For Photographers & Curious Brides
This post has been a long time coming! It's something that I've wanted to talk about and I've had a draft of it sitting here for months but I wasn't really feeling like I had a standard workflow until recently! I think what wedding photographers do outside of the wedding day is often a mystery for clients and we as photographers are always curious about what others do and if we're "normal". Well, news flash. There is no normal. That's what got me comfortable about sharing my workflow because it's so different for each photographer.
I'm not sure why the workflow of post-processing is a bit of a mystical unicorn. My goal for the 2017 wedding season was to perfect my own workflow and create a systematic process that worked for me. Before I share it with you, I want to share something else that I've learned recently... ready for it?
G R O W T H T A K E S H U S T L E
I got that #girlboss hustle which results in me working 50 - 70 hours per week *sobs a little quietly*. Hustle means doing anything I can to exceed my clients' expectations, make their families happy, constantly surprise them and make them feel loved. That doesn't end when I pack up and leave a wedding. Honestly, I think the biggest opportunity I have to impress a client and increase the chances of them shouting my name from the rooftops is after the wedding. Yes. After the wedding.
Growth and hustle are the key to my workflow.
THE WEDDING DAY (SATURDAY)
The wedding is over, my coverage has ended, I've packed up my car and I'm driving home or to a hotel. The post-processing workflow starts right now. One of two things happen:
If I am home or in a hotel room before midnight - the client receives a same-day social media sneak peek
If I am home or in a hotel room after midnight - the client receives a next morning social media sneak peek (early... ideally before the bride and groom are even awake)
Regardless of how tired I am, I am going to pop my main memory card into my computer, pull a few a few images, edit them with my basic preset and post them on my Facebook page and my Instagram. I always make sure to use the couple's names and tag them if I can. I also always do separate posts on Instagram and Facebook. I don't let Instagram push the post to Facebook because engagement just sucks that way. Throughout the day I am making a mental note of which images I may want to use so that when I'm pulling files, I know what part of the day to jump to. 9/10 times, this sneak peek is a posed portrait of the bride and groom.
This social media sneak peek is key.
It allows me to immediately get my name out there as the couple's photographer and it increases the chances that my image will be the one the couple shares first following the wedding. We all know the, "our day was everything we asked for, we're so happy to be married, thank you all" post. I want my image to be the one that is paired with the first words from the bride and groom! We live in the era of instant. I need to be able to cater to that.
THE DAY AFTER (SUNDAY)
In most cases, this is Sunday. On Sunday, I do a bunch of things to prep for editing.
I'll cull the entire wedding, including the second shooter's images.
For those non-photogs who are reading this, culling means I am going through every image from your day and choosing the best ones that I want to make up your final gallery. On a typical 10 hour wedding day with a second shooter there can be 3,000 - 4,500 images to go through.
The culled images then have a little process of their own. For me, thanks to my husband who is a software engineer, this is all basically automated. It only takes me starting the process. I put the culled images into Lightroom (the software photographers use to edit) and then Smart Previews are built (which enable me to edit the images from anywhere), the RAW files are put onto a hard drive which then automatically backs up to another hard drive (a NAS system). This takes the most amount of time and I usually let this run while I do other things like unpack gear, eat, nap, whatever.
The NAS in my office is a Network Attached Storage system of two hard drives. Software engineers please forgive me for this less than basic explantation. It works through our internet so that I can move the image files onto it from anywhere in our house without being attached to it via USB. There are two hard drives within it that mirror each other. If one fails, there is a second.
You can get the same effect from putting your RAW files on a hard drive that you then manually back up to another hard drive. Basically, never ever ever just leave your images in one place. Period.
At this point, my images are in four places. Main CF cards, backup SD card and both hard drives of the NAS.
I format/clear the main CF cards and put them back in my Pixel Pocket Rocket in prep for my next wedding. I know I can safely format them because the images are still in three other places.
Once the images are in Lightroom and the whole process of #2 is completed, I go through the Lightroom Catalog and select my blog favorites. I mark them with one star and then put them into a collection.
I go through and I edit the blog favorites (usually 100-200 images) and export them to my desktop.
I can usually get all of this done in 3 - 6 hours depending on how diligent I am and while #2 is happening, I am able to do something else. It needs no supervision - I can walk away from my computer and get some personal stuff done, we can go out to eat, I can take a nap, I can answer emails... whatever I want. Once this is finished, I call it quits and rest for the remainder of the day!
