5 Steps To A 15 Minute Per Edit Workflow by a Professional Retoucher

Fashion Photography Lightroom Workflow

Here’s how Dani Diamond achieves professional edits using Photoshop, Wacom, and Palette Gear in less than 15 minutes per photo. 

Dani Diamond, a New York City based photographer, shows his workstation featuring 4 monitors, a Wacom tablet, and Palette Gear's tactile, precision controls

Let’s face it, post production is time consuming and dreaded by most photographers. Sure, once in a while when you get that perfect shot you can’t wait to get to the PC to edit and post the shot. But 9 times out of 10 you’re stuck at the desk trying to hit deadlines and either staying up all night or sacrificing your art to get the client their images on time. 

Here’s how I achieve professional grade edits using Photoshop in less than 15 minutes per photo.

Your Workstation

Working like a nomad, balancing a 13 inch laptop on your lap in the airport is like trying to clean the snow in your driveway with a shovel that’s missing its pole. You’ll eventually get it done but you’ll be half dead and swearing you’ll never do it again. To combat that, it is essential to build the perfect workstation that will make you look forward to sitting at it. I’ve reached the point where I shoot to edit — that’s how much I enjoy sitting at my workstation. 

New York based photographer, Dani Diamond's, workstation setup with chair, 4 monitors, Wacom tablet, and Palette Gear's tactile, precision controls

Personally, there are 3 things I need to be happy at my workstation. The first is investing in a chair made to support the back. I realized that even the most expensive chair on the market will still be cheaper than a visit to the doctor. As photographers, we spend a decent amount of time at our desk and on our feet. Imagine shooting with your back on fire after sitting at a desk for a day. I also find that mounting my Wacom tablet so there is no stress on the wrist incredibly important. By no stress, the wrist should be perfectly in line with your tablet, leaving no room for the wrist to be at an awkward angle. Lastly, and most importantly, a sound system that shakes your pants off with your favorite tunes will make editing so much more enjoyable and fun!

Organizing & Culling 

I recently started using Pixieset to organize my images and share them with my clients. It is, by far, the best option on the market and costs about $100 per year. Once images are uploaded into Lightroom, create a collection with the Pixieset plugin and hit the publish button. The images get thrown onto a personalized Pixieset website and after inputting a clients email there, they get notified. It has a gorgeous interface and the client can make sets of favorite images which can be imported back into Lightroom in about 15 seconds. The days of reading file names, finding them and rating them manually are gone. This is a huge time saver!

Ergonomic Logistics

Mastering the perfect placement of a keyboard, mouse, tablet and Palette Gear is crucial. I never have to look down while I edit and can keep my eyes peeled to the monitor. When buttons, dials and the tablet pen are all placed with thoughtful calculation there is never a moment of hesitation. Those few seconds spent scrambling for the right shortcut or button can add up to years (no jokes!). I hold my tablet pen with my right hand and my left hand is either placed on the keyboard or Palette Gear. Further, my left arm rest is slightly higher and on the same level as the desk which holds my keyboard and Palette Gear. My right arm rest is lower and on the same level as the keyboard tray which houses my tablet.

Close up shot of keyboard, Wacom tablet, and Palette Gear's tactile, precision controls, used for photo and video editing in Lightroom, Photoshop, and Premiere Pro

Shortcuts

Shortcuts are one of those things that are so annoying and overwhelming to set up. I remember having no idea where to start or what shortcuts I would use frequently. I was too lazy and thought it was easier to just go through the menus or break 3 fingers stretching my hand across the keyboard to hit ALT + CTRL + SHIFT + F4 while eating a feta cheese wrap. Here’s a basic list of shortcuts I use that will save enough time to go to the Bahamas and back within a year.

Remap the 2 buttons on your tablet pen to do the following. One button to zoom in and out of your image in photoshop (keyboard shortcut ALT+SPACE). One button to pan the image (Keyboard shortcut SPACE). With just squeezing the button while panning the pen on the tablet you instantly pan or zoom into your image.

ACTIONS, ACTIONS, ACTIONS

Hit the record button in your action panel and record yourself saving an image in full resolution to your clients final edit folder, resize to 2048 pixels on the large edge and change color profile to sRGB and save again to a “use for Social media folder” Hit the stop recording button. Map one of your buttons on Palette Gear to play this action. If you only use your Palette Gear buttons to play shortcuts you already made that purchase worth it trust me. You can do the same to your express keys on the Wacom tablet but there’s nothing like those huge color coded Palette Gear buttons.

Set your Palette Gear to control things like Volume, skip track on Spotify etc. You can even make the entire Palette Gear change its buttons functions as you change through programs automatically (Lightroom, Spotify, Photoshop, Chrome). This makes a kit of 5 buttons virtually 1 million. The colors for each button change automatically so you don’t get confused.

Shortcuts are limited only to your creativity.

Workflow

If you’ve made it this far down the list then I bet this is what you were waiting for. 

The key to efficiency is mastering a consistent workflow when retouching. 

When you are consistent, it becomes muscle memory and you can retouch in your sleep. Not only is the work faster but the output is uniform and a set of images will all have the same toning and look. 

Dani Diamond edits a portrait photograph in Adobe Photoshop using Wacom tablet and Palette Gear's tactile precision controls

Here’s what I did. I watched every retouching tutorial on YouTube for a 2 year period. I found the best, but quickest method for each of the 4 steps to retouching an image. I turned these 4 steps into an action and as soon as the image is in Photoshop I hit my shortcut button to play that action. This action does not edit the images. It’s sole purpose is to prepare my layers panel so I don’t need to do the hard work like setting up my panel for frequency separation, etc. I have a tutorial that includes the action and how I use it but you can easily set it up yourself after watching tutorials like I did. 

My 4 steps are: Frequency separation, Dodge & Burn, Eyes, and Toning. I retouch in that order. 

At first this process will take 45 minutes for an edit. But after doing 1 edit per day for one month I guarantee editing times can be cut in half. Within a year of doing one edit per day, not only will editing get quicker but the quality of the edits will improve.

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If you found these tips helpful feel free to leave a comment with your feedback or follow me on Instagram where I share the little that I know on portrait photography.


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