7-Part Series to Step Up Your Lightroom Game – Part 6: Finalizing Files


7-Part Series to Step Up Your Lightroom Game – Part 6: Finalizing Files with Dustin Lucas

Finally, we are closing in on getting these files finalized in Lightroom and prepped for the client preview. The majority of your workflow is spent on editing, but we need to make sure to maintain that same efficiency during the finalization process as well. That starts with sorting and syncing images by camera capture time, although you may have done this prior to culling. Moving into renaming in Lightroom versus doing it at export has plenty of pros and cons, which we will discuss. You might be wondering why your newly renamed files don’t sync or match up with the original ones—I will show you how to avoid this.

Then, we will get into whether you should use Publish services versus the Export module for saving files outside Lightroom. You may have noticed Lightroom officially ended support this year for publishing directly to Instagram; however, there is a new plugin allowing you to still do it. When you export your images, you must set up presets to quickly recall specific settings and above all apply automation Photoshop actions like skin smoothing, sharpening, noise reduction, etc. Work smarter, not harder with the Post-Processing section using Droplets. Let’s jump into sorting and syncing images by capture time to ensure you can tell the story your vision deserves.


The first thing we need to do is manage the order of our files. Sorting files in Lightroom is as easy as choosing capture time, added order, file name, custom order, etc. using the Sort By feature in the Library module. These four options seem to be the most popular choices for sorting images. I start with sorting by capture time. This requires the capture or shot time of the files to be synced between cameras. Those of you who do this in-camera prior to shooting know how important this is. My biggest time-saving suggestion besides setting in-camera time correctly, of course, is to have all photographers take a photo of the same cell phone with the time displayed. In case this wasn’t considered at the time, let’s go over syncing capture time in Lightroom.

Start by locating a distinct moment when all the cameras were photographing at once. I suggest locating the first look or ceremonial kiss. For this wedding, it’s a bit easier, since the bride and groom got ready in the same room; however, a wedding day doesn’t typically work out this way. It’s easiest to use an image with both subjects present, where the same split-second pose is captured between cameras. Images like _SC10973.CR2 and _AZ13649.CR2 are a great choice considering the pose and setup are the same.

We need to select the main shooter’s image first, _SC10973.CR2, and head to the Library module. Navigate to the panels on the right side, and click the arrow next to Metadata. The 16th option down is Capture Time; click the metadata button to the right. You will need to remember the date and time, so write them down. Now, go to the second shooter’s image, _AZ13649.CR2, and filter the images by their camera only. Select all images and follow the same steps to edit the capture time. Match the date you previously wrote down, adjust the time to a few seconds after, and click Change. That’s it. You have changed the capture time, and you can now sort by this category to order your images.


The first thing I like to do is custom order my files, so the wedding day starts with the groom details and getting ready, then moves into the bride details and getting ready. This doesn’t always happen with the schedule of the day, so I can set it up to Custom Sort my files. To do this, you must add all the kept images to a new Collection. Start by selecting all images, click the “+” button next to Collection, select Create Collection, name it Custom Sort, check the box Include, select the photos, and finally click Create. Then, I can make sure to select the Custom Sort collection to get started sorting the images. Once we select all the groom details, we can drag them to the beginning. Follow that with the groom getting ready and so forth.

Now we are ready to rename these images to organize them for the client. Select all the images, navigate to the Metadata panel, and click the button next to File Name. Keep in mind, with this method you are changing the RAW/JPEG file in the folder you imported, which I prefer over renaming at export. This is the big decision to make, considering files are changing outside Lightroom—I highly recommend using Lightroom to manage this. The only downside to doing this is you will have two file names: the renamed in this destination folder and the original in the backup folder. If you choose to back up your files after you edit, you won’t have any issues. Back to renaming—Lightroom defaults to “Filename” for the file naming field. Click in the file naming field and select Edit from the drop-down options. You can now fully customize your file naming workflow.

A popular choice is to insert the event date (mmddyy) and bride and groom’s last name, abbreviate the event type, and add sequence numbers at the end. To change this, click in the white text field and delete the current file naming category. Type in the date of the event followed by an underscore, then the first names of the bride and groom, and add another underscore at the end. This should look like this: 061718_Saleh_W_0001. Then, under Sequence and Date, click in the first category field and choose Sequence # (0001).  You can view the file name example above the white text box to double-check. At the top, you will notice there is a preset category—click in this field. Select the option Save Current Settings as a New Preset, and name it “wedding” or something to familiarize yourself with this naming structure. Of course, once you select this preset for another event, you must edit the names of the couple.

