Photo management and workflow

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IPhoto or LR

I’ve been using Adobe Lightroom for processing pretty much all the images I shoot for about a year or so. Prior to Lightroom I was using iPhoto (for importing, selecting, and managing) and Photoshop (for processing). I still use iPhoto for managing my photos, but I import and select with Photo Mechanic, and process with Lightroom, and occasionally Photoshop for personal “family” snaps; and Lightroom, and often Photoshop for personal “arty” work.

Sounds complex doesn’t it? That’s because it is.

Since I started with Lightroom I’ve been researching on and off how I can keep iPhoto around for general use (syncing with iPhones, emailing pics to people, etc), but use the tools in Lightroom for most of my editing. I like iPhoto because it is familiar and because all our photos to date — going back years — reside in its database.

More recently I’ve been importing and selecting images with Photo Mechanic, which is fast but a bit clunky, and moving the selects over to Lightroom for editing and export. Once I’ve exported the final edits, I import them into iPhoto and therefore into our long-standing database. But there’s a big problem with this: often I don’t have time (or motivation) to select and edit a series of photos at the time I import them. I want to get them off the card, back them up, and work on them another day. So where do these photos sit?

Now that I have a new Mac on the way, I want to get this all sorted.
I want to simplify my process.

I’ve been researching pretty hard the last couple days to see what others are doing, and I’m not finding many examples of people using both iPhoto and Lightroom; which makes sense seeing they’re both databases.

Most people serious about their photography are using Lightroom (or Aperture) instead of iPhoto. That is, when they want to look up those family photos of that trip to that city, they’ll bust open Lightroom and look them up. But to me it feels as though they’re using Lightroom for the wrong purpose. I see it as an image editing application — like Photoshop — and not a photo management application — like iPhoto. You bring photos into LR, process them, and export them, never to be seen inside of LR again.

But I think I’m wrong.

I dunno.

It’s doing my head in.

Maybe I just need to spend more time in Lightroom’s management area to get comfortable with the idea of having our photos reside there. The more I think about it the more I feel I should to demote iPhoto from being anything more than an repository of edited and finished mid-res JPGs imported from Lightroom, and an easy way to automatically fill our iDevices with our photos[1. As an aside, I’ve only realised how great it is to have the photos we’re likely to show people on our iPhones since we got the 64GB iPhone 4S :)].

I have a week or so until my Mac arrives. We’ll see what happens…


I’m going to give this a go:

Import all photos from now on into Lightroom for selecting and editing. Once culled and edited, full-sized holiday/family jpgs will be exported into iPhoto via a plugin/extension as the ‘final’ family pics. The original RAW files will be deleted[2. I know this might sound crazy, but with full sized JPGs I’ll always have a printable version in iPhoto, and to date I can’t recall needing to print an old file more than a handful of times].

More artistic personal work will be kept in the Lightroom database. I haven’t worked out what to do once I’ve worked on an image in Photoshop (which I do with all of my images so far). From Photoshop I export a full-sized JPG for general use, and a small-size JPG for uploading to Flickr. These files live in a separate folder away from Lightroom and are regularly backed up.

Should I bring them back into Lightroom for management and easy searching? Can I bring multi-hundred-megabyte — sometimes gigabyte plus — images back into Lightroom?