A Holistic Workflow for Portrait Photographers

The Way You Work

Photographers tend to think of workflows in the limited terms of technology and convenience: “I shoot RAW because it allows the most flexibility,” or, “I correct in Lightroom because it’s fastest.”

One thing that doesn’t get enough attention, however, is how your workflow affects your business’s bottom line. That’s right – the way you work drastically affects your costs and your sales!

The more images you shoot, for example, the longer it takes to cull those images. And the more images you deliver, the longer it takes to correct. Time is money, so whether you do your own post-production or send it to a Post editor, your costs go up with the number of images shot and delivered.

When it comes to sales, we’ve found that successful portrait photographers typically do not rely on a hosting site to do their sales work.  Rather, their sales process is a closely controlled step in the workflow whereby they work directly with the clients to help them select images and products to take home. Their sales workflow is integral to their business and significantly raises the average revenue collected for each job.

A Holistic Workflow

A good workflow is efficient and manageable. It is designed to provide reasonably fast turnaround of images that look great, but it also controls costs by limiting the work to what is necessary at any given point in the process. A good workflow also considers the bigger picture, including the sales process that it feeds into.

Based on our own experience and that of our clients, we recommend a workflow like the following to portrait photographers:

  1. Shoot as many images as is necessary. That is, don’t miss out on quality shots because of some artificial limit, but don’t waste shots that you know will never be used.
  2. Cull the images down to 50 or fewer keeper images which will be presented to your clients. The number varies, of course, but make sure it’s reasonable.
  3. Correct and pre-touch the keeper images. Pre-touching is light retouching work intended to make the images just presentable enough for the sales meeting. Some photographers perform full retouching at this point, but consider pre-touching as a nice compromise that limits the post-production costs while still resulting in quality images.
  4. Present the images to the client and help them select combinations of images and final products. This is where your inner sales person comes to life.
  5. Retouch the selected images that will be printed. Now is the time to go all-out.
  6. Deliver final products to your clients.

The Bottom Line

As a photographer and business person, you need a workflow which balances creativity and art with efficiency and profit. The above workflow leaves room for both and helps ensure that you can continue to create beautiful images for years to come.



  1. Photographers wear a lot of hats. Most of us jump, leap or slowly seep into a photography profession because we love the act of photographing, that first glance at what we shot, and the satisfaction we feel when giving a client their final images and enjoying the fact they’ll have those to cherish for a long time. We’ve given them something painstakingly created out of light and shadow that will tangibly, holistically affect their lives.
    But somewhere between that first click and the final pixel, if we’ve been doing this long enough, a photographer comes to realize that only about 20% of our work day is actually spent in the act of photographing. The rest, that 80%, we’re wearing a different hat…. retoucher, graphic designer, set builder, accountant, receptionist, salesperson, employer, … the list is endless!
    After enough long nights and early mornings glued to the computer, a few honest looks at the bottom line and a glance around at what you’re doing with the rest of your day besides working, I feel it all boils down to just what this blog post is about: The holistic workflow and how many images I shoot!
    How much is necessary? How many images, how much retouching, how much client time? It seems to me, the more images I shoot per client, the more of everything else I have to do! It’s tempting to want each image perfect before showing a client, but is it necessary to the sale? One-on-one time with a client helps insure a good sale, but just how much hand holding does it take?
    As I improve in my Photoshop skills, I’ve learned the importance of shortcut keys. But I’m realizing shortcut keys come in all shapes and sizes, and the more often I can eliminate a step, streamline a workflow and take back a few moments in my hat-wearing day, the more time I have for what I truly got into this business for …. playing with light and shadow and coaxing the best image they’ve ever seen from my client.
    I discovered PostEdits about 2 months ago, and I’ve never looked back. I’m happy to say my workflow is looking more streamlined and someone else is doing more of it than I am! As far as shortcut keys, PostEdits is the best!
    -Cindy Christante
    Natural Impressions Photography

    • Cindy, this is amazing feedback to the article and to what we do as a company. Thank you for taking the time to share this – it helps us justify all we do. 🙂


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