Photos are the foundation of any scrapbook, but the low cost and ease of taking pictures today has introduced new challenges. The hundreds of photo prints that could be filed away in a snap has morphed into thousands of digital files on multiple devices.

Fortunately, there are tools that can help automate and simplify how you handle your pictures. In this post I’m sharing how I use Adobe Lightroom, both on my phone and on my computer, to streamline photo management. However, you don’t have to use this software to adopt a similar workflow*.

* A workflow is the series of steps you take from the beginning to the end of a task, similar to a routine.

Your 5-Step Photo Workflow, from Smartphone to Scrapbook Page

Step 1: Shoot

I recently upgraded my older iPhone to a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. Reviews of the camera were the deciding factor for me, despite feeling nervous about the operating system. I absolutely love it so far.

I’m using the the native camera, almost always entering through the icon on the lock screen (just as I did with the iPhone). Side-button shooting is helpful in certain scenarios and I’ve found the ability to shoot with voice commands helpful.

No matter what camera I’m using, I always pay attention to the light. Are there harsh shadows? Is my subject dark due to backlighting? Do I have enough light to freeze the motion? I certainly take a lot of not-so-great pictures, but awareness of light means more of them are good.

I also make sure to clean my lens often. My favorite tool is a microfiber pad that I use for both my glasses and my phone. Nothing saddens me more than seeing a lovely picture blurred by a smudgy phone lens.

I love my big camera, but let’s be honest here… my phone is the camera I always have on me!

Step 2: Curate

One of the reasons I’m writing this post is a recent change I made to my workflow. I noticed that photos were piling up in a staging area on my computer, a picture purgatory if you will. The automatic systems I set up were working fine, but the human component (i.e. me) wasn’t keeping pace.

So I began to look at exactly what was causing the pile-up: deleting photos. I don’t want my photo library full of random pictures of the brand of cat food we buy and 30 versions of the same selfie, so I delete liberally. But, this takes time.

In this season of life I’m spending more time outside of the home and office, including significant waiting-for-the-kid scenarios. More of my personal “computer” time is actually on my phone. However, because my photos were being automatically uploaded to Dropbox (see box in Step 3 below), there was little I could do from my phone.

Then, I decided to give Lightroom for mobile another try. Using the app (iPhone | iPad | Android), I can spend free moments picking photos with a swipe up and rejecting photos with a swipe down. It’s like Tinder for my pictures, and it has substantially reduced the backlog I face on the computer.

I will often use the filtered view to limit the photos I see to only those which are “unflagged”. These are the images that have not yet been touched and it’s oh-so-gratifying to bring that number down to zero with simple decision-making.

Alternate Method – You can also curate photos from your phone by using the native delete/trash function, and no additional app. In some case you may be able to multi-select images to delete in bulk. This works particularly well if you are manually uploading photos or using a cable to transfer them to your computer.

Step 3: Sync

Lightroom for mobile devices is a useful app on its own, but the automatic sync of images to my computer was the clincher. Now that everything is downloadable from the cloud, I rarely connect my phone to my computer. It’s a manual step that requires time and having the cable on hand at the right time, which I never do.

As you might have heard me mention, I’m a lazy scrapbooker. I don’t want to work any harder than I need to, which is why the Internet is just so magical for photo lovers like us! Lightroom sends each photo, including copies that I’ve edited in A Color Story, VSCO, or Instagram, to my computer. There’s only one small catch.

Lightroom for mobile import photos from your device to the app’s catalog when the app is open. Since I’m doing regular curation (see Step 2 above), that’s not a big deal at all. However, it’s important to understand how it works. If the app hasn’t been opened, new images won’t sync to your computer.

Alternate Method – You can also accomplish this step with Dropbox Camera Upload. By installing Dropbox on your smartphone and turning on this feature, your photos will automatically be copied to your Dropbox account. From there they can be moved (automatically or manually) into your photo library folders or your favorite software.

Step 4: Organize

Lightroom Mobile automatically creates a destination folder for your synced device that appears in Lightroom. I regularly move photos from that default location into my month folders, but the sync connection remains. In other words, any flagging, starring, or editing you perform in Lightroom on your computer will be synced back to Lightroom Mobile on your device.

With photos on my computer, I will complete any reject flagging (see Step 2) and delete all of the rejected images. Between Step 2 and Step 4, selecting the best images and deleting the rest represents the bulk of time I spend on photo management. At this stage I will also add stars to note images that particularly stand out. I tend to use 2 for “to scrapbook” and 4 for “to frame”. These will be changed to 3 and 5 stars, respectively, once edited.

Picking and rejecting photos with flags in Lightroom (on any device or computer) is the easiest way to know which images have been handled and which need to be deleted in bulk. This is the step where you can also add tags to your photos. While I can see the benefit for locating related images, it’s not a step I’ve successfully integrated into my process.

My library has a simple structure with top-level folders for years and then month folders underneath. Any flagging, starring, or additional metadata editing takes place in my month folders, where I’m only looking at a few hundred photos at a time. Lightroom catalogs photo files but does not house copies of your images. This is one reason I love Lightroom: my original files are organized exactly how I see them in the software.

Alternate Method – Well-organized folders on your hard drive or an external drive are the essential foundation of photo management. Software can be used on top of folders to help you find and edit photos more easily, but it’s not required. You can start now with a folder for 2016 and sub-folders for each month. As time allows, work backwards to bring older images into that framework, but don’t let prior disorganization stop you from taking care of new pictures.

Step 5: Edit + Print

Ease of editing, especially in batches, was the original reason I started using Lightroom. A few years ago I attempted to edit every photo I was saving. It quickly became impossible to keep up and I’ve given up on the goal. Instead, I will edit photos with a specific purpose in mind. Usually this is for scrapbooking, but I will also edit batches of photos for framing or sharing with family.

Note: I take a lot of pride in my photography, so it’s worth it to me to add a final polish to images that leave my computer. Your opinion might differ from mine and that’s OK. 

With my photos in Lightroom, I have a couple of different options for printing. Sometimes I will export a batch of photos to a folder and use Persnickety Prints to order my prints. Most often I print at home using my Canon PIXMA Pro-100. If I am printing a single image I will use the Canon Print Studio Pro plug-in directly from Lightroom. If I creating a collage of two or more images, I will save that as a JPG and then print from Photoshop using the Print Studio Pro plug-in.

Printing can be a complicated process, especially when you start talking about printer profiles and color spaces. Most importantly, you should continue using the printing approach you’re most comfortable with as long as you are happy with the results. If you’re not happy, then there is quite the array of options to consider for making improvements. That’s beyond the scope of this post, but a topic we can certainly discuss in the comments or on our Facebook page.

The big takeaway here is that I edit only a fraction of my photos and both editing and printing are as-needed tasks.

This article does not cover photo security, but I didn’t want to overlook the importance. My photos, along with my entire computer and attached external drive, are backed up automatically using Crash Plan and a second external drive. Choosing and implementing solutions for peace of mind are discussed in Photo Crush, my free photo management challenge. See below for details.