You are going to spend more time processing your photographs than you did taking them!
Post production or processing of your images is at least as important as setting up and taking the photographs.
Firstly transfer your images from the card in the camera to your fastest hard drive. You can let lightroom handle the import of photographs but I like to organise things myself as I have many many thousands of images to deal with on a regular basis.
Once in lightroom, import the images. Lightroom will detect that your drive is of a sufficient speed and will not make duplicates of the files but will instead import them in place.
Now is the time to go through your images one by one and either reject them from your list or select them by giving them 1 star. At this stage you are not applying any corrections to the files. You are simply selecting the ones with acceptable framing, lighting and focus. I generally do not like to spend more than 1 hour per 1000 images doing this so you will only look at each image for a few seconds before deciding and moving on.
Once you have a final selection of images, filter the images lightroom shows by: star rating – 1 star!
You will go through them again. This time selecting the best shots from each setup. Don't choose more than one of each setup. It is your good eye which will make the final gallery interesting and of a high quality. Repetition of shots is boring. If you really love two shots that are very similar then of course, choose them both but try to keep your second selection very exclusive. Mark all of these photographs as having 2 stars.
Now I like to rely on another piece of software to further prepare the images for correction. DxO optics pro has the best high ISO noise reduction I have encountered.
With DxO installed select all of the photographs which have 2 stars in Lightroom and there will be a new option in the File menu to export them all to DxO. Doing this will take less than a minute and the images will all appear in a newly opened instance of DxO. Many people like to use DxO for the complete process and this is certainly a good option but one that I have not yet switched to completely as I like a lot of the organisational abilities of Lightroom. DxO is very capable though so do not hesitate to use it exclusively if you feel it can work for you.
Because I will be performing all of my corrections other than noise reduction in lightroom, I now remove all possible corrections from the images in Dx0 but set up Prime Noise reduction on all of them.
They are now ready to transfer back to lightroom which you can do by selecting all of the images and press the “transfer to lightroom button” allowing you move copies of them all with the new noise reduction applied back to lightroom.
This can take a long time (several hours for a few hundred photographs). Once they are all transferred you can close DxO and move back to lightroom where these new copies of all your processed images will displayed.4
I would now apply a basic preset - which I create altering some standard settings in order to test the limits of an images dynamic range - to every image.
I create a general preset which I will describe in a future guide specific to post production of images and go through each image changing the look and feel. Straightening horizons, fixing chromatic aberations, barrel distortions, colour temperatures and many other settings which lightroom makes very light work of.
Any photographs with unacceptable focus may be removed at this point unless you decide they are interesting enough to ignore slightly imperfect focus. Be harsh! Any photographs with any part of the animal missing would be good candidates for removal, a missing paw or the tip of a tail is enough for me to reject a photograph!
As you go through this process mark the photographs with either 3 or 4 stars. 3 stars for a good photograph, 4 stars for a great photograph. Hopefully you will have enough 4 star photographs at the end to send your client. If not you may have to go back through and review the 3 star photographs to choose a few that you feel may be appropriate to show a good gallery to the client.
Once you have a final selection of 4 star photographs go through them again. This time be as harsh as you can and only mark photographs that you decide are excellent with 5 stars. This list of 5 star photographs are the ones you will export as full sized jpegs to give to your client.
Congratulations! You are ready for the rather nervous process of showing them to your client. It is often best to have a website dedicated to showing these images so that you can decide the order of the images yourself.
I use smugmug as it has a quick, clean and efficient way to show clients the photographs then download them when I allow. There are many other image hosting websites that are simple to create galleries with and do a great job!
Many people would at this point choose to put a watermark with their name in order to restrict the usability of any images someone may steal. I would normally not have a watermark on my images. I think they are simply too distracting and spoil the photographs for the client who has already paid for your time.
I set the website to restrict the resolutions at which they can be displayed. If people are going to steal your images there is not a lot you can do to stop them beyond reducing the resolution to something they would be unable to use commercially. It is a slightly controversial area but my reasoning is that people who are going to do this were never going to pay for the images anyway and if they distribute the images in any way it is just further exposure for my photographs.
Previous: Taking a shot