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What do you do with different versions of your images?

calljoe

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Hello, and thanks in advance for helping this newcomer.

I've been using LR and PS for about a year, and have created a few dozen images I'm proud of. Usually I end up creating 10 or more files along the way. For example...

  • one with more blur in background, or more light on the subject, or a different color cast
  • one with a white border, one with a black one, one with none
  • .jpg exports for social media-- this one with quality 100 @ 50% of size, or 70q/100%, etc.
  • a .TIF with all layers, and perhaps a flattened one
I can't be the only person here who does this. So, how do folk manage this? Do you bring them all into Lightroom? All into the same collection? Which one(s) get the treasured 5-star rating? If you have two or more you like equally, does that change things?

Thanks again for sharing your "best practices"

Joe
Boise, ID, US
 
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Any file you can easily recreate, such as those files with borders and especially jpeg exports, can be deleted after use. There is absolutely no reason to keep these files and add them to Lightroom. Keep the other ones and stack them in Lightroom, or consider them separate originals.
 
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Some comments from me-

"Do you bring them all into Lightroom? "
Yes, every image, EVERY image, in my computer is indexed (referenced) in the Lightroom-Classic catalog.
What is the point of using LR-Classic if you do not use it for its primary purpose- and that is Digital Asset Management (DAM). If it is not 'in' Lightroom it is not managed!

"10 or more files"
Well I rarely have more than ONE physical file (now only raw file-type).
LR-Classic has the great feature of allowing Virtual Copies to be created. (Color, B&W, Blurred, Cropped, etc). I might have 4 or 5 versions of one photo as Virtual Copies, and still only have ONE physical file on my hard-drive. I can Export from any of these VCs in any size I want for different purposes. I might use a colored one for a competitions, I might use the B&W for a book. But always by a file Export that is not stored permanently- it can be exported again at any time.
When I need the extra features of Photoshop then I will have a second physical file (TIFF), and an (even more rare) third physical file, and even the TIFFs I develop in Ps with adjustment layers as much as possible to always preserve adjustments capable of changing in the future.

"two or more you like equally,"
Often happens (for different purposes). Although I usually edit for a final purpose in mind. The advantage of editing in Lightroom is to always have the ability to re-edit a photo. But for me they are usually Virtual Copies- one physical file to manage:)! And as LR has improved its editing "engine" I find I can re-edit 'old' photos for a better result. :D
 
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Every derivative (export) file that I create is done through the HardDrive Publish Service. This keeps a record of the published path and though not managed by LR like any imported image, provides a record of these derivatives.


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I'd suggest two strategies.

Lightroom is a very good digital asset manager - or catalog. Use it. Every edited image goes in LR so you can search, organize, and locate the images. Take the time to add keywords reflecting processing or other searchable terms. If you have similar images and want to keep them, consolidate them into a single stack or two.

Be sure you are taking advantage of Virtual Copies in LR. You can have versions without having multiple files. Virtual copies are essentially different instruction sets and thumbnails for a single RAW file. All of your virtual copies can be kept in a stack.

I have extra copies - small JPEG files - that I use for social media. I keep all these in a master folder on my computer, with a subfolder for each year. I synch the folders with my iPad, iPhone, and put a copy on my cloud storage. I can get to these images quickly from a range of devices, and it makes it easy to scan my portfolio and find images when I need them.
 

calljoe

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Mar 16, 2020
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Folks, thanks for the suggestions so far-- much appreciated.

I've used Virtual Copies when I've stayed in Lightroom, but usually I do most of my editing in Photoshop. (hoping that doesn't make me a heretic here.) When I save, it returns some version back into Lightroom-- a flattened one, I think. I export different versions to a folder on my drive, and then sync it to get these back into Lightroom. So everything is ending up in Lightroom-- but I've been getting stuck on how / if I organize them then.
 
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When I save, it returns some version back into Lightroom-- a flattened one, I think
No, it returns whatever you created in Photoshop. If you added layers, then you will still have those layers. It's just that Lightroom will not be able to keep these layers intact if you would export a new copy from Lightroom.
 
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Folks, thanks for the suggestions so far-- much appreciated.

