In the beginning of our careers there were many times we were ready to quit. When we first started, we were excited. We loved shooting and were having a great time, making new memories and capturing them for our couples and families. The minute we decided to turn our passion for photography into a business the dynamic shifted.
What was once fun, was now work. What we did for a good time and laughs now had expectations and an order to it. It became so overwhelming. From the beginning we knew that we wanted to provide a consistent experience. We also knew, from my experience in retail , we wanted to under promise and overdeliver. But it was getting harder and harder to do that as we started growing. We were getting to the point when we were just meeting expectation and while they were still happy we were barely keeping our heads above water.
We were meeting expectations at the expense of our personal time and the time that was meant to be with our family. From day one we said we wanted to do what we love for a living but without sacrificing what we love most, our family! One night we sat together crying. Ready to sell it all! The fun in what we did was slowly starting to disappear and something had to change. We needed to either create a system, workflow, that would bring the joy back and allow a good balance between entrepreneurship and our personal lives or we were going to quit.
We knew we didn’t want to go back to he corporate world. We knew we didn’t want to hand our kids over to babysitters and the school system. This put the pressure to find a solution. By focusing on what we loved most in life, our family, we got the motivation we needed to create a seamless workflow where we could get our lives back and enjoy what we do again. Here is our exact workflow and is only adjusted during holidays, that we ALWAYS spend with our families, and if we have personal emergencies. To date we’ve been able to keep our turn around time to 1-2 weeks for every single wedding.
Minor tip before we begin, we always under promise over deliver so even though we know that we can get complete galleries out in under two weeks, we set the expectation for one month. This also gives us breathing room if we ever, GOD FORBID, had a real serious emergency.
Step 1: SHOOTING THE EVENT: Getting it right in camera. We know that a huge way to minimize the time spent editing is to get it in right in camera. We’ve designated a blog post exclusively for how to shoot intentionally for post production.
One of the things that would take forever after a wedding was loading the memory cards. We’d go through 10-15 memory cards and each would take 15 minutes to load. You can imagine with getting home from a 10 hour day on our feet for a wedding, arriving home by midnight, the last thing we wanted to do was spend 2-4 hours loading memory cards. It became so frustrating because we could be using that time to actually pick sneak peeks!!! We began searching for a faster way to load our memory cards. We discovered the Lexar Professional Workflow HR1 Four-Bay USB 3.0 Reader Hub LRWHR1RBNA . This tower transfers images from up to four memory cards at once, cutting down our image upload and backup time to 30-60 minutes. We just got THREE hours back of our life!!!
The Tower is sold separately so you will have to purchase four memory card readers for the tower. Lexar Professional Workflow CFR1 CompactFlash USB 3.0 Reader – LRWCFR1TBNA. Its a total investment of $175, a small price to pay for all the time we got back in our lives. We shoot 30 weddings a year, saving three hours per wedding post workflow has given us 90 hours back which we can use for personal or to focus on other areas of our business. In our case, since we are wedding photographers getting home late, we used that time to go to bed. Get some rest!!!! We knew we deserved it.
Step 2: POST PRODUCTION BEGINS: The next morning we have our alarm clock set to wake us up seven hours after we’ve gone to bed. So if we were in bed by 1pm we’d set our alarm clock to wake us up at 6am. This is how we chose to do it so that we could be done picking sneak peeks and all the pictures for the blog by the time we had to start getting ready for church 9:00am. We head to our home office and before our workflow, it would take us hours to look through the images because they would load so slowly!!!!!! We shoot raw so the files are huge and going through them in Light Room would take forever.
We knew this was an area for improvement, so began to hunt for a way to go through the images quickly! We discovered PhotoMechanic . Photo mechanic is the ultimate media file management tool. It allows you to move from image to image without that annoying rendering delay. We pick our 20 sneak peeks now in 15 minutes (mind you we are looking through over 6000 images in less than 15 minutes), edit in 5 minutes, thanks to our improved shooting which allows for minimal editing in post .
Once we are done with our sneak peeks we schedule our posts and email them out to our couples and vendor team and FINISH for that day! Now we get to enjoy the morning in bed with our nuggets, eat breakfast and get ready for church and enjoy the rest of the day off with our family.
Step 4: Time to CULL the entire wedding. We use Photo Mechanic software to cull (select the best images from all the images taken for that event ) the entire wedding. This process takes us about 2 hours. In the past we used Lightroom to cull and it took about a day to cull a wedding because the rendering of the images was so slow. Not anymore!
Once we’ve culled the entire wedding we import them into Lightroom for the next step. Next we pick 200-250 images we want to use for the blog and edit them. Again because of how we shoot our editing consists of minor adjustments . While we do this we record ourselves on our phone talking about special things about our couples and their day so that when its time to write the blog is a matter of typing what we recorded. Once we are done editing the blog pictures I type up my recording . Add the images and add to our publishing schedule the blog to post. This process takes us about 2-3 hours. Once complete we are done working for that day on that event.
Step 5: 24 hour mental break from editing. We like to pull away with every wedding or shoot and work on something else before we continue editing. It helps us come back with a fresh perspective and more focused so that we can eliminate any images that snuck in there that maybe are to similar or not sharp. For eye health, its also not good to be exposed to a computer screen for to many hours, and because we have such an airtight workflow using tools and software that is so efficient we can afford to take a day off. Its been planned into the workflow. As much as we get lost in reliving these images we force ourselves to do this.
Step 6: FINAL STAGES POST PRODUCTION: Almost at the finish line. The next day we focus on completing our edits in Lightroom for the rest of the wedding. This this takes about 2-3 hours. Once complete we export the images to JPEG. Exports usually take about 20-30 minutes so snack time . After a snack and taking the dog for a walk its finally for the final review of the images. This is when we check to see if any blemishes need to be photoshopped. We rarely ever have to do this but if we do this is when we do it. This usually takes about 30 minutes and then we’re done! Then we organize the images how we want them, rename them with file numbers that will keep them in the order we want the couple to experience them and ta-da wedding is ready for delivery.
Our workflow from beginning to end in off season allows us to have a one week turnaround for weddings and during wedding seasons when we are shooting 5-6 weddings in one month, some of them back to back, we’re still able to achieve a two week- three week turn around time. Thats been the case for the last 5 years.
Before our workflow we would cap our weddings at 20 weddings because without a plan we were setting an expectation of 45 day turn around time and completing the edits in 30 days (under promise over deliver). But sometimes those deadlines were met by going a few nights without sleep. We were doing a number to our health, especially during wedding season. After our photography workflow was set into place we had more time, less stress and now shoot 30 weddings a year with a 1-2 week turn around time, started a second business, homeschool and still take one to two months out of the year to travel with our family. Its all because now we actually have a plan. We know exactly what we have to do, when we have to do it and having it written down helps us hold ourselves accountable.
Our workflow may not work for you and your situation but at the end of the day you still need a workflow. We created one that worked for us by sitting down, discussing the things that slow us down, the things that we didn’t enjoy doing and was taking time away from the things we loved. After crying and complaining about it we searched for solutions, created solutions in some instances, and wrote down a plan. We promise it may give you a headache initially but it will save you from so many in the future! We hope our workflow helps you this wedding season and frees your time to spend with your family this holiday season!