A while back I was chatting with a client who had moved to our area within the last year or two. She had hired someone to photograph her family when she first moved here (didn’t ask who, she didn’t say who-I’m definitely a mind your own business kinda girl) and while asking me when she might see her proofs mentioned she had waited 5-6 weeks to see the ones from her previous session. I wasn’t that surprised. I have noticed the turnaround time for weddings and even portraits stretching out farther and farther. While discussing it with a few other photographers they said things like…”We don’t want our clients to think its that easy” or “I just don’t have time to edit during my busy season” or “The truth is I take as many sessions as I can shoot and then figure out the editing.” I was floored. Maybe I am too much of an instant gratification person but I want to see the pictures that I planned for and took and waited forever to do as fast as possible. I can’t wait to get them up on my walls and because I am like that, I don’t want to give my clients anything else. If you are going into the fall before clients are seeing their summer images, they are wearing boots and planning Halloween costumes and maybe even already planning their spring beach vacation!
| One of my summer families (click for their blog post) |
And let’s talk about the other side of that. You. Your family. Your time. I don’t know about you but I hate having things backed up. It makes me anxious. I hate going back through a wedding or a portrait session and trying to recall what they were laughing about and why that image might be a keeper (because your client will recall things like that). I want to get things done while they are fresh on my mind-while I remember what it was like to be in that moment with them. I also don’t want to always feel like I have something I need to be doing. I committed to that this summer. I only photograph clients Monday-Thursday during the summer (except for special circumstances) – my kids childhood is too important to work it away. And I don’t want to get burned out -that wouldn’t be fair for my clients. I need that break in between to get excited and geared up for whats next. Now, I don’t put my camera down on the weekends-I photograph my family, our lives together. It feeds my soul; it helps me serve my clients. My goal this year was to have my sessions edited within 24-48 hours of taking them. Crazy right? Not really (but more on that later). Some days I have two sessions (today, for instance I have two + a magazine shoot) so if I let it back up I go into the weekend with all these sessions needing to be edited and just sitting on my computer waiting for me. I have to admit, it weighs on me. I feel like I need to be working but my heart feels like I need to be hanging out with my family. I don’t like that turmoil and I am just not one of those people who can put it down, not worry about it, and come back. And, as I said, I don’t want my clients to have to wait to see the memories they just created. I want them to be excited about their images!
Some of you are shaking your heads and thinking, but I am fine with that; I am always going to have work so its a process. I get that and I do wish I could be a little more like that. If you are one of those people this probably isn’t the post for youYou are way tooooo sane to probably even be reading anything I write lol because I am a little Type A…well, more than a little. My family is a bustle of energy so we work hard and play hard. Being caught up and not having to worry about what awaits me at my desk once the weekend is over is kind of amazing. I didn’t realize how much until this year. The weekends now are just free and easy and worry free. Just like summertime should be
I will say too, I also photograph a very unique set of clients during the summer-they are usually on vacation and only here for 5-7 days. What I started noticing is that my clients were buying their digital images and not doing a thing with them. Everyone is busy. I wanted to try to serve them better-to let them see what they can do with the images. In this day and age where everything is online it does speak to people to actually get to hold something of quality. Sure, one day you can click through your images with your children, but wouldn’t it be that much more awesome to flip through a beautiful album? To have something to have their tiny hands hold? I don’t want to discount digital images (that is a whole other post) because I believe in preserving and displaying, but I do want my clients to leave with some type of professional printed product to really show off. For people to stop when they walk into their home because they have this large metal hanging in their foyer of them in the gulf, splashing around at sunset. In just 15-20 minutes of their time they can come sit down, have a drink, and focus on their images. I can answer questions, they can see them printed (I order printed proofs for them-more about that later as well), they can see how different products display beach images the best and how they would look in their home. I am loving being able to do this and I can only do this if I can edit them quickly. Seeing their reactions to their images and really helping them decide what is best for their home is so much better than throwing up that online gallery in some circumstances. I do photograph a lot of photographers and I generally do not have them come in unless they want to – lets be honest, most of us (photographers) know what we want! (I don’t discriminate – if photographers don’t want to deal with it and want someone else to help them and be more full service I totally will – I just find that most of them are kind of like me…we get the digitals and put up the displays we had planned for). Its unfortunate I can’t do this for every vacationing client. Obviously my later in the week clients don’t have this available with the printed proofs but I am hoping next year to plan better and schedule those that want/need assistance earlier in the week. Its always a learning process – I am always trying to improve things for my clients but it does take time to see what works and why and work out the kinks.