I've used Virtual Copies when I've stayed in Lightroom, but usually I do most of my editing in Photoshop. (hoping that doesn't make me a heretic here.) When I save, it returns some version back into Lightroom-- a flattened one, I think. I export different versions to a folder on my drive, and then sync it to get these back into Lightroom. So everything is ending up in Lightroom-- but I've been getting stuck on how / if I organize them then.
Much of the functionality in Photoshop is now available in Lightroom. The generally accepted workflow is to shoot RAW, do as much of the editing process in Lightroom. What functionality is still needed in the image but not available in LR is then handled by editing in Photoshop As functionality has been added in LR (HFR, Merge, etc.) I find my need for Photoshop less and less. Content Aware fill and processed that benefit from layers are the main reasons that I use Photoshop at all. I estimate that perhaps 98% of my finished product is Lightroom edited only.


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So, how do folk manage this?
By not changing my basic rules and managing my whole photography workflow in one place, Lightroom.

I use PS for stuff I can't readily do in LR, so for exceptions. I don't flatten images just in case I want to fine tune them, but I might send someone else a flattened file.

Do you bring them all into Lightroom?
Yes, how else can I keep them all under control?

All into the same collection?
Not necessarily. Sometimes the Photoshopped version of a file will replace the LR-only version, usually if something has been cloned or other PS work has been done. But on other occasions the collection's purpose might mean both files remain.

Which one(s) get the treasured 5-star rating?
Generally, the Photoshopped version might get a rating one greater than its LR original, at least when I've used PS to finalize or correct a particularly-good image in some way. A good example here might be if I've needed to use PS to clone out some junk that strayed into the composition - almost as if the PS version is what the photo should have been. But when I'm doing a special treatment, a B&W or blurred background, I might set a lower rating. I suppose I treat all these versions independently for ratings, apart from the pairs of corrected/original particularly-good images.

If you have two or more you like equally, does that change things?
Not really. I rarely assign 4 or 5 stars, and consider each file individually.
 

calljoe

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Mar 16, 2020
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John, thanks for the response-- and your work. Took a look at your site, and there are some stunning images there! If you're making those-- and *not* giving out 4s & 5s-- I may need to start putting a decimal point in front of mine.




So, how do folk manage this?
By not changing my basic rules and managing my whole photography workflow in one place, Lightroom.

I use PS for stuff I can't readily do in LR, so for exceptions. I don't flatten images just in case I want to fine tune them, but I might send someone else a flattened file.

Do you bring them all into Lightroom?
Yes, how else can I keep them all under control?

All into the same collection?
Not necessarily. Sometimes the Photoshopped version of a file will replace the LR-only version, usually if something has been cloned or other PS work has been done. But on other occasions the collection's purpose might mean both files remain.

Which one(s) get the treasured 5-star rating?
Generally, the Photoshopped version might get a rating one greater than its LR original, at least when I've used PS to finalize or correct a particularly-good image in some way. A good example here might be if I've needed to use PS to clone out some junk that strayed into the composition - almost as if the PS version is what the photo should have been. But when I'm doing a special treatment, a B&W or blurred background, I might set a lower rating. I suppose I treat all these versions independently for ratings, apart from the pairs of corrected/original particularly-good images.

If you have two or more you like equally, does that change things?
Not really. I rarely assign 4 or 5 stars, and consider each file individually.
 
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One point to emphasize in the use of star ratings is CONSISTANCY. If today when I'm feeling cheery, I give a certain image 4 stars but next week that same image (or an image of similar quality) would only get a 2 rating as on that day I have a cold and am down in the dumps, then you rating system is basically random numbers. This isn't to say that an image I thought was great 5 years ago now seems mundane to me shouldn't wind up having its rating lowered but rather one should have a consistent, repeatable, and to the extent possible metric based system for assigning rating stars. Of course quality is a subjective, not objective, attribute so will always be somewhat squishy, but the more objective you can make it the better. Which brings up my first point.

Only use star ratings for one purpose. If you are using star ratings as a measure of image quality then don't also use it as a measure of where in your workflow you are and vice versa. On that point, I highly recommend that star be used ONLY as an indicator of image quality.

The second point is to devise a set of metrics or guides for what each number of stars mean to you. Put this on a 3x5 index card and tape it to the wall next to your computer for easy reference. Then each time you go into rating mode, read the list again before you start. How you define the metrics for each number of stars is of course up to you, but by writing it down and following the same set of criteria year after year will yield immense value down the road.

