Photo Editing Workflow: Why do you need one?

A brief look at why a photo editing workflow is important for wedding photographers

All professional wedding photographers will agree that taking a picture is actually a very small part of the process of creating images. There is an entire series of processes that occur from when you press that shutter-release to the delivery of photos to the client. It’s easy to imagine that once you click a picture your work is done. In fact, the majority of a photographer’s work begins from there. Capturing an image is only the first step to a long and meticulous process. The huge amount of data that you gather has to be sorted and categorised before you even begin to think of editing. Sure, you can dump all the pictures in one place and randomly start working on any one and make your way from there. But if you’re a serious photographer intent on improving your work process and ensuring client satisfaction, adopting a workflow is very important.

Why do you need a workflow?

As imposing as it sounds, a workflow is nothing but a sequence of actions or processes that are followed from the start to finish of a project. As wedding photographers in the digital age, a workflow is more important than ever. The emphasis is on digital files rather than prints and also the amount of data collected in digital cameras FAR outweighs that from the film age.

For all these reasons, it’s easy to mix up data (at the very least) and lose/misplace /overwrite data (at the worst). If you don’t spend some time to organise yourself and set a process in place, you could easily reduce your efficiency and output. So much so, that you could regularly jeopardise the timely delivery of the wedding photos to your client. Having a clear workflow will help avoid all these issues and also ensure consistency in your images.

#1 Massive amounts of data

When you come back from a wedding, there are numerous cameras, memory cards and hard disks with thousands of pictures from different events. Considering that most Indian Weddings are an average 3-day affair with multiple events per day and you probably have 2-3 team-members shooting each event, you could end up with 10,000-30,000 images in total from one wedding. With such a vast amount of data, the chances of losing it are that much higher.

#2 Easy culling

While the main objective here is to bring down the number of images to be edited and, therefore, delivered, you can’t ignore that there is a need for speed and efficiency. You definitely don’t want to be stuck staring at a stash of 10,000-30,000 images for days and weeks on end. Trust us, we have made these mistakes when we first started out. The idea is to go through the entire stash as quickly as possible to find a good set of pictures ready for editing – not losing out on gems in the process (because in our experience, once images are rejected in Round 1, we only go back to them if we feel that a particular event or person is missing or not represented enough in the final set).

Point being, you cannot compromise the quality of your selection or culling, in the interest of saving time. But the fact of the matter is, without a clear process, the chances of this step getting botched up or just simply being too slow compared to the delivery timeline is incredibly high. There are various software that can be used and best practices of selection, rejection, labelling, sorting etc that can come in very handy to streamline this part of the process. (More on this coming soon).

#3 Avoiding duplication and overwriting

Like we said, with such massive amounts of data, the chances of mishaps are more. In our own early days, we’ve made a mistake or two with data management, accidentally formatting a card and, even worse, over-writing the formatted card. If you’ve ever been there, you know how heartbreaking it can be.

Also, many of us have teams or crew members, whether as photographers or as editors. Some of us even outsource the editing. When multiple people working on the same wedding set and catalogues/files get copied more than once, the chances of duplication or working on the wrong catalogue are quite high. But a simple & clear system for this will ensure that even when multiple team members work not the same files, it will always be in the correct and updated version.

Taking great pictures is just not good enough. If you want to be considered a professional, you can’t afford to be carefree about data and editing. It is important to be organised in order to avoid losing, duplicating or overwriting your data. Accidents and mishaps can always happen but it is up to you to put systems in place to ensure redundancy and minimise damage.

#4 Efficient editing process

Selecting, rejecting, labelling, sorting, storing and archiving photos is a long and arduous but highly necessary process that all photographers can’t help but live with. Without a distinct process, you could find yourself and your images all over the place.  You could remember taking an incredible picture at a particular point at the wedding but you can’t find it because your labelling and organising process is not efficient. You have one POV of a very special moment and are sure that one of your team members took an equally great photo from a different POV – you want to put the two together, but you just can’t seem to locate that photo. Disappointing, right? Which is why having a streamlined workflow process if necessary to avoid these kinds of hassles. (More on this coming soon.)

Now that you’ve culled, selected & organised the photos, don’t rest easy! There are still a huge number of photos to edit and work through. If you were to give each photo the kind of attention one gives to ad campaign shoots, you could spend a year editing one wedding! But that’s not really practical, is it? As a professional wedding photographer, you don’t have the luxury of that kind of time. There are probably five other wedding sets you need to edit and deliver simultaneously. Having a workflow ensures that maximum work is done with minimum effort taken, without compromising on the quality and consistency of the end product.

#5 Timely delivery of images

We’ve said this a lot, our sole job is to create eternal memories for the couple and their families. After their wedding is over, it is normal for the family to be eager to see the images. If you aren’t efficient, you won’t be able to deliver on time. It won’t matter that your photos are incredible. If you have been inexcusably late in your delivery timeline, it will take the pleasure out of the best possible photos – your client’s excitement will be greatly diminished. You need to create a positive client experience by delivering the wedding photos on the date you promised. Staying true to your word will only add to your reputation as a professional, and this is only possible with a good workflow.

Workflow differs from photographer to photographer, but we’re sure that every successful professional has one. Even for seasoned wedding photographers with established, tried-and-tested workflows, making a few necessary tweaks here and there over the years to stay abreast of new systems and technologies is very important.

How you manage the process and workflow is not as important as having one in the first place – there isn’t one good or correct way of doing things. Everybody needs to find what works best for them. If you’re just starting out as a wedding photographer, then stay tuned for our next post where we talk in detail about the workflow process we follow in our studio – these should help you get started, after which you need to develop what works best for you.

Have any thoughts on data management and photo editing workflow? Leave us a comment below to let us know.

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