Airlines don’t overhaul their airplanes while they are flying. And that’s for good reason. Taking vital systems offline while in flight would probably be disastrous. The same is true for photographers. While less fatal, changing your photography workflow during busy season can derail projects leading to late nights and angry clients. That is why off-season is the ideal time to update and improve your workflows.
As you revise your photographer workflow, remember the reason for having workflows in the first place is to improve speed by implementing consistent and repeatable systems. Here at ShootDotEdit, we provide post production services for photographers, and we know how important it is to have a streamlined workflow. That is why we put together the best photography workflow tips to help you get back on track in your business.
1. Check for Updates
Software tools get updated routinely during busy season. Updating software during mid-year can lead to unexpected consequences. Now is finally the time. To make sure your workflows are optimized for best performance, check with your partner vendors to see what updates you missed while you were busy caring for clients. Then make the changes that make sense for your unique photography business.
2. Look for Bottlenecks
When work piled up in the thick of wedding season, what was keeping it from moving seamlessly forward? By identifying the bottlenecks in your workflows (and then removing them), you can do your best to ensure work wonʼt pile up next season.
3. Remove Extra Steps
It is easy for teams to get caught up in extra photography workflow steps. When it is not just you in charge of performing your workflow tasks, it is easy to create wasted steps. For example, you might find yourself passing images back-and-forth when one hand-off will do. Duplicate steps might not seem like a big deal. But, when you are in the thick of busy season, every minute counts.
Removing duplicate steps makes your workflows more efficient, increasing the amount of time you have available to work on the tasks that really need your attention.
Ready to start updating your workflows? Now is the time. You (and your clients) will be much happier next busy season because you did.
How to Simplify Post-Shoot Production
Post-shoot production is a crucial part of your photographer workflow. But let’s be honest, it can also be tedious and overwhelming. When you use photo editing companies for photographers, like ShootDotEdit, to take care of your post production needs, you can transform a seemingly unending chore into a streamlined series of processes. Simplicity will get you back to what you do best, quickly (shooting!).
Why is Simplicity Key?
There are boatloads of moving pieces in your photography business making it dangerously easy for important tasks to slip through the cracks. As a photography business owner, you’re juggling a lot of responsibilities and wearing many hats. When any one of those responsibilities slips by you, it hurts your ability to take care of your clients. And that hurts your client relationships, your reputation, and your ability to grow your wedding photography business.
Simplifying your post production photography workflow helps you streamline the process for managing these moving pieces. It also adds an extra layer of defense between you and damaged client relationships.
Here are two tips for keeping your post-shoot workflow and production SIMPLE:
1. Map Out Your Post-Shoot Workflow
Taking an individual job from shoot-to-client might be easy to do when you are only working on one shoot at a time. But, it immediately becomes more complex and confusing when you have multiple shoots in various stages of the process on your plate (and on deadline). It is at this point that tasks can easily slip through the cracks.
Make it as simple to manage a growing list of shoots as possible by mapping out your digital photography workflow, identifying each individual step and task, when they need to be done and who needs to do them.
Once you map out your workflow, keep it as simple and concise as possible by cutting out any excess steps. After all, why have 2 steps when 1 will do?
2. Find Partners That Prioritize Simplicity
Partnering with outside specialists is supposed to make your life easier, not more complicated and confusing. Make sure you choose partners that prioritize simplicity instead of overcomplicating your already complicated photographer workflow. Here are 2 ways we have prioritized simplicity for our clients at ShootDotEdit:
Dot Tracker 2.0
We created Dot Tracker, our newly-improved and awesome job management tool, entirely to make it even simpler for our clients to submit and manage their jobs.
We partnered with industry leaders to design top-notch a digital photography workflow in Lightroom that is readily accessible for our clients. You can learn more about how to integrate your photographer workflow into ShootDotEdit with our free guide here.
Top 5 Photographer Workflow Apps
As mentioned above, your photography workflow must run smoothly to have an efficient business. With technology constantly improving, there are countless apps designed to help professional wedding photographers maintain a streamlined workflow. We gathered 5 workflow apps that will help speed up your daily workflow and help you grow your photography business.
As a wedding photographer, you do not always work a scheduled 9-5 shift. If you make plans to connect with a vendor in the morning and then book a shoot in the evening, you may not get to your emails until later that night. Rather than sending emails at 10pm, schedule them to send exactly when you want with Boomerang.
Write emails at your convenience and click the “Send Later” button. This allows you to determine when you want to send emails. By scheduling emails to send during normal business hours, it helps manage the expectations of clients and vendors so they do not expect you to answer emails during the later hours.