So, what are my criteria you may ask? Well here they are - for better or worse.

  • 0 = Unrated (new images I haven't gotten to yet)
  • 1 = Tossers (good for nothing) or Duplicates. Some people just delete the tossers but I'm a pack rat so I keep them just in case. Duplicates are images that are identical or nearly identical to other higher rated images and are usually stacked under those other images
  • 2 = OK to Post. These are images that I would not have a problem posting on my photography website. In other words i would not be embarrassed showing these to the world
  • 3 = Posted. These are images that I actually did put on my website at some point. In other words of several images that were quite similar, this one was enough better than the others that I choose it to be the one posted. If later I improve the same image with a new version and replace the original on my website, the original will be down graded to 1 star and stacked under its replacement as it is now a duplicate. However if later I am tired of the image and just choose to de-clutter my website by removing the image I leave it as 3 stars. I also leave it as a 3 if I just decide later to replace it with one of the other similar images.
  • 4 = Favorites. These are images that I like enough to enter into competitions, print and hang in gallery shows or in my living room, or perhaps put special effort into marketing them. These images also get placed into the "Favorites" section of my website and in the favorites section or album on other social media or photo sharing sites such as Flickr,
  • 5 = NGS. These are National Geographic Society magazine quality images (IMHO). In other words, in my opinion these are as good as those one sees in National Geographic. Or, another way to say it, the best of the best. Typically, I get less than a dozen of these a year and in some years only one or two.
Anyway, the point is that for star ratings to work, and add value, over time they need to be consistently applied and to do that you have to have consistent criteria for what they mean.
 

calljoe

New Member
Joined
Mar 16, 2020
Messages
4
One point to emphasize in the use of star ratings is CONSISTANCY. If today when I'm feeling cheery, I give a certain image 4 stars but next week that same image (or an image of similar quality) would only get a 2 rating as on that day I have a cold and am down in the dumps, then you rating system is basically random numbers. This isn't to say that an image I thought was great 5 years ago now seems mundane to me shouldn't wind up having its rating lowered but rather one should have a consistent, repeatable, and to the extent possible metric based system for assigning rating stars. Of course quality is a subjective, not objective, attribute so will always be somewhat squishy, but the more objective you can make it the better. Which brings up my first point.

Only use star ratings for one purpose. If you are using star ratings as a measure of image quality then don't also use it as a measure of where in your workflow you are and vice versa. On that point, I highly recommend that star be used ONLY as an indicator of image quality.

The second point is to devise a set of metrics or guides for what each number of stars mean to you. Put this on a 3x5 index card and tape it to the wall next to your computer for easy reference. Then each time you go into rating mode, read the list again before you start. How you define the metrics for each number of stars is of course up to you, but by writing it down and following the same set of criteria year after year will yield immense value down the road.

So, what are my criteria you may ask? Well here they are - for better or worse.

  • 0 = Unrated (new images I haven't gotten to yet)
  • 1 = Tossers (good for nothing) or Duplicates. Some people just delete the tossers but I'm a pack rat so I keep them just in case. Duplicates are images that are identical or nearly identical to other higher rated images and are usually stacked under those other images
  • 2 = OK to Post. These are images that I would not have a problem posting on my photography website. In other words i would not be embarrassed showing these to the world
  • 3 = Posted. These are images that I actually did put on my website at some point. In other words of several images that were quite similar, this one was enough better than the others that I choose it to be the one posted. If later I improve the same image with a new version and replace the original on my website, the original will be down graded to 1 star and stacked under its replacement as it is now a duplicate. However if later I am tired of the image and just choose to de-clutter my website by removing the image I leave it as 3 stars. I also leave it as a 3 if I just decide later to replace it with one of the other similar images.
  • 4 = Favorites. These are images that I like enough to enter into competitions, print and hang in gallery shows or in my living room, or perhaps put special effort into marketing them. These images also get placed into the "Favorites" section of my website and in the favorites section or album on other social media or photo sharing sites such as Flickr,
  • 5 = NGS. These are National Geographic Society magazine quality images (IMHO). In other words, in my opinion these are as good as those one sees in National Geographic. Or, another way to say it, the best of the best. Typically, I get less than a dozen of these a year and in some years only one or two.
Anyway, the point is that for star ratings to work, and add value, over time they need to be consistently applied and to do that you have to have consistent criteria for what they mean.
Thank you-- that's helpful, and your approach is clear. I definitely understand the subjective aspect of rating.

