How Long Should it Take to Edit My Pictures?

by | Jun 3, 2015 | Tips & Tricks | 2 comments

I spent a good amount of time editing pictures yesterday.

My Grandpa had a 90th birthday celebration and there was a lot of family in town. Now that’s an event to pull the camera out for! I tend to be selective with my picture taking, but I still took over 250 pictures in the time that we were together. I suppose a lot of that had to do with the fact that there were lots of little kids running around. 🙂 It really was a blast!

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But, I got to asking myself, “how much time should it take to edit pictures when you have boatloads of pictures of an event?” Or how about multiple events back to back?

In my honest opinion, I think the essence of the answer to this question is: editing pictures should take as long as necessary, but as quickly as possible.

It used to take a long time to develop a roll of film simply because it was necessary for it to take a long time. But it was done in as efficiently a manner as possible so the appropriate deadlines could be met. Today, in the digital world, it’s still important to take the time to get pictures looking nice and presentable. Editing pictures should take as long as necessary. But there are still deadlines, so figuring out creative ways to make editing go as quickly as possible, has always been part of the photography experience for me.

Here are a few things that I usually implement when I have boatloads of pictures to edit that I help me stay efficient in my photo editing:

1. Keep an “editors” mindset

I know I have used the word “edit” very loosely up to this point, but sit back and think about what the word “edit” really means. “Edit” can literally mean to “cut material”. It can also mean “correcting errors” which is what we generally use the term for fixing up our pictures to make them look nice. However, “correcting errors” is probably better termed as “processing”: following a series of actions directed toward a specific aim of fixing up my pictures to make them look better. So, when you think of yourself in the position of a “photo editor” who is removing content to pick only the best pictures, then it really helps to reduce the amount of work you end up having to process later. Just think about it. The less pictures you have to process the less time it will take. Becoming more efficient in post-processing has a lot to do with having an editors mindset.

Out of my 255 pictures of this event, I narrowed it down to 73 that I thought were really worth processing. And of those 73, there were less than 20 that really captured the event well, and were sharp, in focus, emotionally expressive, composed well, etc. So, I can really increase my time efficiency by having an editors mindset and ruthlessly cutting away all but the best.

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2. Use presets

I have several presets that get applied to every single picture when they’re imported into Lightroom. These presets encompass file-naming, metadata info and automatic develop settings. When there’s information I want added to every picture, or an edit I find myself making over and over to all my pictures, then having it automatically applied during import really saves a lot of time in the long run. I always tweak the develop settings after import, but the starting line is usually a whole lot closer to the finish line than if the preset hadn’t been applied in the beginning.

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3. Synchronize settings

Using Lightroom, there are many settings you can synchronize between pictures. When I’ve processed a picture to how I like it, I look to see if the next few pictures are under similar lighting conditions or not. If so, then I can synchronize the develop settings to get those pictures closer to what looks best faster. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but it can sure save a whole lot of repetitive clicking.

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4. Follow a consistent post-processing pattern

Over the years, I’ve figured out what works best for me as the most efficient post-processing workflow, every step of the process from import to export. When I’m under a deadline, I stick to this workflow to help me get through the pictures as fast as possible. At import, I make sure all my presets are being applied. Once imported, I add the specific location metadata to all the pictures (I don’t have a GPS-enabled camera yet). I then use Lightroom’s flagging system to heavily “edit down” the pictures to only the very best. Those are the only pictures that get processed. If I have time, I flag/star/rate/keyword/add to collections as necessary. Then I export them, using presets again. I don’t follow this workflow all the time, but it’s what I default to when I find myself under in a crunch!

Well, I hope this gives you some ideas for how you can more efficiently process your boatloads of pictures so you can get more of them out for people to see!

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  1. Dani M.

    That was very helpful. I don’t have Lightroom or Photoshop- I do have Gimp, but I’m not certain that it works the same way. What presets do you like to use?

    I love the picture of the little girl and the bubbles. I love ‘bubble’ pictures- I have several from a wedding last year.

    • James Staddon

      Hey, that would make a great question for the forums! I’m not super skilled with Gimp, so that’s why I rely on the guys on the forums who know it better than I do. 🙂


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