Workflow Week :: Post 1 :: Tips

We’ve wanted to share a bit about our workflow for some time now. After sitting down to write about it, we realized it’s way more information than we could fit into one blog post. Throughout this week, we’re going to share several elements of a successful workflow as well as some of the traps we fell into in the past.

First, we just want to give a few tips to think about when perfecting your workflow. One huge note: Every photographer will have a completely different system that works best with them: Someone with kids, and/or a full time job will have a workflow that looks completely different from a single person who shoots full time. This is what has worked for US

1: Keep your workflow the same. Every time. No excuses.

Since we are a husband + wife team, we could easily decide willy-nilly who will edit which session. We could just say Jim will edit the sessions this week & Ravyn will edit one next week, and one the following week. If we did this, it would be SO chaotic. Instead, we know which steps of the workflow are done by whom, and we never change it. This keeps things organized. And yes, because we are particular about our workflow, each and every step is written down. At this point, we don’t have to refer to the list anymore, but if we ever hire an assistant, it will be crucial they understand our workflow.

From the moment we receive a potential client inquiry to the day we send off the DVD and/or albums after the wedding, we have everything outlined. This allows us to focus on having a life outside of our business … and it makes running our business a lot more fun!

2: Keep To-Do Lists:

Oh, where would we be without our to-do lists? Every morning, before opening email, or Pinterest (we’re being honest, here), we sit down and write out the tasks that MUST be accomplished that day or week. Last week, we had 4 sessions to edit, 6 DVD’s to send out, blog posts to write, galleries to upload and client correspondence packets to send out (contracts, welcome packets, client gifts, etc). Without a list, we would have been absolutely LOST! Don’t worry about getting everything checked off your list in one day, but be sure to prioritize.

3: Keep a Workflow Schedule:

We LOVE iCal. It allows us to create multiple calendars for different things: home, work, weddings, client correspondence, etc. After each wedding, we block off a FULL day to edit the wedding. This happens to be the Monday after the wedding. This means, any weddings we have the weekend before are completely edited no more than 3 days later. As far as our contract states: photos won’t be ready for 28 days. Honestly, before we decided to put an entire day aside for editing, it might have taken us that full 28 days to edit the photos. Now, we have the option of delivering photos to our clients weeks early. Along the same lines of our edit day, we also have a blog day. We pick a day of the week (typically Wednesday or Thursday) to edit our blog images from the wedding. We know there’s nothing else on the schedule that day, so within 4 or 5 days of the wedding, our clients are seeing 20-30 of our favorites. This gets them SUPER excited for their gallery post.

4: Establish a Reliable Backup System:

It happens at least once a week: I have a dream that the roof over the office caves in and destroys our computers/hard drives. What’s up with that? Fortunately, we have a pretty solid backup system that eases our fears of file loss, yet, isn’t redundant. We are big fans of Western Digital hard drives. We both have MacBook Pro’s, which we use to edit, but we only use external drives for storage. We have a 1TB desktop drive which is the final backup spot for our sessions (it includes the RAW files & JPEGS). We have two 1TB portable drives, which we keep our working files on before the final transfer to the other drive. When we aren’t working one of these drives stays in a fireproof/waterproof safe in the office. After JPEGS are done, we upload to a server & delete from one of the working drives. We’ll burn DVD’s for clients, but we do not keep extra discs of images in the office. No need. We have images in 3 places (one on-location, one on-location in a safe & one off-location).

5: Keep Your Folders Organized:

When we first started our business, we had an advantage: we are both very particular about the way we organize folders & files on our computers. If there is one tip I find most important, this is the one: Stay organized!  We name our folders & files the same way every single time we shoot & edit. If one of us need to find a file later, there is no question as to where we should look first. All sessions in 2011 are housed in the “2011” folder. Within that folder, each session is housed in its own folder marked with the date & the couple’s name. Within the session folder are 3 more folders: “SOOC”, “FINAL” and “WEB”. Every session. Every time.

6: Use an Editing Program to Save Time:

One of our goals for 2011 was to learn Lightroom. Thanks to our friends over at Photography Concentrate, we’ve been learning Lightroom, and saving SO much time. Before Lightroom, we were using Bridge & Photoshop for every session. While it worked for over 2 years, we’ve just found that Lighroom is faster and self-contained, which we love. We’ll be posting later this week about our Bridge & Photoshop workflow … even though we don’t use it anymore, I think it’s extremely important, and it changed our business. These programs were designed to save you time. Be sure you take advantage of it! If you’re using Finder/Explorer to import, cull or organize your photos, you are wasting time.

7: Automate!

If you’re doing anything more than once, you’re working too hard! We use this theory in every aspect of our business. We have email templates for bulk responses (inquiry responses, gallery notifications, payment notifications, blog posts, etc). We’ll elaborate more on this later in the week, but seriously, SUCH a big time saver. Another place to automate is during editing. We purchased Photoshop actions a long time ago. We found ourselves constantly tweeking each action, duplicating it, adding custom elements and so-on. Finally, we just created our own actions. For every single image we edit, we either run a color action or a black & white action. No more editing each image individually. Now, with Lightroom, we’re applying Presets to our images. It’s SUPER fast. Lastly, you can ‘automate’ the way you pack for a session … the way you prepare & conduct client meetings … the gifts & client correspondence along the way. If you have a system in place, everything is so much easier.

8: Manage Client Expectations:

If you are running your business without a photography contract or agreement, you run the risk of losing everything. That might sound dramatic, but it’s true! Our clients know (whether we’re shooting a wedding or engagement session) that we will deliver their photos in x number of days. They know that within 3 days of their session or event, we’ll be posting One Frame from their session. They know when their payments are due before they even sign the contract. They know what to expect. I’ve heard from so many photographers who are just starting out that they shot the session and now the client isn’t paying. I cannot imagine a bigger speed bump in the ol’ business-motivation road than a client who has not been given the information the need in order to work with you. Frankly, if you’re still waiting for a client to pay for photos you’ve already delivered, it’s your fault. Not theirs. Our clients are busy people, just like us. A contract/photography agreement MUST be signed before any session. The contract should include information about what to expect before/during/after the session including timelines & payment information. Personally, we do not book a session without the full session fee paid in full & a signed contract … Our weddings aren’t booked until we have a retainer fee & signed contract. This means, we can shoot the session/wedding, and go through our workflow without a hitch. Our clients know what to expect from the very beginning and we’re free to do our work.

9: Avoid the Traps:

Facebook. Pinterest. Twitter. Blogs. These are our vices. At the beginning of 2011, we wrote out an ideal daily schedule. We knew the only way to stay productive was to allow certain times for social media, email and general web surfing. If you don’t limit these things, you’ll get stuck in the Internet Quicksand! It will be 4:30 in the afternoon, and you’ll realize the session you needed to edit is still sitting in a folder untouched. Every few hours, give yourself a half hour for email & internet. It will feel like a treat, and you’ll be ready to get back to plowing through your work.

Since no post is fun without an image … Here’s a photo from our last trip to Oregon. See, you get to take fun vacations when you establish a workflow that saves you time!! :) 



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