I've been trying to come up with a system that uses all of the available tools-- ratings, flags, keywords, collections-- to create order from chaos (ie, 30,000+ images taken in pre-Lightroom Era). It would denote workflow stage and a photo's "quality" (subjective as it is) There are three different things I've stubbed my toe on.
  • The original problem driving this post-- multiple versions and working in Photoshop.
  • The fact that images could have value in a couple different ways. A picture may be a great reminder of an event or trip-- to myself, to person(s) I shared it worth, to others who weren't there-- regardless of its aesthetic value.
  • Those image that are sub-par, but may still be useful as a background or texture.
Here's what i've come up with. Helpful feedback?
  • X. No redeeming value. Umpteenth exposure. Banish these
  • U. Could be useful element-- texture, background, etc Keyword can describe which
  • P. Potential documentary and/or standalone value. Needs some kind of work.
  • 1 Images I'm working on
  • 2. Images I'm working on that have 4 or 5 star potential
  • 3. Good enough to share , primarily to support story of a subject (an event / trip / person)
  • 4. Images can stand alone, work without context. I really like them aesthetically. say, my top 5-10%
  • 5. Portfolio. My best stuff. Doesn't need to be Nat Geo, or match what others can do. My own best (for now)
  • Collections-- Everything that is Picked or rated with a number goes into at least one
  • Keywords-- used to describe things like mood, technique (black and white) or get more granular around subject. For example, a photo in 2014 Italy trip Collection, might have keyword Assisi
  • Colors-- not really sure how/if I'll use these


Thanks again

Joe
 
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John, thanks for the response-- and your work. Took a look at your site, and there are some stunning images there! If you're making those-- and *not* giving out 4s & 5s-- I may need to start putting a decimal point in front of mine.
Thanks! I try.

Maybe take a look at this idea - » Panel end markers . The end result is quite similar to Dan's schema in that 5 is only for the very best, while 0 indicates I am keeping the picture.
 

SaraLH

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I use a similar system to those above, a combination of the different attributes: picks, ratings, colors, folder colors and Jeffrey Friedl's Folder Status plugin.

When pictures are first imported I make a pick/cull (x) run though the folder. The "x"-marked (out-of-focus, downright bad) photos get deleted and the "unpicks" stay around - sometimes I change my mind later and find something to love in a photo that I didn't see the first time. The picks (flagged) get developed and after they are developed they are marked with a color that they are edited (in my case, green) and usually either 2 or 3 stars. Two stars for photos that will get exported to the NAS for local viewing and 3 stars for export to my online photo gallery. (Very, very rarely 4 or 5 stars) And often when issuing flags on the first cut, I'll flag several views of something and decide after closer inspection in the develop process which of the set to process and then unflag or cull those I don't use.

As far as colors go, I use one color for photos that are developed with the current process version (5). The photos that were developed with version 3 are marked with yellow, and from time to time I go back and re-develop some of those older pictures. For folders I use colors to signify workflow progress. Green for "all finished", i.e., culled, developed, gps locations and gps keywords, captions and keywords applied. Yellow signfies that one of these steps is incomplete, most likely keywords, and red is applied to folders from past years that need serious work.

I've found the Folder Status plugin to be a good tool for keeping track in each folder exactly which of my workflow steps have been completed. You can make a personalized list of your workflow and check each off as it's complete.

I also use the above-mentioned Panel-end markers as a reminder for colors and stars.

And those star ratings... our subjectivity (and our abilities) does change over the years and in earlier years I was a lot more lenient about what got three stars. So from time to time I go back over older folders and rethink some of those ratings. Nothing's written in stone...
 

Roelof Moorlag

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Maybe take a look at this idea - » Panel end markers . The end result is quite similar to Dan's schema in that 5 is only for the very best, while 0 indicates I am keeping the picture.
At my Windows 10 PC it does work very nice but on my Macbook Pro it does not, rightclicking does not present a contextmenu. Does it suppose to work on Catalina (10.15.3)?
 
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Yes, I think it has gone on Mac, Roelof. I'd forgotten about that.
 
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I can vaguely remember reading that Adobe wouldn't fix a problem that had stopped it working on Mac, but not when I read it. It was well before Catalina started breaking things.
 
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