A Holistic Workflow for Wedding and Event Photographers

Casting Light on the Post-Event Workflow

For too many photographers, post-production is a dark, shadowy piece of their business. The end goal is poorly defined, the workflow is amorphous, and the expenses of the process are shrouded in the unknown. Many photographers spend hours or days tweaking hundreds of images but have little idea of just how much that time is costing them or what they gain from it.

The Goal of Post-Production

From an artistic perspective, the purpose of post-production is to select the best images you shot and make them look as good as possible so you can really wow your clients. However, professional photographers must keep the business side of things in mind as well.

While it is important to produce beautiful art, it is also important to understand the cost of doing so.  When well-defined, post-production has specific costs which should be viewed in the context of the overall business.  The better you do at balancing costs, image quality, and turnaround time, the more profitable you are likely to be.

The Building Blocks of a Post-Production Workflow

Now that we have a clear goal, let’s begin to define the workflow at a high level. The post-production process for wedding and event photographers can be broken into three distinct phases, summarized below:

Post-Production Phase Description
Selection The organization and culling of images into one coherent image set.  The goal is to produce a set of keeper images for the next step of the workflow.
Correction Keepers are corrected for color, exposure, contrast, and so on, according to the photographer’s defined style.  Images may also be cropped, straightened and further adjusted as desired.
Enhancement Key images are artistically styled and/or retouched for blog posts, large prints, albums and other products.  Styling and retouching can range from subtle to extensive, depending on the image, the use and the budget.


Building a Holistic Workflow to Maximize Revenue & Control Costs

Now, let’s take the building blocks described above and create a post-event workflow that achieves our artistic and business goals while also controlling costs. Keep in mind that there are many ways to go about post-production – you can modify this based on your business’s individual needs.

  1. Select Your Keepers – After shooting and backing up the files, it’s time to cull the images so the rest of the process is manageable.  Most wedding photographers have a sense of what images they want to deliver to the client and prefer to make the determination between keepers and discards themselves. Others take the view that allowing an impartial editor to make the decisions results in a better final set. Either way, the number of images you select (and ultimately deliver) is probably a more important decision.  Too many images overwhelms buyers, inhibits print sales, and increases costs for the remaining post-production steps, so keep the number reasonable.
  1. Send Your Keepers to Post for Signature Color Correction – Correction is necessary – that’s obvious. What’s becoming more obvious to many photographers is that you don’t need to be the one doing the correction. Getting help from a post-production studio like Post results in more consistent images, faster turnaround, and more time for you to spend with clients and family. It also makes the cost and delivery predictable and, thereby, easier to control.
  1. Produce More Revenue – If you correct the images yourself, this step doesn’t apply. If you’ve outsourced to a trusted editor, however, you are now free to spend time working on your business. Make the most of this time: produce marketing materials, meet potential clients, and sell to existing clients. This is the time to do all those revenue-generating activities you wish you could get to.
  1. Enhance Selected Images – This step can be done once you receive the images back from Post, or you can have your editor do it for you as they correct. Either way, the point is to choose key images from the shoot to spend extra time on. These are the images that you’ll tease your clients with on your blog, and they’re also the images that are most likely to end up framed and in an album. However you handle this step, continue to keep costs (both time and money) and the larger goal in mind. You may, for instance, decide to perform only minor retouching work (pre-touching) at this point, with the intention of performing full retouching only once an image is ordered for print.
  1. Host Images Online and Promote Print Sales – The images are done, so now it’s time to sell. Online print sales are a good way to generate additional revenue from an event.  Data suggests that limited image sets posted quickly after the event produce the highest volume of sales. Allowing Post to upload the images straight to your hosting site gets them up for sale quicker and removes one more step for you.
  1. Sell to Your Client In Person – Where appropriate, a post-event review session should be scheduled with the client to present images and suggest certain ones for the album and large prints.  As with the online posting of images, doing this in a timely manner and presenting a well-focused set of images maximizes the additional revenue that can be generated for an individual event. This is your chance to show off your art and to sell big.

Time Is Money, So Deliver Quickly

As we’ve mentioned, quick delivery of images results in increased sales. You may not think it’s possible to deliver an event within a week, but it is.  Here’s how:

Post-Production Schedule

Day of the Week

Daily Activity

Saturday Shoot the event, go home, and back up the image files.
Sunday Sleep in. Leisurely cull your images and upload them to Post. Take the rest of the day off.
Monday – Thursday Do all those little things that you never used to have time for. Meet with clients and prospects.  Shoot engagement and portrait sessions (send those to Post also). Build your business.
Thursday Receive finished files from Post by the end of the business day.
Friday Finalize any image work you didn’t have Post handle, and prepare the images for delivery to your client. Surprise your clients with images as soon as they get back from the honeymoon!


Is Your Own Post-Production Process Looking Brighter?

The above steps and schedule give you a good way to evaluate your own post-production process and see if it is helping you reach your goals both as a photographer and as a small business owner.  So long as you control the business, you control the decision as to how best accomplish your post-production.

While one size may not fit all, there is a high degree of correlation between those photographers that outsource some portion of their post-production and those that are successful.  It’s not a coincidence: the more time you spend building your business, the more successful you will be.  So, unless you’re doing this for a hobby, it is important to leverage your post-production process to maximize your revenue and control your costs.


Additional Information

Below are a few more Post articles pertaining to material we’ve covered in this post:

Culling

Color Correction

Retouching

Other Useful Posts

For Portrait Shooters

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