The thing about all of this is, it doesn’t take much so if you feel like you might want to live in this crazy little always-caught-up-world so you can really take charge of the rest of your time and get more things done then read on…here is how I am trying to do it…
You have to be organized and have a foolproof workflow but the biggest component to this entire thing is consistency; consistency across the board. If you are like most that I know, you are photographing in the same handful of locations or types of locations so you should know your light and when to schedule your clients to get that right. I could go more into that but I do that in my Virtual Workshop; you are the authority in helping determine the outcome of your client’s images. So you have your style, your locations, your light. When you cull you have to really think about how your clients feel-get their images down to the best, quality images. They don’t need 100 images-they won’t even know where to begin. Have a consistent range that you try to cull down for for every type/length of session you photograph. Trust your gut as you go through and make super quick judgement calls-you are what makes your style so that gut reaction to each image is usually right. Then, your style should really equate to the same editing almost every time. Surely there are little tweaks here and there if you have a color cast or something like that but you should pretty much be following a recipe, if you will, for every image you edit. Yeah, this is shameless product plug but I teach from start to finish how I shoot, cull, organize, and edit with so much consistency its crazy. I literally do almost the same things to every image I touch-beach or not. And I am fast. Your clients don’t care if it takes you 6 hours or 30 minutes to edit their session as long as they get from you what they expect to get out of you based on what they have seen from you (your portfolio, Facebook, instagram). And all of this I do from the comfort of your home – its an online workshop with shooting, camera settings, lighting, backlighting, organizing, culling, workflow, editing, and so much more information (you can check it out HERE).
For example, lets take today (I actually wrote this last week)…I had a session last night but I actually edited it last night so I was caught up as of today. This morning I had a sunrise session at 5:40 am. I went and photographed a family at the beach and then actually stopped by another beach access and flew the drone (it was a dreamy morning).
Because I know how to shoot consistently my images come into Lightroom just as I expect them to. I applied a few tweaks that I do almost every time (consistency!!) to all the images and then I sat down (everyone was still in bed since it was early) and culled a 700 image session (I did over shoot a tad but they had a 1 year old so I was working with that a little and it was early – kids can go either way when its early and may take some time and prodding) into less than 40 images in about 15 minutes. I kid you not. And yes, that is part of what I teach in my virtual workshop. While they were loading into Photoshop, I got up and got in a 6 mile run in at 6:50 (it was way cooler than my usual afternoon run so yay!) and came home and showered. I posted a sneak for them and then woke the baby up and we snuggled with daddy in bed and then everyone got up (including the other kids who usually don’t sleep that late) and ate breakfast. We all hung out for a bit- I straightened up a little while listening to all of them fight over a heated game of UNO and then, when Hudson laid down for this morning nap, the kids straightened their rooms up while I went down and edited the session. That took about 35 minutes – and that was including some head swaps and all hah! I answered some emails and such. If they had not been leaving that day I would have ordered proofs for them (Millers/MpixPro will have them shipped like the same day in most circumstances and its overnight FedEx). Came back upstairs and hung out until it was time to go do my magazine shoot at 1 pm. Picked up lunch for everyone and we had lunch and then hung out more. When Hudson went down for his afternoon nap I edited the magazine shoot and caught up on emails. Tonight I will go to my sunset session and then when I get home I will put my cards in to load into Lightroom while I go upstairs to hang out with the kids before bed. Most likely hubby and I will snuggle on the couch while he answers emails, we watch some show we recorded (I won’t lie, Real Housewives is my vice) and I will cull that session, tweak it in LR, and then load into PS. I will get up in the morning and quickly edit that session. (I wrote this last week-I had several more shoots last week but by Friday morning I was completely caught up with galleries upload waiting on my families to get back home and settled before I sent them out on Monday).
That is how it works with me. If my clients aren’t photographers or someone that doesn’t want to come in for a proofing session I will wait to post their gallery until they are home from vacation. If they are coming in for a proofing session I will order their edited images (I usually would go ahead and edit theirs the night of their session so I can order them) and prepare for their proofing session. So if I photograph them on a Monday they will come in Wednesday or Thursday for their proofing session.
The key to all of this is consistency, as I said before. You are shooting a certain way that is fitting with your style of portraiture, you are organized and your workflow is flawless and fast, and your editing is spot on & consistent. Do you see a pattern here? I won’t lie, if you haven’t picked up the Virtual Workshop or come to an in person workshop it would definitely help you become more consistent and, thus, more productive with your editing time. I want you to deliver consistent images to your clients – they look on your page and they know what they will get when they hire you and that is why they hire you. For you, your style, what they see, your customer service, your commitment to quality…
It isn’t perfect…I am not perfect. It doesn’t always work this way and things do come up. But I am striving for this…I think it would be awesome to always be caught up….If I can help you guys do the same, I am all about it!
Also, if you are reading this before the 4th of July I am offering $150 off that awesome portrait workshop – shop HERE and use July4th as your coupon code in the store! Want to read more about it and see a clip before you buy? Sure – click HERE!
Love to hear your thoughts!