LR004 - Use Lightroom Smart Collections & Keywords for Workflow
Use Lightroom Smart Collections & Keywords for Workflow
In this blog I describe how to use a combination of metadata and keywords with Lightroom Smart Collections to manage post processing workflow. The idea is that for each step in my workflow I have a Smart Collection that tells me how many, and which, images still need that workflow step to be performed.
What is Workflow?
So, what is Workflow (WF)? This is a term that was coined in the dark annals of time and has been variously applied to many different disciplines and fields of work. But, it really means nothing more than a sequence of steps you follow to achieve a result. In photography we tend to have different workflow for different phases of our photography. For example, you may have a mental workflow you use while shooting (determine subject, checkout different compositions, decide exposure settings, etc.). You may have another WF for managing your images while on the road (each night: copy memory cards to lap top, make backup copy on external drive, put full memory card in Red box, etc.). But the workflow I’m going to talk about today is the post processing WF in Lightroom.
Let me start with some assumptions.
I think it will help the discussion if we use a specific WF example, and for lack of something better, we’ll use my basic WF. Of course yours will be different but the same techniques can be applied. My post processing workflow goes like this:
In this blog I’m not going to provide all the details for each step but rather use selected steps to demonstrate the concept so that you can adapt the technique to your specific needs.
Not too long ago, as I was reviewing old images, I discovered that many images missed one or more steps in my workflow. For example, some images didn’t have any subject keywords, or were not GeoTagged, or I forgot to upload them to Flickr. So, I decided to come up with a way to easily see what images were missing which WF steps by using of a combination of Smart Collections and “special” KW’s.
As you may have figured out by now (or read about in a previous blog) I have sets of keyword hierarchies where the highest level in each set is the name of a class, or group, of KW’s as shown below. You should note that you do not need to be as expansive in your KW’s as I am. If you’re just starting I suggest having one KW set for subject and one for location. Then if you follow the suggestions in this blog add a set for Workflow. Later you can add more as you find the need.
For each WF step, my goal is to have a visual way to see if there are images missing that step and with a single click make those images my working set so I can perform the missing action. I decided to do this with Smart Collections and as you’ll see I also added some special WF related KW’s.
Using Smart Collections as a Workflow control Panel
A “Smart Collection” is not much more than a saved “filter”. If you click on one in LR, your working set of images becomes those images that meet the filter requirements at that moment in time. You do not need to add or remove images from Smart Collections because the images in the Smart Collection are based on the rules you established for that Smart Collection.
For example, you can create a Smart Collection to show you all the images that have a rating of 3 or more stars and were taken with a certain camera. As you add or remove stars from photos they automatically come and go from the Smart Collection. The filtering criteria in a Smart Collection can be quite complex employing multiple levels of nested true/false criteria (Boolean Logic) but for my purpose I started simple and then added more nuance bit by bit.
Here’s what my “Smart Collection” Workflow Control Panel looks like. These are all just Smart Collections which I grouped into 3 sections; Editing steps, Publish steps, and Unpublish steps. If you look at the edit group you can quickly see that 12 images are missing “shoot” name, 12 are missing location info, 28 have yet to be stacked, etc. If I click on one of these smart collection names it shows me the culprit images in the grid. Now that I have this, I no longer need to be all that careful about the order I do my steps and I also don’t have to keep track of my steps on paper.
When thinking about all of this, it came down to two situations.
Case 1 - Available Standard Metadata
If you take another look at my WF steps, we can identify those where there is already Metadata that can be used to determine if a particular WF step was done or not on any particular image. Below are my WF steps where this is the case.
Case 2 – No Available Standard Metadata
Now, for some WF steps it may turn out that there is no standard metadata which can indicate if the step was done or not. For example has the image been considered for stacking (regardless of star ratings). In these cases you will need to create a keyword to indicate if the step has been done or not. The keyword can either be designed to indicate that the step was done, or can indicate that the step was not done.
When I had “stacking” as a separate step I created a Keyword called “Needs-to-be-Stacked” and applied this keyword using a preset when I imported images. Then I just removed the keyword when I did the stacking or choose not to stack the image. By doing this I could then use that keyword in my smart collection. I could have called the keyword “Has-been-stacked” and then assigned it to images when I did that step. Either way we can use that keyword to know if the step was done or not.
So, let us take some specific cases as examples and see how to build the Smart Collections
Even though I sometimes perform this step outside of LR and sometimes using the Map Module inside of LR, I can use LR metadata to tell me if it’s been done or not by seeing if the image has or does not have GPS coordinates associated with it. To do so, I set up a Smart Collection like this to check if the GPS coordinates are missing.
As soon as I created this Smart Collection LR promptly informed me that I had 15,274 images that were missing Geo Tags.
Whoa! Over 15,000 images without GeoTags, what’s going on? Well, Geo-tagging is a relatively new thing and I’ve only been doing it since 2011. As it turns out I have over 15,000 images that preceded my use of GeoTags. I may or may not ever go back and add GeoTag information to these old images, but for now I just want to see images newer than 2011 that are missing the GeoTag info. So, I modified the Smart Collection like this.
Now I can see in the Smart Collections Panel that I have 332 recent photos that still need to be geo tagged. If I click on this highlighted smart collection I’ll actually see those 332 images in the grid and filmstrip.
But wait a minute; in this 332 there are some images that really are not the type that should have GPS coordinates at all. For example, I have some images of a poster advertising a show in which I have some images. In another case I have an image that is a composite of images taken at several different locations. GPS tags for these images just don’t make sense.
To solve this problem I created a Keyword in a new KW Section I named “11-Workflow”. I then added a KW into this hierarchy called “WF-B GeoTag Not Needed” and applied it to those images that don't need a geo tag. But now this required another rule in the Smart Collection to not show images with this KW. So I updated it to take this new KW into account. Now the Smart Collection uses 3 factors: Missing Geo Tag Coordinates, After 12/31/2010, and doesn’t have the “WF-B Geotag not needed” KW.
Now I see only those images that need Geo Tag attention without any other actions on my part. As images are Geo Tagged, they are automatically removed from the Smart Collection.
TIP: When I reference a KW in the smart collection rules, I only use the “WF-x” part of the KW name. The reason is that rule data fields in Smart Collections are space delimited. This means that if I used the entire keyword “WF-B GeoTag not Needed” then it would filter on each word separately which could easily wind up giving incorrect results due to other uses of those extra words. But, I’m sure no other KW’s contain “WF-B”. Another added benefit of just using a “code’ at the beginning of these KW’s is that I can change the rest of the text without affecting the smart collections. So, for example, I could change “GeoTag Not Needed” text to “Ignore Missing GeoTag” and the smart collection would not care.
“Location” related Keywords,
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