If your camera is your studio’s eyes and the computer the studio’s brain than the photography workflow is most certainly the studio’s arm and legs. Meaning the workflow does the heavy lifting by running back and forth and completing tasks. This brings us to the question. What exactly is a workflow? Well in the simplest form, it is the series of steps completed from initial contracted service agreement to the final product delivery. As professional photographers we must constantly improve these processes or fall victim to lost productivity, lost income and lost sleep.
Many photographers shudder to think about making improvements to their workflow. It’s easy to become complacent with a system that just works well enough. Perhaps it’s something else, the fear of tampering with pandora’s box . Whatever the case may be, documentation is imperative to creating an effective workflow. If you don’t have a checklist in place already we encourage you to brain-dump every step on your next project and really embrace your workflow’s minutia. By looking for weaknesses, bottlenecks and other improvements, much can be gained.
Nothing can improve the bottom line of a studio more than an effective workflow. Once perfected it can produce more capital, save time, and dramatically improve customer satisfaction. At our studio we actually have a few very different workflows that serve different parts of the same final goal. It takes many steps to go from initial meeting to final delivery and by segmenting our workflows into pieces it becomes much easier to manage different pieces of this complex puzzle and ultimately improve every facet of the business.
During the very fast paced nature of wedding photography, it is easy to forget a detail in the hustle of the day. This is exactly why we make checklists to help us gather the details that we need for each part of the wedding day. We start by soliciting the bride for images of anything of importance and combine this with a list of images that we feel are compulsory to wedding photography and attempt to capture the entire list at every event. Our checklist is broken into sections such as getting ready, ceremony, reception, family portraits, etc. making it easy to follow along as the day passes by. This also puts our client at ease knowing ahead of time that the photographers have the information to capture the details of their very special day!
This part of the workflow can be very intricate and deep-diving into this process is essential to improving your workflows efficiency. With proper planning, automation and constant tinkering it’s possible to offload many hours of manual work to computer automation. We start by creating a standard post production checklist for each and every job our studio intakes, outlining every single step of our post production process. Not only does having this document keep us on track with the post production progress, but it also keeps our processing methods very consistent and measurable.
Creating a post production checklist is crucial to overall workflow improvement. As we complete each section we stopwatch and record the time to complete each part. With this data we gain insight into exactly how much time each part of the process takes to complete. By continually repeating this process we can gain a very holistic view of where our processes can be improved for the most dramatic time gains! We then focus our energy on tweaking the longest sections by the recorded time. Small gains of seconds can add up to huge time savings when amplified across many photos. We then work to automate tasks with Lightroom.
We’ve come to expect a lot out of our photography catalog system and Lightroom handles almost all the tasks we can throw at it. From importing to exporting, color correcting to advanced photo repairs Lightroom almost does it all. With plugins & presets we gain the ability to quickly complete complex tasks with relative ease. We also use the Lightroom publishing service from Smugmug to quickly get client galleries online right out of Lightroom. We base a lot of our automation by watching specific folders and can trigger events based on photos entering particular folders via IFTTT and the LR export.
In addition to the photography and wedding day workflow we have our client workflow that helps us retain information about our clients for billing systems, contracts, payments, client personal information, important dates and so on. This systems is also paramount to the survival of the photography studio as an enterprise. Without incoming money the studio will eventually cease to exist, therefore it is absolutely imperative to focus your energy and goals on making this process very effective. When we first started we used a combination of gmail and googledocs to freely manage our clients. However, as the studio grew the need for a better client management system became very evident. For our studio we use a great piece of online software to bridge the gap called SimplyStudio. While we don’t feel that SimplyStudio solves every issue, nor is it perfect it does do a lot of heavy lifting and is certainly worth investigating.
When considering matters of the workflow it vital to remember to keep things simple. There is no reason to take 5 steps if 2 will accomplish the same thing. Keep in mind that this process will be repeated over and over with ever new gig the studio books. Therefor improving the workflow improves the business in almost every way. Focus your energy wisely here and you will reap the benefits of a photography workflow system that can do a lot of the work for you!