If you work in the wedding industry like me, you are likely getting to that point in the season where a breakdown is just waiting on the cusp of every moment. When September comes people are always telling me “You must be less busy now that the summer is over!” but the truth is, wedding season runs well into October (when you live in Ontario/Canada at least). No, I do not have a free weekend anytime soon, I am a wedding photographer, baby! This is my busiest time of the year and it’s hard to manage everything. I know a lot of people around me are also feeling this way.
The best way to manage this time of year and to avoid a crash or being totally burned out is to be organised and to be on top of everything. This means weddings that you have photographed and weddings that you are about to photograph, along with all of the regular business things that need to be done. The thing with being a wedding photographer is that these weddings that you book do not just sneak up on you: they are booked months and sometimes a year in advance so you know they are there. Basically, I am telling you that you have no excuse to fall behind.
My wedding photography workflow is the following. Of course, this is just a guideline for how I get things done. Some weeks are filled with other portrait or corporate shoots that alter my work days somewhat. Some weeks are filled with a day off here or there for some much needed rest but for the most part, this is what I do. I have been told by a lot of people, both clients and other photographers, that I deliver my images really quickly. I never feel rushed in getting images to my clients because I feel that after twelve years of shooting weddings, I am organised and have my workflow down pat. I also bill my wedding clients in three parts – 1/3 as a deposit, 1/3 on the day of the wedding and the final amount when they receive their images. In truth, receiving this final payment is a motivator. I want to get paid so I get their photos done quickly. It is also a great way to set up your business if you find yourself slacking and getting really behind in your post-production. If you have already been paid for the job, you can get real lazy when it comes to completing it.
I also have to note that I do everything myself. I do not outsource any part of my workload and I love the fact that my hands touch every single bit of the process. My clients have hired me to photograph their wedding and I want to make sure that it is actually me putting the care into it all the way through. (I know a lot of people who outsource their post-production that works really well for them and I think that is awesome. For me personally, it does not work with my beliefs.)
The Wedding Checklist
If you do not have a wedding checklist that you send to your couples, stop everything right now and do one! It is the best way for you to get organised for the wedding in terms of timings, addresses and who or what your clients want photos of. I usually wait until about a month before the wedding to send mine to my clients. I wait until this time because I am realistic in that most couples are not usually that organised for their wedding until that point. (And anyone who thinks that they are before then and insists on filling it out earlier, always end up going back to edit their answers.) After my couple fills out the checklist, I have a quick look over to make sure that everything makes sense and that their timing will work with what I need to get done on the wedding day. If I don’t think that something works, I let them know at this time. About a week before the wedding, I then sit down to really map out the day. I print out the checklist that they filled out, along with my Who Are You form (more about that another time) and from those, I make up my own itinerary. I print out any maps that are needed for the day (yes, I am old school and I love it). And that package becomes my Grandmaster Plan.
Post-Wedding – Downloading & Back Up the Cards
After photographing the wedding and it being a totally smooth day, thanks for the Grandmaster Plan, the real work begins. When I get home from the wedding, I immediately begin downloading the memory cards. I do this, no matter what. I want to save everything in a third location (I already photograph on two memory cards at one time thanks to that duo card slot in my camera) and I want to be able to do a quick look through everything to make sure that I got it all, to make sure there are no corrupt images, etc. How many times have you heard photographers say that they are missing images or had corrupt images but only realised it after they had re-written over their cards? It’s terrifying how often I have heard about this. I know that you are tired after the wedding but you need to spend that time right away and do this. Pour a glass of wine and catch up on all the social media drama that you missed while you were working all day and dump those cards! When I shoot, I only photograph on 16 or 8 gigabyte CF cards. I do this because anything larger terrifies me. Imagine losing a whole wedding because you photographed it on only one card? (Really this wouldn’t happen to me because I also have that SD backup in my cameras but just saying.) When I download the cards to my harddrive, I put them in a folder called RAW and within that folder, there are numbered folders. Each card gets dumped in it’s own numbered folder. This way, IF there is something that is wrong with a card, I’ll know which one it is. So I download all of my images the night of the wedding, drink a glass of wine or a whisky and then call it a night. When I get to the studio on the Monday, I then download the files again to another hard drive that is stored there. This way, I will have my files in three locations (or four, until the CF cards are formatted). Should someone break into my home, I will have a copy at the studio. Should someone break into the studio, I will have a copy at home. We are photographing weddings here. You cannot redo them. Those images are incredibly important and you have to treat them that way.
While I am downloading the images on the night of the wedding, I usually grab a couple of key images, process them and email them to the client right away. I love sending this sneak peek because I know that they will see it the morning after their wedding and will still be floating from all of the fun. I also love doing this because I feel that it buys us photographers a little time to get all of the photographs ready for them. By emailing them a couple of photos, they have at least something to show off to everyone – from their official photographer instead of some crappy cell phone photo – to tie them over while they
On my first day back at the studio post-wedding, I begin the culling. I have to admit that culling the images is definitely my least favourite part of everything that I do as a photographer. I just wish that there was a magical way for all of the good images to separate from the bad ones. I would love that. Because I download my images into separate folders, this makes the culling a little less cumbersome. Doing them in parts just makes the task seem easier and quicker. I will also sometimes cull images at home and put on a
cheesy movie as background noise. I use Bridge to cull and view the images at fullscreen. For every image that I look at, I zoom into 100% to be sure that the focus is good. I want every image that I deliver to my client to be of high enough quality that it can be printed to at least 8×10. Sharpness in an image is important to me (and I think that it should be important to all photographers!). I label the ones that are keepers and then move them to a folder called RAW Chosen. I once read that it’s faster if you choose what you want as opposed to choosing what you don’t want. I don’t know if that is accurate but that’s the way that I roll.
I should note that I keep the photos that my assistant takes separate from my own. When I cull their images, I save them in a different RAW Chosen folder. I do this because it just makes sense to me to not have their images mixed in with mine.
Once everything has been culled, I import the chosen files into Lightroom. I create a Collection and name it the wedding date and name (i.e. 15-08-22-AllisonShauna) and I then make all necessary corrections. As I am going through the images here, I’ll save my favourites by giving them five stars. Once all corrections are made, I export them to a folder called Finals. Usually around this time, I have an eager client email me to check in to see how their wedding is coming along because they are just so excited to see the images! I kindly remind them that their wedding was less than two weeks prior and that I will let them know when a sneak peek of their images is on the blog. #killthemwithkindness
The Final Hurdle
From there, I create a blog post. I take the images that I saved with five stars and whittle them down to a reasonable number that will showcase the wedding well for the couple without boring any viewer who was not actually at said wedding. I email the couple to let them know that their blog post is live and to encourage them to share the link with their friends and family. I then blast it on all social media platforms possible. I am also sure to promote any other vendors that helped on the wedding day and I then email them to let them know that the blog post is live. I then sit and watch my webstats boom. Just kidding, I have more work to do.
After the blog post is live, I figure you have bought a bit more time to get the final things complete for your client. I make a web gallery in Pixieset of all of their images. I save their high resolution files to a USB and I put together a cute little package for them. Once I have that all complete, I email them a final invoice for the photography and we then schedule a time for them to come into the studio to get their images. All in all, this entire process, when you factor in regular life happenings and other work things, typically takes about three weeks from shooting the wedding to delivering the final files. It’s not hard to be this organised. In fact, it’s really easy to accomplish once you get in a flow of things – especially when you realise that every weekend, you are shooting a new wedding and will have that many more images to get working. So get on it, get organised and have a blast through the entire process.