6 tips for a Faster Editing & Processing workflow for Event Photography

One of the demands of concert photography can be a fast turnaround. With music photographers often feeding social media, there's a demand by clients for images as soon as possible. This need might take the form of dropping images of an artist within an hour of their set finishing at a music festival, or same night edits after a concert.

Looking for a faster photography workflow? Here are 6 tips to cut down on editing time and speed up your workflow for faster delivery.

In this article, we'll look at common bottlenecks for workflow speed and how you can make improvements at every step of your process.

Wireless Transfer + Dedicated Live Photo Editors

For events where the fastest possible turnaround is possible, wireless FTP will deliver the fastest results. No more card runners. Images are captured and transmitted wirelessly to an FTP server or other networked storage.

Combine wireless FTP with dedicated photo editors working in real time as photographers create images, images may be processed seconds after they are made. This is done most notably in professional sports where images may hit social minutes or even seconds after a game changing play.

This wireless setup is specific to high end production teams with the budget to pay for the tech and infrastructure of a robust wireless system. It also relies on photo editors, either on site or remote, who are monitoring an image stream in real time. It's out of the realm of must photographers to employ, but worth noting as we're discussing the fastest workflows.

Photography Workflow Speed Hacks for the Rest of Us

For the rest of us editing our on images either in the field or on-site, we'll explore more common ways of speeding up your workflow.

Speed improvements include:

  • Optimizing your image making
  • Faster memory cards
  • Using faster local storage
  • Faster software (Photo Mechanic)
  • Optimizing Lightroom for Speed
  • Lightroom Presets

You'll notice that faster computers are not included in this list, but that's a given. If you know your computer struggles with editing and processing photos, a newer, faster computer will almost always help. The focus of this article is to look at some other, less common solutions to common problems of slow photo workflows.

CFexpress cards are among the fastest memory cards available now. Delkin Black 128 GB cards are the fastest available CFexpress cards. Faster memory cards means faster downloads means faster edits and delivery.

1. Optimize Your Shooting Workflow

A faster editing workflow starts with optimization of your image making and photography at the time of capture. A few strategies to consider:

Make fewer images

This is pretty simple, but so are some of the best solutions. When you need to have a very quick turn around of images, limit your shooting to the as close to the minimum needed to cover your shotlist or assignment.

Focus on variety over volume

Elaborating on the above, focus on creating images that are as different as possible from each other. This will focus on shifting your editing to focusing on picking between the right individual moments, rather than similar images of the same moment.

Lock/protect/rate images as you go

As you shoot, make it a habit of locking or rating images on the fly. Most photographers regularly review images, particularly after high key moments. Use this opportunity to lock or rate images that stand out. On import, you can then review these images first, which can result in massive time savings when editing.

When combined with software like Photo Mechanic by Camera Bits, which can download locked and rated images first, this is the foundation for an extremely fast workflow hack.

2. Use Faster Memory Cards

Using fast media can be a first step in a faster workflow, but not in the way you might think. Of course, using fast memory cards allows clear images quickly from the camera's buffer more quickly.

However, using memory cards with fast read speeds also allows for faster image downloads.

CFexpress cards current top out at 1760 MB/s with top performers like the Delkin Black 128GB cards. Compare this to top read speeds of 300 MB/s with the highest performance SD UHS-II cards.

In practice, I've found that XQD and CFexpress cards download twice as fast as comparable SD cards. The faster you can download cards, the faster you can cull, process and deliver images.

Shaving minutes off your workflow may not mean much for day to day photography, but this article is about achieving the fastest workflows. For events were live editing is occurring during a concert or festival, minutes matter. If you want to speed up your workflow, buy the fastest cards you can afford as well as a reader that can support their performance.

3. Use Faster Local Storage

Using fast local storage is the best option. SSD will give you the best speed and performance overall.

If you use RAID or NAS for your workflow, you may want to consider working first off solid state drives, then transferring your images to the external storage for archiving. RAID and NAS setups are excellent for redundant safeguards, but suffer in terms of pure read/write speeds.

