A lot goes into making a good photograph. Pre-production, production, and post-production - every photo shoot goes through these key phases before producing images that have the power to wow the audience. And each of these phases comprises several subtasks that add value to the overall process and play their part in making the end product better, although they might not apply to the physical act of taking photographs directly.

Whether you are just starting out or are an established photography business owner, your work doesn’t stop at just offering stunning pictures to your clients. If you are looking to have the edge over the rest when it comes to client servicing, you are also expected to offer something more to them, something that ensures a wholesome photography experience. And a well-curated photography workflow can help you put it all together in a seamless manner. Wondering where to begin?

In this blog, we break down the various steps involved in a digital photography workflow - from start to finish - that could help you streamline your job.

A DSLR camera mounted on a tripod stand in front of a whiteboard on which rough photography workflow is mentioned

What Is A Photography Workflow?

A checklist placed on a brick color desk along with a Canon EFS 24mm lens and a pen and a notebook

You have just booked a photography client, noted down all their requirements, and have blocked the date on your calendar for the event. Now what? Do you just pick up your camera and go for the shoot on the day of the gig? Or, is there something more you can do to make your job easier when you get down to photographing the event?

This is where a photography workflow comes in. A workflow is your road map that could guide you through every subtask in the process that requires your attention to complete your photography job, from the very start to delivering the photos, and sometimes even after that.

Moreover, a workflow helps you assign a timeline to every task and break down the process into simple steps. This, in turn, could help you narrow down the chances of missing out on any of the steps and navigate the task more efficiently.

Photography Workflow: A Complete Breakdown

A. Pre-Production

1. Discuss & Plan

The period between getting booked for an assignment and actually getting down to photographing is the time you could devote to prepping for your shoot. Decide on the theme, style, and look of the shoot. Ideate and work on the creative scope of the project. And most importantly, communicate your ideas to your clients. This is your time to hear out your clients and address any concerns they might have, and even ask questions in return. This way, your client will know what to expect from the images, and even you will be well-prepared in terms of deliverables. 

2. Location Scouting

In most instances, the day of the shoot is packed with activities, leaving you with little room to extend the timeline to figure out the scene, the lighting, and the angles that would best suit the theme of your shoot. But if you are familiar with the location in advance, it could help you save time and energy on the shoot day. From understanding the location’s dynamics to getting familiar with the photography rules and regulations of the place, location scouting could help you avoid any last-minute running around to get things in place. Therefore, we suggest you make this step an important part of your photography workflow checklist.

3. Preparing A Shot List

A shot list is a checklist of all the different shots and photographs you want to take on the day of the shoot. Your shot list could differ from project to project and be modified as per your client’s requirements. Having a shot list in hand during the production stage could help you get down to the business without wasting too much time visualizing your images during the shoot. Think of it in terms of a storyboard or a mental script that you could use to guide your models during posing them and framing the scenes. This would work as a reference list for you to double-check if you have covered everything that you had in mind. And the process of creating a shot list starts with understanding your client’s vision and getting to know their expectations better. Also, make a note of any props that you think you might need for the shoot. However, while preparing a shot list is an integral part of your pre-production workflow, remember that it is there to only act as a reference point. Don’t let it limit your creative possibilities or curb your urge to explore a scene a little more or in a different way. 

4. Gear Prep & Camera Setting

Photography gear laid out on a grey surface

Organizing your gear bag hours before leaving for the shoot could be of big help. What’s the big deal, you ask? Nothing! Until there is! Whether it is an SD card that you just can’t seem to find or a battery that isn’t fully charged, even the smallest of things could disrupt your day if left for the last minute. Therefore, we suggest you arrange all your photography gear - camera, lenses, lighting equipment, tripods, and reflectors, and whatever else that you might need, and put them in your gear bag neatly - so that you know what has been stashed in which compartment of your bag. And before you head to the shoot, remember to double-check!

The same rule applies for setting up your camera at the shoot. Which file format are you going to use while shooting? What will be the image size? Prep your camera for the shoot day in advance. This would also help you identify any snag in your gear well within time and arrange for a backup if needed. 

B. Production

1. Get, Set, Shoot!

Once your gear bag is ready, it is time to head to the location of the shoot. But before you leave, it would be a good idea to make sure you have the correct address and are following the directions correctly via your GPS device. And don’t forget to check on the traffic. Reaching the location an hour or so earlier would give you ample time to set up your gear and analyze the lighting available for your shoot. The last thing you would probably want after days of preparation is the timeline getting affected because you showed up late for the shoot!

During the shoot, while you go by the shot list you have so meticulously chalked out, do remember to observe your surroundings for inspiration and let your creative imagination shine. And ensure your subjects grasp your vision and you understand theirs if you are shooting with people. How do you do that? Communicate with your models and try to guide them through the poses and scenes instead of simply directing them from a technical standpoint. Most importantly, help them feel at ease. In short, consider working with them and not on them. Moreover, if you are working with a second shooter or an assistant, we suggest you ensure that they are briefed about the entire timeline and have a copy of your shot list. It would also be beneficial to have a reliable channel of communication to ensure everyone is on the same page. 

