If you are using a RAW-Konverter like Lightroom, Capture One or On1 Photo Raw you might ask yourself, why you should use the Photography Toolbox in addition to these tools. That is a very valid question and one I would have not had an answer to for a long time until I questioned my workflow lately in order to make my photography more efficient, meaning, spending more time with taking photos and editing my best photos and give less time to my not so good images.
And to get that out of the way first: I wrote about using Photography Toolbox in conjunction with your RAW-converter and that is exactly its purpose. The Photography Toolbox aim not to replace the need for a RAW-Konverter, but it will help you to only use your best images with your RAW-converter and it also will add some missing functions that your RAW-converter does not have. It might also help some people to ease the switch from Lightroom to a RAW-converter with less organisational functions.
But now let’s really dive in, why you should use the Photography Toolkit.
What is your keeper rate?
Have you ever asked yourself that question? Keepers are those images from a trip or photo-session that
- you really care about,
- you will edit,
- go into a photo book
- you will publish on social media
With my images I consider keepers all images with 3 stars or more. In my workflow I go through the following steps to get star ratings for each image:
- Go through all images and rate those with potential with 1 star
- Go through all 1-star images and rate those with more potential with 2 stars
- Go through all 2-star-images and eliminate duplicates or similar images to only select the good images and give those 3 stars
- Edit all 3 star images
- Go through all edited 3-star-images and give those worth publishing in a photobook 4 stars
- Go through all 4-star images and give those that are my best images of the current year 5 stars
Every time I go through the (remaining) images I tend to sort out between 50 and 60% of them. That means, that when I am finished rating 3 stars I am left with 10-15% of my original images. In other words: between 85 and 90% of my images will never be edited, published in a photo book or going on my website.
To see that number was very impressive when I did the math for the first time. But it made sense and being strict about sorting out images is very important to keep the work managable.
When I realized, that I only work with 10-15% of my images it came to my mind, that this also means, that the import into Lightroom for 85-90% of my images was just a waste of time.
In addition: every year I used to export all images with less than three stars out of Lightroom to an external drive to keep my Lightroom catalog from getting too big.
The import time as well as the export time could be saved, if I would select my images before importing them into Lightroom. Also Lightroom is not the fastest application on earth and it would be nice to have a faster program for culling images. It was around that time, that I read the following article from the website of the FastRawViewer-Tool: Is it worth to cull with a RAW-converter?
This article gives an interesting fact: Lightroom is and probably never will be marketed as a Tool to cull photos. Instead it as marketed as an organisation- and editing-software. So this article pointed me in the direction to try culling my photos outside of Lightroom and import only my keepers.
There are a couple of tools that can do that job for you, namely:
- Photo Mechanic =>probably best known, but expensive and in some ways also very complex to master
- Adobe Bridge =>simple and free, but with very limited functionality beyond culling
- FastRawViewer =>fantastic viewer and very good for culling, but with no additional features
I tried Adobe Bridge and FastRawViewer, and both tools where good, but they also lacked some functionalities and none of them fixed some of the missing features in Lightroom, like automatic keywording, commited reverse geocoding to image metadata, use of multiple keyword sets, flexible importfolder-structures etc.
The Photography Toolbox tries to take the best approaches from all these programs and combine them into a simple, yet powerful tool to prepare your images for a RAW-converter. One of the main goals was also to build it as a small and fast as possible compared to the sometimes sluggish feeling of Lightroom.
What you should do with the Photography Toolbox
To make use of the full potential of the tool, you should perform the following tasks with the Photography Toolbox:
- Importing images from you memory card to your computer/your external drive
- Rename your images
- Correct times and dates
- Cull your images (give Ratings and Labels to them)
- Keyword your keepers
- Combine your images with GPS-data from GPX-files (incl. reverse Geocoding)
- add/correct metadata
Most of these functions include all the features you know from Lightroom or any other converter but add some small changes to them to help make the workflow smoother and more efficient. In addition, the tool is in many cases faster than common RAW-converters.
Note:typically you want to do all this before you open these images for the first time in your RAW-Converter, because many RAW-converters (especially those using a catalog) don’t like it, if metadata is changed from the outside. You can usually sync it back again, but it’s better to avoid the trouble from the start.
What you should not do with the Photography Toolbox
The Photography Toolbox is powerful, but as I mentioned earlier, it is in no way a replacement for a RAW-converter.
Therefore you should perfom the following tasks in your RAW-converter:
- Edit your images
- Organize your keepers
- Keep track of published photos and publish photos to social media
Side note: depending on your needs, you may try to completely organize your images with the Photography Toolbox as it is simple and easy to use.
I cannot tell you that you must use the Photography Toolbox, but I hope that this article at least made you think a bit about your photography workflow. And if you want to try out the Photography Toolbox and see for yourself if it fits your needs, please feel free to do so. The software is donation ware, meaning you can download it for free and try it and then donate whatever you think the tool is worth for you if you decide to continue using it.