Although I was talking specifically about Lightroom this afternoon I actually use this for very few pictures now - and I use Photoshop even less! I wouldn't be without either but if push came to shove I’d manage.
I shoot raw+jpeg and file copy the jpegs onto my computer. I look through these in a freeware program called jpegview which allows me to do basic edits (crop,exposure,adjustment,sharpen and monochrome mostly) . For those I fancy might be some good (well composed(or could be cropped to be so) and sharp) I quickly, and roughly, make my chosen edits and store the jpeg result in a folder I call "sketch" alongside the directory in which I stored the jpegs.
This might yield 5 or 6 probables out of 200 or so (on a good day!). I find it much quicker than reviewing in LR. And before anyone objects that jpegview is trivial 9 out of my 10 LRPS pictures were edited solely with this - the 10th requiring a bit of cloning in Photoshop Elements.
I return to my "sketches" next day or whenever I can to see if I still like them and if so import the equivalent raws into LR from the card using much the same techniques as Martin pointed out. Now we're where I started this afternoon! I'm now going to refine my "sketch" using the much more powerful LR facilities. This involves some duplicate work maybe but few artists paint masterpieces without preparatory sketches!
In the LR develop module the method I outlined was :-
- Use the lens corrections to counter lens shortcomings.
- Use the auto technique in Transform to make sure horizons level and uprights vertical. Some pictures may need more attention here - but not many. And sometimes Transform/auto goes awry – control z to undo and a bit of a rethink if so.
- In the basic panel (V6 LR – elsewhere in earlier versions I think) set the picture type to vivid (Nikon) or equivalent on other cameras.
- If the white balance looks wrong correct it now.
- Hit J if needs be so that the markers are shown on the histogram and blown highlights and blocked shadows will be shown on the photo in red and blue respectively.
- Slide the highlights control to the left and the shadows to the right . The picture will now probably now look even worse than when you started.
- Now slide the whites to the right until the triangle appears in the right hand box on the histogram which is the limit of the adjustment so no highlights are blown. Then move it left a tad so no highlights are blown out.
- Similarly but vice-versa with the blacks. These manoeuvres mean that no highlights will be blown or shadows blocked (unless the photo is badly wrongly exposed or dynamic range too high) and the tones will be well arranged throughout the histogram.
- I now make an excursion to do the sharpening - outside the scope of this document.
- I usually take a virtual copy at this point especially if I'm considering a monochrome conversion later on.
- The photograph and its histogram should now look much better than when you started but probably too garish to your taste (or even mine!). But this is the point where your artistic judgement kicks in. I usually find that exposure might need a tad of reduction and maybe a bit more contrast will be needed. And clarity and dehaze to taste. Plus of course local edits with graduated filter etc.
- The other thing which might need adjustment is the colour and I usually retreat from "vivid" to something more conservative and sometimes tone things down with global adjustment of saturation and/or vibrance - or do this colour by colour.
- When you are happy with the result check that artistic/detail edits may have stretched the histogram too far and whites and blacks may have to be slightly adjusted again to counter this - keep an eye on the histogram for the tell-tale triangles.
So that's it - I like this method and always use it but this doesn't mean you will. But whatever method you some consistency in approach should result in consistency in images on a panel or whatever.