For event photography and the fastest performance for editing, working off a single, fast drive will give you the best results. While I'm on the go, I'll work of my MacBook's internal SSD or use SanDisk Extreme SSDs. These small, portable drives are ridiculously fast and the go-to for most tour photographers I know.

SanDisk also has new SanDisk Extreme Pro SDDs that are even faster at up to 2000 MB/s read/write speeds vs the 1050 MB/s speeds of the previous generation Extreme drives.

The same goes for networked storage like a server, particularly if multiple people are connecting to the same system. Work locally, then transfer files in bulk at the end of an event.

4. Use Faster Editing Software

Faster editing and faster selects happen at the speed of software. If your software takes time and processing power to preview images, you're being slowed down. Adobe Lightroom and Bridge want to render their own previews from the RAW data by default. You can generate previews in batch, but it takes more time and processing.

The best solution to faster editing is Photo Mechanic. This software reads the built-in JPG of RAW files and loads images instantly. As a result, you're never waiting for images to load before making a selection. If there's one recommendation I can make to speed up your photography workflow, it's using Photo Mechanic.

You can more more in depth about by Photo Mechanic is my choice for ingesting and selecting images. Only after selects are made do I import images to Lightroom.

5. Optimize Lightroom for Speed

There are a number of optimizations you can make to Lightroom. We'll look at two: optimizing catalogues and optimizing the overall software performance preferences.

Individual Lightroom Catalogues are Faster

Creating individual Lightroom catalogues is a great step toward optimization. This creates lighter, smaller catalogues that have fewer liabilities and fewer assets to manage. Remember, Lightroom is not just an image browser but cataloguing that indexes and manages the metadata of every image in it, as well as all the sidecar data of RAW adjustments.

Lightroom runs best when catalogues of fewer than 10,000 images. Even better, create new catalogues for each event or concert.

Lightroom Performance Preferences

You can change a few simple settings in Lightroom to get better performance. These settings are in Performance section of the preferences pane.

One easy settings adjustment you can make is to increase the size of your cache beyond the 5GB default. If you consistently have a large volume of free space on your internal drive (or fast attached drives), this is an easy change. For today's large RAW files, 25-50GB cache may be more appropriate than the default 5GB.

Read more about how to optimize your Lightroom Catalogue in this informative Petapixel article by DL Cade. If you use other processing software like Capture One, the same philosophy applies.

One note: even with optimizing Lightroom, I still recommend Photo Mechanic as stand alone editing software. It's just that good.

6. Lightroom Presets — Processing and Export

Using presets can speed up your photography workflow massively. We'll look at two kinds of presets that can improve your workflow: processing and export.

RAW Processing Presets

Whether you process for a very toned look or make more neutral adjustments to your images, having a preset will save you time.

If you're like me, at the very least, you make basic adjustments to most of your RAW images. A little increase to exposure, bump to contrast, bring down the highlights, increase the shadows, and a little S-curve to tone curve.

While I can make these adjustments in under 5-10 seconds, I have a basic preset that includes a base starting point helps shave off valuable seconds to every image. Then, I can focus on aspects of the image that do need more particular focus like color and white balance.

Export Presets

You likely have export resets set for your common image delivery formats. If not creating new export presets in Lightroom can help automate common tasks, particularly if you need to export multiple batches of images.

For music photographers, it's common for clients to have their own export requirements, whether it's for their own delivery or for creating consistency as with a festival media team.

Summary for Faster Photography Workflows

I hope that some of these tips can be easily incorporated into your workflows. From software to approach, there are ways big and small that can improve the speed of your workflow. A workflow is ultimately a series of individual steps. Finding efficiencies at every step add up to reduce time.

I'd encourage you to look at your own workflow to see what your biggest pain points are. Are they slow software? Time spent processing images? Exporting images?

Some fixes are easy to identify, such as a slow computer. But I hope this article has given you some other less obvious ways to find small efficiencies in your workflow. For event photography, concerts photography and other fast paced genres, seconds and minutes in your workflow can add up to dramatic effect.