A Concert Photography Workflow

There are many workflows, this is mine…

There are some technicalities listed here.  I’m using Photo Mechanic, Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop, Nik Collection and Alien Skin.  Most steps should transfer to other software in one way or the other.  It’s not a working instruction but a general idea on how I approach this stuff.

I basically work in four stages.

  • Importing
  • Culling
  • Developing
  • Exporting

Photo Mechanic

  1. Import
    1. I start by filling out IPTC Stationary Pad with basic keywording, the event and the location information
    2. Then I import all the cards into a folder called „cull“
  2. I cull in Photo Mechanic by using the „tag“ key, I use 5 stars for the special keepers only, no other colour or star rating, just tags.  I cull by…
    1. …sharpness, but…
    2. …moment beats sharpness any time!
    3. Repeat: …moment beats sharpness any time!
    4. …not eating the microphone
    5. …microphone not covering significant part of the face
    6. …expression (rage, excitement, inward-looking, …)
    7. …interaction between band members or audience (!!!)
    8. …silent moments happening besides the action in the front
  3. I then select all untagged images (using the filter at the top) and move them to a „rejects“ folder
  4. …Repeat 2 & 3 until happy…
  5. I geo tag all the keepers…
  6. …and add per-image keywording
  7. Then I rename images by “event-sequence”, starting from 1
  8. Finally, I drag them into the Lightroom import


  1. On import, Lightroom applies my metadata defaults (license, name, homepage…)
  2. Optionally I chose a development preset, if I have a specific look in mind.  Lightroom will apply this preset for all images during import
  3. I create the following folder structure for all my projects:

    YYYY-MM-DD - Event
            Full sized
    1. If there are several acts at one single event (e.g. a festival), I create this folder structure for every one of them below the event folder.
    2. Exports contains the final images, usually sharpened via Nik Output Sharpener (see below)
    3. Process contains images that go to Photoshop, Nik Analog Effects, Alien Skin, …
    4. Rejects gets all images that made it through the culling but not into the final exports
    5. Selects contains all the keepers that will be exported
  4. Then the images are tuned one by one.  Non-keepers go to the Rejects folder, keepers get a „pick“ flag and are moved into Selects.
  5. Images that need detail work in external programs go into Process after the developing in Lightroom is done.
    1. Images in Process will be worked on as “Copy with lightroom adjustments”
    2. The final result will be moved back to the Selects folder
    3. The original stays in Process for reference.
  6. Then comes the hard part of culling the final set down to 25-30 images.  Non-keepers go to Rejects, but don’t remove the flagging! (see below)  My final criteria are…
    1. …a good variation of views (intimate closeup, medium range, wide angle)
    2. …varying scenes, 5 “full body with guitar” shots in a full set get boring.  “Yes, I’ve seen that, move on…”
    3. …every band member must be covered.  Show some love to the drummer hidden in the back!  Don’t be a lead singer groupie, they are all part of what’s happening in front of you.
  7. Final QA before exporting
    1. Usually I set the image title to the band name
    2. Some images get an additional title that I suffix with a dash at the end.  “Some rock band – Nice moment”
    3. I recheck all meta data (copyright, keywording, titles, …)


  1. Usually I export in the sizes that correspond the export directories above.
    1.  2048×2048 is Facebook’s “high quality” setting.  At that resolution (and with the tick “high quality” in the upload dialog on the site), they mess the least with the images.
    2. 1500×1500 is for general use on the web
    3. 900×900 is for quick posts
    4. Full sized might go to the printer
  2. I have an export preset, that calls Nik Output Sharpener automatically after exporting.  I fine tune the details in the images based on some presets which I adjust manually if needed.  Images are renamed “image_title-sequence.jpg” on export.
  3. From all four folders, I create zip archives to hand them to the band, usually via a Dropbox link.
  4. I upload the 1500×1500-Version to Flickr using a Lightroom plugin.
  5. I upload the 1500×1500-Version to a new blog post on http://lamertz.pics
  6. I upload the 2048×2048 to Facebook via Browser.
  7. I upload 1 image from 1500×1500, that represents the whole shoot, to Instagram using a Lightroom plugin.

Cleaning up

  1. In the Rejects folder, I use Lightrooms “Refine Images” in the Library menu.  This flags all unmarked images as rejected, and after that unmarks all marked images.
  2. You need to be strong now:  Yes, I delete the rejected images.  “Storage is cheap” is no excuse.  I will never again look at images that I rejected multiple times in a long and thorough process.  Don’t be a hoarder.  You can do it too!  
    1. I select “Delete rejected images” in the Photo menu within the Rejects folder.  Only the images that made it through the culling and the development process and got „pick“ flags are now left in that folder.  I might pull one out of there for whatever reason later (e.g. a request „we need a yet unknown image of our bass player“ two years after the shoot), but I got rid of all the cruft.
    2. I purge all images from my Photo Mechanics folders

Final thoughts

That’s it.  I now have what I consider the best images in an well organized folder structure.

One might argue, that 25-30 pictures is a lot, and photographically, some images might be not that breathtaking (*cough*), but even with a small band, having 3 images per member plus different viewpoints and angles of the gig as a while and you’re very quick at such a high number.   In a live setting with often difficult light and no free movement to get all viewpoints, not every band member will be photographed in the best possible way, but they all deserve to have good images.  So, documenting a concert as a whole is not fine art photography.  It’s covering what happened (although it’s not „photojournalistic style“ photography, since sometimes there’s image manipulation involved).

Yet, there are always images stand out, and these go on my wall, with adequate framing.

If you have questions, suggestions or something else to say, feel free to contact me…