apply the same ratings methods on the images.

Then when you are feeling creative and want to do some post processing, you simply go to your folder and filter the images with a rating of three, and you will have a grid of thumbnails to choose from to process, simple.  There is also a simpler way of doing this by creating a smart collection.

Now it is time to get to the real processing, firstly I will bring the image up in Lightroom developer module, by simply selecting the image and pressing the “D” key, I will then do some very basic editing like straightening the image, and adjusting shadows, highlights etc to see what the image is going to look like, If I think that I like what I see I will “right-click” on the image and select from the side menu to edit it in one of the optional software packages installed, currently I use Photoshop & Capture One.

If I have opened the file in Photoshop, I will follow these steps shown below, there is as it happens a method in this madness.

I use a five step process, the first step is to simply clean-up the image, by this I mean clean up the dust spots, level the horizon if it needs it, do all of the basic things that will apply to this image, I do not process this image with any  of changes at all at this stage, once done I will save this image as the first level of the image into a working folder on it’s own on my computer, this first image will be saved as the existing filename plus a letter/number combination added to the end, for example “1205010011A”.

Now that the “A” version has been saved, I can then start processing further, at each point once I have done some work on the image, I will again save it to the working folder using the same protocol I used previously but I will index the letter “1205010011B”, what this means is that this file is now a direct descendant of the “A” version of the file, I will continue to use this protocol until I reach the letter “E”, this gives me five versions of the file saved at various stages of processing.

Now here is the important bit, you may process your file and find that you have gone in the wrong direction since the “B” version of the file, so all you do is load up the B version of the file do some work on it and then save it as a “B2” version of the file (just added a number after it so as to keep it separate from the original set), followed by C2, D2 & E2, thus creating a processing path that is easy to follow.

By using this method, you can change direction at any stage and save it as a continuing set or path to the end final image, I have added a chart below to assist in the understanding of this process.  Please note that I normally do not add the number to the end of the first set, i.e. A1,A2, A3… just the letters only for the first set)

I hope that the above information is of value to you, feel free to send me an email at or simply give me a call if you would like to get more clarity on any of the above, I am always happy to help, cheers and good luck.

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