If you navigate to your originals folder, you will see the file names have changed there as well, confirming the renaming process is complete. This method is preferred so that you can export and refer back to the same named RAW file in the future if needed.


Lightroom has default publishing services like Facebook and Flickr; however, you can install some more useful ones like SmugMug, ShootProof and N-Vu as well. Publishing services, which can be accessed in the Library module, allow you to create galleries and post your images quickly. Right-click on the specific publisher, and choose Create a Gallery. The SmugMug and ShootProof plugins have a similar interface that requires you to create a collection. It’s the same basic principle: choose the images you want to share, and click Publish. It’s pretty simple. This is a streamlined process that negates having to export from Lightroom and then upload to a website.

You do have the option to resize and rename files for both plugins. It’s sort of hidden in the Lightroom Publishing Manager. Click the “+” button next to Publish Services, and choose Go to Publishing Manager. There are options for all the plugins installed in Lightroom. Many of the same export settings are included, as are user presets. I wouldn’t suggest changing the image size, but it allows custom renaming for clients’ sites. I suggest renaming before exporting or publishing images, but there is a last-chance option as well. The ability to export to Instagram has been removed as of 2019, but there’s still a solution. You can download the Lr/Instagram plugin to post directly to your social media from Lightroom. Once you get it linked to your account, you are all set to start posting.


When you are ready to export images out of Lightroom, you can make an export preset for any output settings required. Select the image(s) and hold shift and command while striking the “e” key. First, we need to set standardized settings like Export Location, File Settings, Image Sizing, Output Sharpening, and Post-Processing. If we are going into Photoshop, we do not want to change the file size, and we must rasterize the RAW file into a PSD. Choose Adobe 1998 for the color space, since we are still editing, and set the DPI to 300 so the image is sized into standard dimensions.

Post-processing is an option during export that allows you to export from Lightroom and automatically open images into Photoshop, applying an action to them all in one fell swoop. To do this, you must first create or choose a Photoshop Action. Once this is done, you can then save a Droplet automation script for Lightroom to run during export. Let’s jump into Photoshop and build an action.

With an image opened in Photoshop, we can navigate to the Actions panel to create one. If you don’t see it at first, go to the top Menu bar>Window>Actions. Within this panel, you can also organize actions into sets for different workflows, gather your favorite effects, and build a powerful arsenal. To do so, click the folder icon in the bottom of the palette. Once you create Action sets, highlight one of the sets and click the icon to the right of the folder you previously selected. You are now recording and ready to start adding adjustment layers, duplicating your base layer, adding masks, or doing anything you want to apply to multiple images. Think of this in steps: What do you typically do first? For me, it’s applying skin softening with a mask turned off and separating dodge & burn layers. I would name this action “01Creative,” so I know to apply it to all my images. If you want to create an action to simply batch apply skin softening, I would recommend doing this as well. This leads us to creating a Droplet.

To create a Droplet, navigate to the menu bar, click on File, hover over Automate, and click Create Droplet. You can choose where this file will save. First, make sure it’s in a folder where you would not accidently delete it, such as your desktop or your Adobe application folder. Then choose the Action set and the Skin Smoothing action. The last important setting is Destination. The default setting, None, opens the image immediately into Photoshop after applying the action. This is only useful if you are opening 10 or fewer files. I recommend the Save and Close option here so that your computer doesn’t freeze mid-process when you accidentally export 50 PSDs from Lightroom.

Now we can finish our Lightroom Export preset with this Droplet file saved. With our images selected for export, hold “shift” and “command” while striking the “e” key. After you have chosen all the previously mentioned settings, you can drop down the Post-Processing menu. Click in the box to the right of After Export, and choose Open in Another Application. Then, click Choose Below, and select the recently saved Droplet titled Skin Smoothing. Now, we are ready to see all the work in action, literally.


Now that we’re exporting files, we can essentially walk away and wait for the process to complete. I always prefer a set-it-and-forget-it workflow so I can spend my time doing more important things versus babysitting files as they’re saving out of Lightroom. This isn’t the most glorious process for your wedding workflow, but don’t worry, it’s one of the last steps before you are done. Whether you are posting files to a client proofing site or prepping your IPS slideshow, things like renaming, Custom Sorting, and applying the right export settings matter. With these tips, you should be saving time and ultimately providing professional-looking images.

Next month, tune in for Part 7 of this Lightroom workflow series: Life After Lightroom. We will cover more in-depth Photoshop workflows, posting to social media, archiving files, and many more Lightroom output options!

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