HOW TO: Manage your workflow

All images credit: Ellie Gillard Photography

Hi, I’m Ellie and I’m a London based wedding photographer – I’m now in my fifth wedding season and so I feel I’ve got my workflow pretty well locked down, and I thought I’d share how I manage my clients, files and delivering images. I’ll mention a couple of tools I use too – Mainly software, and it’s worth me saying now that I have in no way been sponsored by these guys, I just really like using them. It’s meaty subject, and can be quite a dry one, so I’ve tried to be as succinct as possible!

Back before I was a full time photographer I was a fashion buyer, and one of the very first things you do is learn how to use the department critical path – that is the order that tasks need to be done in order for a garment to be manufactured, as an example you need to approve the colour and the fit, before the final pattern can be made. And working through the process of booking in a couple right up until delivering their images is pretty much the same.

 

One of my favourite tools is Lightblue – a really intuitive piece of studio software management – it manages my calendar, enquiries, financial stuff, client information (like addresses) and most importantly it has a series of reminders that I’ve set up, so for my wedding clients I am able to remind myself when I need to do important tasks like schedule their engagement shoot, or send them the plan for the day to complete, and this goes right through to post wedding tasks too like culling the images, or setting up their galleries.

I’ve set these rules based on my turnaround times and it’s really handy as I don’t need to remember the timelines for anything, and my home screen tells me exactly where I’m at with all my jobs. You could easily create a similar database in Excel, or even using a Filofax or diary – the key thing is to set rules and follow them – how long after a wedding do you deliver the images, how many days before the wedding do you need the timings for the day, what processes do you have around booking? Set the rules, stick to them, and find a way to map them out around each booking.

Managing initial client contact

I’ll only touch on this briefly but having template emails (in my case saved as ‘canned responses’) in Google Apps – I have them for each type of client enquiry – ones where I’m free, one’s where I want to recommend another photographer if I’m booked and one’s requesting more info, in the case of those ‘prices please’ emails we all love so much.

I also have ones for if a client wants to confirm, explaining the next steps, and one for when a new client has paid their deposit and signed the contract. At each stage I’m letting them know what to expect, timelines for anything happening before the wedding and encouraging them to keep in touch via social media.

I also have reminders for what I send out to new clients in the post. It makes the whole process really quick, easy and consistent.

Managing files

This is the area where I think many new photographers struggle – if you are shooting regularly its possible to amount huge quantities of data so I’m sharing how I organise these, with a wee peek at my file organisation.

Everyone has their preferred method of how to store files – harddrives, RAID drives, multiple locations but it’s worth touching on that well worn school of thought which says that data doesn’t exist unless it’s stored in three places and two physical locations. This is important guys – do not loose your files!

Within my hardrives I have files labelled in this order Year > type of job > Client by name > If a wedding, whether wedding or e-shoot and within this I have separate files for the RAW images, the selected images, the final images, the client’s slideshow, low res sneak peeks and possibly album files too. It means that everything I need for that client is stored in one place, it’s all clearly labelled and easy to find.

I also do the same with my Lightroom catalogues – each client has their own Lightroom catalogue, and I will only edit their images within it. If their booking includes two sessions (i.e. engagement shoot and wedding) they will both go in the same catalogue, if it’s just one I still set it up like this.

Some people have one big catalogue, but for me that’s a no-no. The file size can be huge, it becomes slow and, for me it doesn’t feel as organised. Having smaller catalogues and using Smart previews means I can put an individual catalogue in a Dropbox or a portable drive and edit on the go, or send it easily to my editor if I’m swamped with work.

Edit and process

I go through the same process each time I edit a wedding, and in the same order and I’ll details it here in bullet points

  • Cull using Photo Mechanic (1-2 hours) By the way if you don’t use Photo Mechanic but have heard of it – it really is so quick and easy. If you currently cull in Lightroom, and think it’s quick if you create 1:1 previews, basically you are wrong. Try this.

  • Pull the selected images into their own folder, handily labelled ‘Selected’

  • Pull these into Lightroom, applying my own preset on import and generating Smart Previews (as I mentioned before this gives me the flexibility to edit on my laptop if I’m travelling, or send to my preferred outsourcer)

  • Edit in Lightroom – one day on colour correction, one day checking, any photoshop touch ups and exporting images.

  • Use Photomechanic again to select around 150 files for client’s slideshow – copy these over to a file named Slideshow

  • Upload to client galleries (Pixieset and Instaproofs for sales)

  • Create client USB, package and send

The whole process takes around 3 full days per wedding, if it starts taking longer I fall behind, or am stuck at my desk for much longer!
 

That was a brief introduction to workflow, and how I manage both files and clients. If anyone wants to know any more they are very welcome to come pick my brains round the campfire at Snap 2016, or maybe leave comments below.