Let's say you've got a set of photos in a trip and, apart from a few really noteworthy, all others are nice photos, but not so much for you to spend a lot of time processing on them. In such circumstances, what is your normal workflow (I am particularly interested about LR4 with or without Nik Software)?
I'm not sure I ever have images I truly don't care about at all. I'm always for keeping them or against keeping them, at least.
I use stars and flags in Lightroom:
The higher the rating, the more redundant backups I have.4
In my system, every photo gets a rating or gets rejected. The only photos that are unrated are those I've imported but haven't yet bothered to make a decision about. I have a Smart Collection that warns me about such photos, reminding me that I have to do something about them.
If you find yourself with months-old unrated photos, either give them a token rating (★) or give them the boot. You clearly don't care enough about them to do anything else.
I call my workflow for getting photos into this scheme THE CHAINSAW. Think of a chainsaw ice sculptor: he starts with a big block of unformed material and his job is to rapidly cut away everything he doesn't want.
In Lightroom, go to the Filter Bar and click Attribute. Clear any settings that may be here already, then click the middle of the three flags (unflagged) and set the Rating part to "equals no stars." Then save it as a Custom Filter, calling it THE CHAINSAW. I put it in all caps because I use it on every import, so I want to be able to pick it out of the list instantly. Plus, chainsaws are dramatic. (Feel free to pronounce the name in your WWF announcer voice.)
In a folder of unprocessed photos, activate THE CHAINSAW (tthbbitrrrrrrr!), then turn off all the UI distractions by pressing F.5 All you should see is the first "undecided" photo in this folder, full-screen.
Now put your fingers on the 1-4 keys and your thumb on the X key.6 Taking at most a few seconds per photo, rip through the set, giving them an initial rating or rejection. Trust your expertise and go with your initial "flash" impression. If you find yourself dithering, it's probably a ★★★ photo; rate it and move on.
When all the photos are rated or rejected, delete the rejected photos: Ctrl/⌘-Backspace.7
Turn THE CHAINSAW off with Ctrl/⌘-L, then press F to leave no-distractions mode.
Then go back and start working on the ★★★+ photos. If there are a lot of them, do the ★★★★★ photos first, then ★★★★. Spend time on ★★★ photos only if you still have time left or find yourself needing a filler of some kind.
Some photos may increase by a star or two after being edited. This should not worry you. Your initial flash impression was correct.
That we deleted the trash without attempting to rescue anything first is also not a problem. We can't expect more than a few stars of improvement, which isn't enough to bring a zero-star photo up to the level where we would really care to spend time on it in the first place. You'll find people who will tell you to keep absolutely everything, just in case, but I believe these people are packrats. Yes, technically there is a bit of ore there in the tailings pile, but it's not worth the time and effort it takes to refine it.
Excepting those that are part of an HDR set, ★ and ★★ photos never get any more attention at this stage. I typically put off HDR experiments until after I've gotten through the ★★★★+ photos at least.
Finally, I run my various Publish Services for on- and off-site backups, empty the Trash/Recycle Bin, and erase my memory cards. I may also schedule an on-exit catalog backup via Catalog Settings at this point.
I'm not sure what information you're really asking for here. For images that don't warrant more extensive editing the it's just Adobe Camera Raw (the Photoshop plugin version of Lightroom) white balance / exposure compensation / rotation & cropping, all of which can be done in about 30 seconds. I keep the RAWs along with these edits stored in sidecar files, if I need the images I batch convert to JPEG using photoshop (I have a set of actions defined for different purposes, print, large screen viewing, web etc.)
"Don't care" photos? I don't edit them at all, so the only way they factor in my workflow is that I don't flag them with anything. Why spend time on something you don't care about? I'd delete them, but then again, I'm a digital packrat who only throws away really bad photos, such as badly focused ones.
Maybe you meant photos that are good but not great? Those, I usually just crop and sharpen, plus a bit of color correction and curves as needed.
My filter for "I don't care" pictures are these steps:
I use Aperture, which is a product similar to LightRoom.
When I have a bunch of, say vacation shots, I select an "Auto Enhance" preset in the import. This gives the images a little more contrast, vibrancy, and sharpness. This gives all the images a little more "pop". This is particularly needed because I only shoot in raw.
When looking through the images, and I find something worth working on, I simply reset all adjustments, and start all over. Often, I complete the image in Aperture, but if a little more editing is required, I open it in Photoshop. I also open the image in Photoshop if I am to apply any NIK filters. This is primarily because the NIK filters don't support non-destructive editing in Aperture, but they do in PS.
This kind of situation ussually happens to me when I'm part of a Photo Journey with the Photo Club I'm part of. Also I'm always carrying a camera and not all the photos taken with it are artistic ones, Most "don't care photos" are photos of fellow photographers making funny contorsions to get the right angle, or funny photos of friends or family fooling around.
Such photos are ften taken in raw and with some odd settings left from the prevoius inspired masterpiece. For such coming-from-the-trip folders full of photos my workflow is as follows:
This ensures that the entire documental shots are at least kept and propperly stored because I simply like to document everything. Some photos turn out to be valuable after a long time has passed because you suddenly realize a friend that you can't see anymore was portrayed last time in that waky pose while he/she was actually spoiling your shot.
As per the "artistic shot" attempts that went wrong, I delete them and keep in the hard dive only the RAW and the Finished JPG for the good shots. I dont care throwing away the "almost right" RAWs as they were all backed up at the beginning of the workflow.
By the way: I back up as soon as I can and before any editting just preventing any non reversible accidental step I may take.