Getting the images culled and imported into Lightroom means that the wedding is ready to be edited. This is the most boring and most technical part of the process but I think it's the most important. Getting all of this done on Sunday sets me up for a great start to the week on Monday. Most of the time, while I'm editing blog favorites I will also post some on Facebook or upload them to my Instagram story because it always makes the clients and their family super happy! This whole process is really crucial to making sure I'm backing up the images.
I don't want them just sitting on memory cards in my bag. Sunday = safety.
Most Mondays I only work half day. I take the morning to do my grocery shopping, errands and other personal stuff that most people do on Saturdays (when I'm at weddings). In the evenings, this is when I prep blog posts.
The blog favorites (100-200 images) that I edited and exported to my desktop on Sunday are now getting made into layouts in BlogStomp. I then write the blog post copy (a quick little blurb about the couple and their day), I link all of the vendors at the bottom of the post and then I upload the images from BlogStomp. I schedule the post and we're ready for Tuesday!
Monday is like my version of a Saturday. I work a little bit wrapping up loose ends, prepping the blog post and also sharing a few more sneak peeks on social media. I want the blog post to go live first thing Tuesday morning so making sure that it's finished on Monday is crucial.
Tuesday is blog day! The clients' scheduled blog post goes live Tuesday morning and when I wake up I make sure it's shared on my social media pages (where I also tag the clients). I also go through and pin select images to Pinterest.
This step completely changed my workflow. I used to hate blogging but my current blog platform, a questionnaire submitted by the bride and groom + BlogStomp have made it so much easier. It takes a bit of the pressure off of me to get the images turned around immediately but it also makes the clients' and their families extremely happy. They are able to see and share the cliff notes version of their day just three days after their wedding. THREE DAYS! Not to mention by this point they've received 2 - 8 different social media sneak peeks. From here, I'm able to relax a little bit and take my time on the rest of their gallery. From a business perspective, this is so key. It makes my clients really happy and it makes their families really happy. Both of these things mean the opportunity to work with more and more brides.
TWO - FOUR WEEKS AFTER THE WEDDING
I guarantee my clients that they will receive their full galleries within four weeks. This is incredibly important to me - and I think it's important to my clients as well. In most instances, I am delivering at about the 2.5 - 3 week mark. This part of my workflow is still improving. I hope to eventually be within the two week window.
Some of you who are really struggling might find this absolutely ridiculous. Trust me, it doesn't come easy. This is where my personal life takes the biggest hit. My husband can attest to the fact that I stay up until very late every single night editing in bed - anything to get those images back to the clients as soon as possible without sacrificing quality. For some photographers, this is where they outsource. But... I am also an outsource editor. I edit images for other wedding photographers to help them improve their own workflows! So, who does the outsource editor outsource to?! hahaha yeah. I don't.
Can your clients wait longer for their images? Yes.
Should they? No.
Here's the thing. I mentioned it earlier. We live in the age of instant.
If you want to increase your chances of receiving raving reviews, exceeding all expectations and turning brides and grooms into repeat life-long clients, you absolutely must get their images back to them. The longer my clients wait, the less impressed they're going to be. The less of a chance that they'll send me their friends, encourage their family members to book me and recommend me over and over again. I am being trusted with some of the most precious memories - people want to experience them before they're completely irrelevant. With every passing day, your images are becoming irrelevant. We want every wedding we shoot to turn into another wedding (or five). The best way to do this? Get those galleries beautifully edited and delivered as soon as possible.
AFTER GALLERY DELIVERY
At this time I format the backup SD card and the RAW files live on the NAS + the high resolution edited JPEGS live in Shootproof.
After I deliver the finished wedding gallery to my bride and groom, I'm going to give them some time to enjoy it before I reach back out. I don't want to be a nag and I do want them to relive their day in peace.
During this time I order their client gift and get it sent off with a handwritten note via snail mail. Sometimes I hear from them and I get a warm thank you and some gushing compliments, sometimes I don't. That's OK! I follow up via email about two weeks after gallery delivery to ask them to please leave me a review if they have a moment!
The best thank you that I can receive is a referral.
I am very lucky that in most instances, my clients have become my friends at this point. I'm invested in their future plans, I follow along on their adventures, I cheer loudly when I see that they're having babies and I often get to photograph them again years later. It's so precious and I don't take those relationships for granted.
Doing this job isn't just about fulfilling an obligation and meeting a deadline. It's about forming relationships and investing in a couple's future. I love, love, love my couples. I am so lucky to work with kind, fun and humble people (who have incredible families and friends)!
I know that I have the opportunity to impress them every step of the way and I don't want to miss one of those opportunities. I have learned that you cannot sit back and tell yourself, "I'm awesome, the clients will come". No. They won't. Regardless of how great and talented and special you are.
Growth takes hustle.