Early on in my wedding + portrait photography business I realized I had to implement a workflow. There were things I needed to do each and every time I completed a session. Things like backing up my work with a quality hard drive, culling the session, sharing sneak peeks, editing, exporting photos, uploading photos, etc., etc. It felt like the list went on and on (because it does). So where do you start with your workflow? Start here with my free template! You can download and print this easy Canva template and customize it to your heart’s content.
But before you get to customizing let’s get to why you should have a workflow and I’ll share my favorite checkpoints and even my personal client timeline. Pssst, it’s a very fast timeline.
What is a Photography Workflow?
Photography workflows are going to vary greatly from person to person, business to business, and even job to job. But after years of doing mostly the same things, I created a workflow chart for my business. Workflows usually start at the end of the session for post-production. But some workflows can start before the session even starts (pre to post production). For example I send gifts and contracts to my wedding clients so the workflow chart includes these specialty items so I can make sure I’ve sent both welcome and date night gifts as well as other little goodies. But maybe your personal workflow starts from when you download photos after the session, this is easy enough to alter and customize on Canva so the workflow chart makes the most sense for your business. I sized this template so it is easy enough to print out and hang on your wall. I bough a cheap frame from Target and black fine-tipped expo markers and this gorgeous beauty hangs on my wall so all of my clients have a slot and I can make sure ALL parts of the wedding or portrait session are covered from pre-production to delivery of the final images and products. Let’s take a look.
Standard Photography Workflow
Although you can see the full version of my exact photography workflow for my wedding photography clients by downloading my free workflow chart template, I am going to give an example of the more standard photography workflow—starting from download of photos after the session.
- Download photos: There are tons of systems for downloading files depending on your camera system and cards used. Over the years I’ve had daisy chain downloaders, workflow hubs, single download cords, and more. Find whatever works best for you. Today I shoot on about 2 XQD or CF Express cards and use a single downloader. All my second shooters have dual slot cameras and I give one or two of my SD cards for them and take it at the end of the night. That way they have the additional SD or XQD backup and I download their cards using my computer SD card slot. A lot of this is again dependent on your own equipment—cameras and computer(s).
- Back up photos: I cannot stress this one enough. BACK UP YOUR PHOTOS!. I currently use a RAID system but back in the mid-2000’s when I started my business I burned copies onto DVD’s (yeah I’m that kind of old) and brought them off site in case of any mishaps. I love the RAID because of the redundancy (and I’ll do a separate post on that) but any additional hard drive in ADDITION to your computer is fine.
- Cull Photos: Sometimes photographers call this selecting. Either term is fine but select the best photos from your session and only edit those ones. I do a 2-step cull until I have the right amount of photos for the session and then only edit those. Usually the first pass has too many similar photos so during the second pass I go through with a much sharper knife to really get to the best imagery.
- Edit Photos: Once you have shot for a year or so you’ll find you have a better idea of your editing style (and if you don’t have any idea yet this is definitely an area to focus on). I have presets that are my own recipes and usually apply my “regular edit” upon import into Lightroom so some photos don’t even need much more TLC than the original applied preset (saves hours in post). I also outsource all wedding photos for time purposes and they also have my regular edit preset for consistency.
- Export Photos: Depending on whether you shoot RAW or JPG your export may look a little different. I export to a separate “edits” folder for each session. I usually export at a quality of 80% for size purposes.
- Upload Photos: I assume you are giving a digital delivery but maybe you are just copying to a USB and sending to your clients? But if you are uploading you are making sure the client gallery looks great and is password protected or whatever your system is. I use Pixieset and have loved them for years.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”Maya Angelou
A few notes on making your workflow more personal. In business I’ve heard it many times and said it many times. But Maya Angelou said it best in the above quote: your clients will remember most how you made them feel. Yes your work needs to be great, but so doesn’t your client communication. So be sure to add in specialized ways to make your clients feel special, let them know you are happy they hired you (because you are!) and building these things right into your workflow makes it so much easier to touch base and to show your personality. This too can truly be a part of your workflow.
How Long Should Your Workflow Take?
This is pretty personal to each business. It depends on what is being offered and how you have built your business. I can’t tell you how long is best for your business but the biggest piece of advice here is to under-promise and over-deliver. Every. Single. Time. I have a 30-day timeline for my sessions—weddings too—and have never gone over that! I know with my timeline and outsourcing I can meet this timeline even in my busy season, even while teaching, and so it has been a happy number for me. A portrait session usually takes half that time, so when I contact my clients that their photos are done in half the time they were expecting they are ecstatic, and that alone is worth the push to get them out fast.
I hope in reading this you understand that your photography workflow is not just essential for creating consistent, high-quality images; it’s the backbone of your business. When creating your workflow, remember that time is money. Maximize your efficiency and productivity by creating a plan with all the steps you need, from capturing images to post-production and delivery. Automate or outsource as much as you can, but don’t neglect the human touch, either—client communication is key for a successful workflow. Remember, a successful workflow is the key to a successful business. So write down your steps, see where you can improve or where you get stuck, and set up your workflow to make it work for you.