I get asked once in a while about my workflow. I felt we can all learn from each other and I am curious about the workflow other folks use ... mine is seemingly complex but it works for me and do each step very quickly :-) I oversimplified in some points and overcomplicated others just the sake of explaining. Each image can be slightly different. Anyway... here is mine:
--I ingest my images from my CF cards DIRECTLY into Lightroom.
--Upon ingestion (import) I set a basic PRESET I crated when I first got my camera. I have a preset for EACH of my cameras. I pick the one for the camera I am importing
--The above preset sets only the most basic things such as lens correction, camera calibration profile, etc.
--I select the folder and sub-folder I will put the pictures into. This is typically "12-17-2011 JFK Spotting" and so on
--Once LR finishes importing, it will create previews. I usually let it finish doing that.
--After that, I begin to cull my images. I am in Grid view (hit G) to view all thumbnails and I simply go through quickly and mark the OBVIOUS bad ones for deletion. That is, anythign with a clipped tail, nose, etc. Anything under or overexposed... gone.
--I then switch to Edit mode (hit E) and click once inside the image to bring it to full 1:1 pixel mode. I then go through each image and I flag or delete the good or the bad... Out of focus, delete, perfectly sharp, mark with 1 2 3 4 or 5 stars depending on what I like about them.
--If a particular image meets my standards for printing, selling or uploading to Airliners.net or JetPhotos.net, I will further tag it with a color code. I use green for that.
--After that is done, I purge the catalog of all images flagged for deletion and then SAVE the database and OPTIMIZE.
--I reopen LR to go work on actually processing images.
--I go to the filter bar and ask LR to ONLY SHOW images tagged with 4 stars or above and are also Green.
--Selecting one image at a time, I then select the pool of images of ONE particular aircraft and I will tag that image with a Title and a Caption. This is necessary for proper selling on Stock Agencies who use this information to find images. It is also invaluable for you to search your own database
--Now we can actually get to editing. Pick your first image
--While on that image, hit the D key to go to the Develop module.
--First for me is cropping and leveling and such.
--I then work top to bottom (but not always)
--First up is White Balance. Your choice
--Next up, Tone. Here I like to work out the EXPOSURE first, and then move down the sliders and only use them if needed.
--I stay away from Clarity slider and will seldom use the Vibrance and Saturation sliders. Clarity can create halos which are bad.
--I will only use curves if the image needs it. Otherwise, leave at Medium Contrast tone curve
--Skip the others until you get to Detail. There I dial in whatever works for my camera. On my D3, the low pass filter is very strong and overhanded, making for soft images out of camera. So I am a bit heavy handed in this panel. My D2Xs was a lot sharper out of camera so that received a lesser treatment.
--Either way, I use the following settings for my D3: (Keep in mind, it is a FF sensor)
--Noise reduction at 0 for anything 100-200 ISO. Above 200 ISO, depending on whether or not I properly Overexposed the original image in-camera or not, I will use more or less NR. But never go above 25 or ruin detail beyond recognition. In reality, there is no reason to go above ISO 400 if you care about having the cleanest images. That is NOT to say you shouldn't... if the image is important enough to capture, go for it and go as high as you need to. I will readily shoot at ISO 6400 if needed.
--Following that, Lens Corrections should be set at Auto at a minimum or manually if you know what you're doing. Keep LR up to date to have the latest profiles.
--Last is Calibration which should be set to your camera's profile if you have one. Canon and Nikon are well covered.
Once I am happy with the image, I export as an Uncompressed TIFF at full resolution. I do this for various reasons. You can use whatever method you prefer to get images into Photoshop or if you prefer to output directly out of LR, feel free to do so. I prefer Photoshop for final editing.
--Open TIFF file in PS and duplicate layer (CTRL+J)
--ALWAYS work on duplicate layers. Use Layer Masks whenever possible instead of destroying data.
--First step is to check for dust spots. ALT+I+A+Q
--Using this layer while active, blindly heal the underlying layer. This is not great but, it is arguably the best way to perform this step. It can take various passes and trial and error. Until you get the hang of it, do a few corrections and check your progress. Delete the duplicate equalized layer aand duplicate your base layer once more and EQ again. This will show you how you're doing. Repeat until all dust spots are gone.
--Duplicate base layer again and this time, do a de-noise if needed. ZOOM in to 500% and check the shadows. If you see noise, kill it. Once the noise is gone, REDUCE the OPACITY of that layer by 10% or so and then COLLAPSE the layers (CTRL+SHIFT+E)
--Duplicate base layer again. This time work on the exposure and contrast... I use Curves for this
--Once all exposure and tonality corrections are completed, collapse the stack again and duplicate base layer.
--Resize and sharpening
--Image | Image Size ...
--Enter your desired final size. Always start with 1000 pixel wide image unless your original is super high quality and you have at least 2500 pixels left after cropping. Otherwise you're likely to not have enough data to have a good end result.
--Check "Constrain Proportions" to make sure the aspect ratio stays intact.
--Once reduced, make sure you're at 1:1 pixel ration on your display. Hit CTRL+1 on your keyboard to do so.
--Now, use USM to sharpen. This is a philosophical, sometimes RELIGIOUS discussion so please, use whatever method works for you. I use USM.
--I start with one pass of USM at 40,0.3,0. Check your image. Turn off and on the sharpen layer back and forth back and forth to check your entire aircraft for signs of over-sharpening. Sharpen some more if needed. At this point, figure out of your image will need selective sharpening or not. If not, add a layer mask to the sharpen layer and fill it with black.
--Using a soft brush at low intensity (25 flow, 25 opacity) paint in WHITE over the areas you want to sharpen and no more.
When happy, flatten the image and change the MODE to 8 bits (if you output from LR at full resolution, it should have been an 16bit image) and then File | Save As... (I do not like using the Save For Web tool as it loves destroying data.
I use JPG and a Q setting of 12.