C. Post-Production

1. Save & Back Up

Saving and backing up photographs in Lightroom on a laptop placed on a tabletop alongside a coffee mug

You are back from a long day at the shoot. Now what? First things first, save all the images by transferring them to your computer and backing up the raw image files on a hard drive or cloud storage. Many photographers have two sets of backups on different platforms. And we agree with that practice too. It is always better to be safe than sorry! While you do that, also keep a note of the total number of images to cross-check if all of them were successfully transferred. Moreover, to keep your images organized, you could consider segregating them into separate folders and naming the folders based on the events, client details, location, date, and so on. The goal is to find them easily when required. You don’t want to be looking for a pin in a haystack when you have a deadline to meet! And once you have multiple backups of your images and divided them into different folders, you could now go ahead with formatting your card on the camera.

2. Import, Organize, & Sort Images

After backing up your images, it’s time to organize and sort them before you move on to editing them. And this is where Adobe Lightroom comes in handy. But first, you have to import your images to Lightroom. To do that, you could either connect your camera to the computer or simply add your SD card to a card reader, which is the more preferred way. Next, open Lightroom and click on the Import button on the left side of the panel. You can also do this by going to File and clicking on the Import Photos and Video option.

Once you do this, the Lightroom import dialog box will display on the screen. There, you can select the image source from where you wish to import the images. Post this, you can choose how you want them to be added to the Lightroom Catalog - Copy As DNG, Copy, Move, or Add. Now, simply select the images that you want to import from the preview area and click Import. Lightroom gives you various options to sort, organize, and filter photos by adding keywords, colors, marking them as favorite, etc.

3. Culling & Editing

Over the shoulder shot of a person editing an image in Lightroom

Editing is an integral part of your post-production workflow (given it’s a part of your services/packages). However, it is also time-consuming and can even be exhausting. Therefore, before you begin editing your images, it would be better if you consider culling the images. Because not every picture you have taken would make the final cut. While some of the photos could be mere duplicates, others might have the subject out of focus, and a few others could have unflattering angles. You don’t want to spend your time editing all the images you’ve taken only to realize that a few of them won’t even make it past the editing stage. So why waste time on them? Lightroom can help you speed up your culling process. To learn more about how you can make that happen, read this article on rating, flagging, and color labeling images in Lightroom.

When it comes to editing your images, try to apply an editing style that enhances the look of the pictures and does justice to them. Work on skin color correction and refining skin imperfections. But also keep in mind your client’s vision and how best you can bring them out through your creativity. However, if you feel that a large chunk of your time is taken up by editing photos, then you could consider outsourcing this task. Outsourcing your photo editing task to either a professional photo editing agency or allocating it to in-house editors can help you buy back the time that you could invest in other areas of your job. Think about it, once you get back from a shoot, all you have to do is hand over your images to the outsourcing agency, and you have freed yourself from sorting, organizing, culling, editing, and retouching your photos. That’s a lot of time you can use to book more clients, work on your marketing strategy, or simply relax and unwind. This would also fast-track your photography workflow and speed up the process of delivering the pictures. That means happy clients and a happier, more relaxed you! 

4. Exporting Images

The simplest way to export images from Lightroom to a hard drive or a computer is to select the required images from the Grid view, click on File, and select the Export button. Now, select the source in the Export dialog box. However, there are multiple settings for exporting images from Lightroom. Learn more about it here. Also, if you are sending images for printing, we suggest you ensure that the size and file format of your images are compatible with that of the printing agency. This is important to make sure that the prints don’t come out distorted or with uneven margins.

5. Album Design & Print

An album displaying black and white images lies on a black and white rug on the floor

To simplify your photography workflow, just like editing, this process too could be outsourced. While album sales could add to the profits of your photography business, designing albums could also take up a lot of your time. Therefore, a smarter way of getting it done could be outsourcing the task to a firm specializing in curating stunning album designs. Again, this could make your work easier and faster. The same goes for printing as well.

6. Delivering Images To Clients

Image delivery is one of the final legs of your photography workflow and a crucial one at that. Photographing, editing, printing - everything you have done so far comes together in this step as the final product is ready to be delivered to your client. And as it is widely stated, how you present your product is just as important as the product itself. Now, there are many ways you can deliver images to your clients, the most common being uploading them to a photo gallery and sharing the link with your client. Other common methods include sharing soft copies of the images via flash drives or sharing hard copies in the form of albums or prints.

7. Updating Social Media

A close up shot of a hand holding a smart phone displaying a post on Instagram

Once you have delivered the images to your client, is there still something left that you could tick off your photography workflow checklist? Well, yes and no. This step is not mandatory and depends on you and your photography contract guidelines about sharing images. But if your client has signed the model release form and agreed to release the images taken by you on your social media platforms, then this could be a beneficial step to add to your photography workflow. Keeping your social media up to date with new photographs and engaging content could help you grow your social media presence. And tagging clients on these posts could even increase your network among their social circles.

Further Read: 5 WordPress Plugins To Keep Your Site More Efficient

Customize & Keep It Simple

Finding all the steps discussed so far too much to process? We say CUSTOMIZE! Create your own photography workflow as per your photography needs and requirements. If you outsource any of the tasks mentioned earlier, you could strike them off from your workflow chart. If there’s anything specific that works for you, count that in. The objective of having a workflow in place is to help you navigate the entire process of a photography job, from start to finish, in an easy and hassle-free manner. And to keep your workflow simple, practical, and easy to navigate. Remember, the best photography workflow is the one that works for you and helps you manage your time better. So, simplify and streamline until you find the right fit for you.

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