Apply During Import
The Apply During Import panel lets you combine Develop presets with the import process as well as apply metadata and keywords. I've already stated my belief that editing adjustments are best saved until all of the images have been safely offloaded from the camera card.
In addition, I am not so sure I like the results you get using Lightroom 4's Auto Tone preset. It should be pointed out here that when using this latest version of Lightroom, all newly imported images use the latest Process Version 2012, which has an updated auto tone calculation. When it works well the results look great. However, with a number of images the exposure settings can be quite far off, meaning I have to manually edit these later. And of course, you won't get a preview of how the image looks until after it is imported. So I'm hesitant to recommend Auto Tone as a good option right now.
For studio work I would instead recommend you establish appropriate develop settings for a test image first, create a new custom develop preset and select this as the starting point for subsequent imports.
I definitely think it is a good idea, however, to apply a Metadata template that at a bare minimum embeds your contact and copyright information. In the Keywords section below it you can add descriptive keywords describing the sequence of photos you are about to import, or the name of a sporting event or location the photos were shot in. For keywords to be most useful though, you will want to additional and more specific keywords to individual images after the import stage.
As I mentioned earlier, the decisions you make early on about how you organise your photos can have big implications for how your catalog of photos will be managed in the future. If you have a good system worked out you can create new folders each time you carry out an import. But this does mean one more thing you have to think about doing when importing (and be careful not to make any errors in the naming or folder hierarchy).
A simpler alternative is to initially copy everything to the same folder each time you carry out an import. This is part of what is known as a 'workflow folder' strategy, which was first proposed by Peter Krogh in his work, The DAM book. This method makes a lot of sense – every card import can be handled the exact same way and summarized using a standard import preset.
|In this view of the Destination panel you can see how I selected the volume drive 'Library-HD' and checked the 'Into Subfolder' option and named the new subfolder 'Import photos'. Files were organized so as to be imported 'Into one folder'.|
With a workflow folder strategy you first import everything to the same import folder and use this as a 'holding zone' From there you can move the files to a DNG folder after you have converted them to DNG and from there move them to a 'Photos to keyword' folder and after that decide in which folders they should finally be placed. This takes some of the strain out of thinking about where to put everything during the initial import stage.
Here is a schematic diagram showing how the import step (shown in the image above) can be the first of a series of workflow folders.
By default, Lightroom suggests new photos should be imported to the Pictures/My Pictures folder. This will be on the same volume as the operating system. And if you are working in the field with a laptop you won't likely have much option to do anything else.
However, if you are working from the home or studio with a computer system with additional drives, it makes a lot of sense to store the imported files on volumes other than that used by the operating system. This keeps the calls to the operating system separate from the disk write/read activity.
On the same note you might want to give some consideration to where the main Lightroom catalog and the Camera Raw cache folders are kept. These will grow in size as your image collection expands and should ideally be stored on a fast hard drive. Keep in mind though that the catalog must reside on a local, not networked drive. My personal preference is to use a large capacity SSD drive for the main Operating System hard drive and keep the Lightroom catalog and Camera Raw cache folders on there.
Even if your import process is not complicated, there are benefits to ensuring it is consistent. And Lightroom offers import presets to do just that. Click on the pulldown menu to the right of the Import Preset option and you can choose 'Save Current Settings as New Preset'. The preset you create will then appear in the pulldown menu.
Of course, the more complexity you add to the import process, the more beneficial a preset becomes. The example below shows how you might configure the Destination panel settings so that imports are automatically imported into newly created folders segregated by date.