Production Flow organization using LR, PS and assistants

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Aug 22, 2009
Loire Valley, France
I could really use some help using LR to organize my production of scanned images.

My Current Situation:
I scan a high volume of vintage images that I need to send via Dropbox to my assistants to retouch. Right now, I have folders on my hard drive, folders on Dropbox, and then I have files in a Lightroom catalog.

My production has become a mess where it's difficult to find things because they are in different stages of retouching and in different locations. When I want to see if I have something or figure out groupings for a product collection, I have to search in 30 different folders to figure out where it is or even if I have something and new scans are not in the database. On top of that, I end up with duplicate files sometimes from exporting copies of files. It's becoming an inefficient headache to manage my production.

What I Need:
I need to have a catalog where everything has been keyworded so I know what images I have AND I need to be able to give files to my assistants and then get them back.
I usually give images in small batches as I have a constant stream of scans. I also need to know what stage each image is in. Currently, I'm using Labels for this. I have a label for Original Scan, Retouched, and Published. I thought I'd also use one for In Production or something like that to indicate it's with the assistant? I also want to give the assistant a copy of my file so that there is a back up - but I need to have the retouched image retain it's keywords.

Let's see if I can break that down into key points:
  1. Need all images in a database right after scanning so I can keyword them.
  2. I need to export a copy of each image to Dropbox in a way that retains the keywords. (This will be dribbled out - not big batches)
  3. When I get that file back I will sometimes need to replace the file I have in Lightroom, but sometimes I want both files.
  4. I need to be able to see what stage of production each image is in. (Labels?)
Really appreciate any help or any tips of where I could find information on organizing this type of image production. I used to use Canto's Cumulus database at a job I worked at, and that might be better for me - but unless the price has come down, it's very expensive having the cloud/network version.
Hi lnicole,

Lightroom by design is a single user platform so you will have to create a workflow around this limitation. From what you describe the image files will leave the control of the Lightroom catalog while being edited and then need to be reintegrated at a later time. I am also assuming here that the retouching will be done with a pixel editor and returned to you as a completely new file.

Here are a couple of ideas and strategies that may help you get started.

1. If you haven't already make sure that as you scan images and bring them into Lightroom that your image naming scheme will create unique names for each scan. Although not required by Lightroom this will be a big help when you need to assemble the work as it is completed.

2. Install Jeffrey Friedl's Collection Publisher Plug-in and use it as your method of populating your DropBox folders of the images that you release to be edited. By using collections you will automatically create a record of which images are released to which editor. Then you can publish each collection in to a separate DropBox folder. I would make these exported folders contain copies original files. This way your Lightroom catalog keeps control of all the originals.

3. The editor can now access the image files do all of the required work and when they are done put the edited files back into the same DropBox folder. Your original image files are still safely stored on you system.

4. Next use Import with the "Copy" option to bring the edited images back into your catalog and put them in the somewhere in the same folder structure as the originals. Since the file names are already unique you can simply add a suffix to each file name in the import step to indicate it is an edited file. You can also add additional metadata as part of this import to capture other information about the files or the your process step.

5. From within Lightroom you can look at the original and the modified files and determine which one you want to keep or keep both if you want.

6. After everything is safe in Lightroom and backed up you can clean up by deleting the published collection and the DropBox folder.

I hope that this helps you with your work.

One more idea:

One of our experienced contributors to this forum, John Beardsworth, has made available set of Collection and Smart Collections (Workflow Smart Collections) that define an example workflow that can be managed within Lightroom. You may be able to adapt this example to fit or at least use it as an example of how you can use collections and catalog metadata to manage your workflow.

Oh, thank you so much LouieSherwin! Those are very helpful suggestions and I'm going to carefully read the Workflow Smart Collections link. I use some of Jeffrey Friedl's plug-ins, but didn't know about that one. It might get a bit cumbersome creating so many collections - I'll have to think about how this would work, but it gives me something to think about and play with.

I spent quite a bit of time yesterday researching if there might be something else more appropriate for my workflow needs, but all the networked databases that I found are way, way too expensive. My problem is that my business is bigger than a single-user workflow, but I'm not big enough to afford the networked solutions of larger companies have so I have to try and use the tools I have in a smarter way. I even took a look at ACDsee, but from the poking around I did it doesn't feel like the keywording and collections are as robust as LR.
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