One of the most common questions received is, “how do you edit your photos?” I keep this process as simple as possible, mostly because of how many photos I edit through in a day.
On any given trip, 2,000 to 3,000 photos are taken. This means I could spend hours selecting photos, editing them, and tweaking each one. I don’t have the kind of time to do that so over the past four years, I’ve developed a concise, no-fuss photo editing process.
This process that I’m going to share is targeted only for photos taken on a DSLR and designed to be edited in Lightroom. I rarely take photos on my phone, so I have to take the time to get the photos on my computer while I travel. This editing process is one that works for me — it’s not the “end all” answer but rather a look at the steps that go into editing a photo. For yourself, you may find that there are steps you take longer on or skip entirely. Photo editing is a very personal thing.
For me, this process is all about saving time. Having a clear focus and task when opening up Lightroom has been important to my business and time management over the year. So here’s a look at my no-fuss photo editing process.
A No-Fuss Photo Editing Process
1. Choose how you’ll store your images
Where are you storing your images? I keep mine on an external drive so as not to slow down my computer and I can easily plug it in knowing I have the space to download my photos. The last thing I want is to not be able to get my photos on my computer when I need to start editing.
2. Download while doing something else
It takes a long time to download photos, especially large files, to your computer. The first thing I do when I walk in from the day is plug in my memory card and get them on my computer. I’ll do something else, like take a shower or answer emails while the photos are pulled.
3. Have an organization method
I keep my images all sorted by trip and date. So for instance, “Helsinki, Finland 7/2019”. So when I have to go back to find something, I know exactly where to look. I don’t thumb through memory cards and I can find any image I’ve taken in a matter of seconds. Process and organization are so important, get the small details in line from the start.
4. Have a specific task and get them into Lightroom
If you have a blog, social media, or website, you’ll find you need to edit photos for different tasks. For instance, I will grab a collection of images for IG stories — so all I am doing is editing for that. I’m not editing photos for future blog posts, IG posts, or anything else. I pull my selects that I know I want for one specific task. Once you have the collection you want, pull them into Lightroom or store in Lightroom, depending on how you organize your images.
5. Make quick decisions on what photos you want to edit
You can’t edit each select from let’s say a set of 30 photos from one location. Select a few, maybe 3-5 good ones that you can choose from later. This part here requires quick decision making as often it’s easy to get stuck flipping back and forth between images that often look all the same. I find that very frequently the first two-five images and the last two-five images are my best because of this: the first set of images were probably what caught my eye or prompted me to snap a photo, so there’s something organic in it. The last set of images often represent a more calculated and tweaked camera setting as I’ve probably changed my exposure comp meaning the photo is taken with balance. Select down, star the images you want to edit, and start editing.
6. Batch edit with presets
If I’ve shot at one location, I’ll edit the first photo to the tones I like and then copy and paste that edit to any of the other selects — I’m always looking for ways to save time. Presets are always applied — I specifically edit with these to maintain a quick process. Sometimes the photos have to be tweaked from a preset and that’s okay. Some photos do require more editing than normal but most of the time I aim to do the work with my camera rather than post in Lightroom.
Some other tips that help the editing process are having a clear idea of tones you want to enhance, so for me, I always mute my oranges and greens, so I go straight to the HSL panel and tweak. I know my highlights are muted, so I check that dial as well. Editing frequently in Lightroom will get you comfortable and over time, make it easy to look out for specific fixes.
(Here are my presets that are available for sale.)
Once you’ve edited a photo, export it to wherever you’re storing images. For me, it goes back into the folder with that location and date. From there, I airdrop from my computer straight to my phone when I need images for social. Airdrop is a quick way to get a photo on your phone from your computer.
8. Other helpful tips
It takes time to develop a process that works for you. The general flow of what I’ve described above is all about process and it works for me. I don’t want to be spending hours editing photos, I have other jobs to do in the day, so I’ve really focused on being concise with this part of my business. Finding a process that works for you is all about what you enjoy — maybe you enjoy editing individually and that’s okay!