It’s that time of year, photographers: Busy season is upon us. At one time, this season filled me with equal parts excitement and dread. Could I manage it all? What if I dropped the ball? How would I keep everything straight? I have a lot on my plate besides running my photography business. Sound familiar? Not unlike you, I need to get a large amount of work done in small amount of time, so productivity means everything to me. In order to provide the best possible experience for my clients, I have learned to create a streamlined workflow from my client’s first inquiry to the final delivered product and securing the raving review. But there are a lot of steps in between. How do we stay on top of it all? Without a plan, managing your photography workflow, especially during a busy season, can be a real ambush on our sanity. By having a few crucial things in place, you can make sure your clients are taken care of and nothing falls through the cracks.
Get a System
It’s hard to be productive without organization. Don’t waste precious minutes of your time hunting for notes you made on a napkin or tracking down client details you jotted down on the run. Being organized doesn’t have to mean being elaborate. Whether you’re a hard copy paper planner type of person or you love keeping everything digital, you don’t have to have a fancy system… you just need a system. Something that works for you.
Some of our favorite workflow management systems for photographers include 17Hats, ShootFlow, and Honeybook.
You might be more of a pen-to-paper type, in which case, I’d suggest getting a detailed planner, or creating one with Excel, where you can map out each step of your workflow from client scheduling, to pre-session reminders, to post-processing steps, to product delivery and thank-yous. You’ll want to have a tool of some kind in place to track your workflow with each client.
Once you have a system in place, the next step is to streamline the functions you do regularly. What are some of the tasks we do repeatedly as photographers? Answer inquiries, set up sessions, cull images, edit images, etc. Think about all of the tasks that you do on a repeated basis and identify ways you can cut down on the time you spend on those tasks.
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A great place to start is with creating email templates. Set up email templates for the emails you send over and over, so all you have to do is plug in the client’s info and hit send! Another place I was spending a lot of time was going back and forth via email about session locations. Now when my client completes their contract online, they are directed to a form that lists and describes all of my favorite session locations. They pick their location, and the info is automatically sent to my inbox with their contract. Easy. Simple. Done.
Here are a few of our other favorite time-saving resources!
- Photo Mechanic: This powerful image browser helps cull our images at lightning speed! With zero lag time, you can cull, tag and code your images quickly, and export them right into your photo editing software.
- BlogStomp: We love Blogstomp for their incredibly simple and fast image prep for web and blog use.
- Cole’s Lightroom Import to Export Lightroom Workflow Training: If you’re ready to get your sessions edited quicker so you can make more profit, this training will help you take control of your Lightroom workflow from start to finish.
Master Your Time
If you aren’t intentional, your time will get away from you. Facebook notifications will go off. Emails will pop into your mailbox. If you’re like me and work from home, the messy house will whisper your name. Decide what you will do with your time, and DO IT. Put the distractions away. Turn off the notifications, silence your cell phone, close Facebook, and work.
Much like budgeting our money, if we want to capitalize on our time, we must tell our time what we need it to do.
If it helps you, choose specific times blocks for certain tasks. For example, every Monday morning, I sit down first thing and make sure my bookkeeping is up to date. I enter all my receipts and expenses from the previous week, and make sure my income is logged as well. By doing this in one chunk of time each week, I save myself the distraction with bookkeeping during the rest of week, so I can focus on other tasks. I also block out times for sorting through and replying to emails: once at the start of my work period, and once at the end. Unless there is a pressing email that needs immediate attention, leaving emails to these time blocks keeps me from being distracted when I need to be focusing on completing other things.
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You can block out time for any of your tasks if it helps you. Maybe X chunk of time is for editing, and Y chunk of time is for replying to client inquiries, etc. Much like budgeting our money, if we want to capitalize on our time, we must tell our time what we need it to do. If we don’t, it gets away from us. We all get 24 hours in a day. Don’t be left standing there wondering where your hours went.
I am a list maker. If I’m not careful, I’d make a list for everything. But one thing I’ve learned is that a list can only be as helpful as your ability to prioritize it. Prioritizing your tasks can go a long way towards working efficiently and effectively. Determine what your top-level priorities are on a given day, or Level A priorities, and complete those first. These should be things that would have serious negative consequences if not completed today. Next should come B level priorities, or those that are important, but less urgent.
We all get 24 hours in a day. Don’t be left standing there wondering where your hours went.
Managing a photography business has so many working parts that it can often be difficult to know how to prioritize when there are so many important tasks to complete. It is at this point that I will stop and evaluate the value of the tasks and their impact on my business. For example, when I am faced with multiple tasks that seem to be equal in priority, client work will nearly always come before completing an internal task for my business like writing a blog post for my website. Both are important, but client work will always result in higher value and impact for my business than a blog post.
Whether you are part time and working as a weekend warrior, or full time in this industry, keeping all of the plates spinning with your photography business can be a challenge. Over in Cole’s Clique, we love to share ideas and tips for making our businesses better. Here are a few tips on managing workflow from some of our awesome Cole’s Clique members!
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“Spend an hour a week to plan out your FB and IG posts for the week and use a program (like Hootsuite) to auto-post them for you!” -Melissa M.
“Pre-create online galleries at the time of booking. When photos are done I can simply upload then to the already created gallery.” -Cecily P.
“Delete in instead of out. So when you cull (in my case, in PhotoMechanic) instead of picking out (marking colors) of the all the photos you don’t want, you pick out all the photos you DO want to include. Saves time!” -Melissa M.
“Edit a set number of images every single night so you don’t get behind on workflow. Even small intervals each night will keep you moving forward so you don’t get backed up!!” –Jennifer F.
“Pick client thank you/Christmas gifts wisely. We used to do mini books, which take way too much design time. Now we do metal ornaments where all we have to do is drag and drop an image in the ordering software.” -Leslie M.
“I have an import preset for LR that has lens correction turned on and a small amount of sharpening/luminance. I can always bump them up if I need to, but a lot of times that little bit is all I need.” -Jennifer L.
“If offering Christmas cards, look at different labs. A few labs offer really cute pre-designed Christmas cards that you just drag your images into in ROES and change the font (no Photoshop needed).” -Leslie M.
“I use Later for scheduling and posting to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.” -Vicki S.