With Dropbox, you can bring your photos and documents with you anywhere you go. Any files you upload to it will automatically save to all of your devices. This means if you are on the go and need to access images through your mobile device, you can.
You can also create customized folders. With these folders, you can organize your images and share specific folders with vendors after a wedding. From here, vendors can access and view all of the images you selected to share with them.
Staying on top of social media can be challenging, especially on the weekends when you are shooting weddings. With Hootsuite, you can schedule out your Tweets, Facebook posts, and other social media updates from one platform at one time.
Rather than posting about a blog post at 9pm when you finished it, you can schedule a post through Hootsuite at a better time when you know your followers are actively online. With the ability to schedule multiple posts, you can schedule out your entire week or month ahead of time.
Evernote is an organizational tool to keep all your notes about clients together. In this app, you can create a separate notebook for each client. Within each notebook, write individual notes for each meeting and interaction you have with that client. This is a simple way to stay organized, and you can sync your notes across every device.
As a project management software that helps you keep track of each task you have, Asana is a great app to implement into your workflow. You can create unique projects for each client and include all of the specific items you need to complete, along with the due dates for each task.
In Asana, you have the option to assign each task to someone. So, this is a great tool if you are working with a photography team or specialists. With the simple interface, it is easy to see a quick overview of all your current tasks and who you assigned each task to.
Finding Time to Do it All: Tips for Managing Your Time
The idea you can manage the seemingly never-ending amount of to-do items by yourself is a myth. If you want to create a sustainable photography business and consistently give your clients a killer end product, chances are you are going to need some help. This is true whether you are a solopreneur, a photography team, or a new parent and business owner.
But regardless of who’s doing these tasks, the fact remains it takes a lot to maintain a profitable photography business. And when you are constantly busy with meeting clients and shooting, you have to find ways to get it all done in a limited amount of time.
So how can you possibly stay on top of everything to ensure things don’t start slipping through the cracks? Check out our 3 time management tips to save you time in your photographer workflow and enhance your profit margin.
1. Prioritize Tasks That Need You
Think about what makes your wedding photography business unique and stand out from your competitors. Likely, it is the unique way you interact with people, your shooting style, and the experience you give your client from start to finish.
That means tasks like meeting with leads, networking with vendors, and (of course) shooting are all tasks you can put your unique handprint on. So they should go on the list of tasks that must be done by you. Tasks that aren’t generating profit and can be handed off to someone else probably should be. These activities include post production, album design, accounting, and studio management. These tasks are important but can be done by someone else.
2. Streamline Your Systems
Whether you are using an in-house employee to take care of client mailings or an outside partner to take care of your editing, make sure you have clear processes in place. The responsibilities belonging to you and your partners should be clearly delineated.
Having streamlined systems in your workflow, with clear deadlines for projects, will ensure nothing falls through the cracks. If you are using a wedding photo editing company like ShootDotEdit, it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing process. You can still be responsible for culling and doing special edits on a handful of images. Or, if you prefer to be completely hands-off, ShootDotEdit can take care of everything for you from start to finish. Whatever you choose, be sure to set up a system you can use consistently.
Also, make sure your day-to-day business processes are set up for maximum efficiency in your digital photography workflow. These daily systems, such as how you backup images, your process for downloading cards, and scheduling for blogging all contribute to how efficiently you can do your job. It is worth the extra time to outline these systems and make sure there aren’t needless redundancies or any holes in your system. Once you have streamlined systems in place, it will be easy to replicate the process for each and every shoot.
3. Set Boundaries on Your Time
Though it may sound counterintuitive, you are usually most productive when you have a limited amount of time. A limited time frame will force you to work most efficiently and stay focused (no surfing the web or taking extended breaks when you are under a tight deadline!). Setting deadlines and specific hours for particular tasks will make you more efficient with your time.
For a few days in a row, set short, specific deadlines for particular tasks. You will most likely find with deadlines in place, you can to get the same tasks done in a shorter amount of time, simply because you are more focused when you work.
Training yourself to work in more focused periods of time like this will help you accomplish more during the day, which will (hopefully) mean less late nights in front of your computer. You will also clearly see the areas where you are consistently running out of time.
Are you finding you never have enough time to complete all of your studio management tasks, like mailing and print fulfillment? Or perhaps you can never get your editing or album designs done in the set period of time you give yourself. Seeing this will enable you to find ways to get help in those areas so you can maintain set hours for your business and enjoy some time away from your office.
How to Stay Ahead in Your Photography Workflow
When you are at your busiest, it can become overwhelming to keep up with increasing demands. Not only are you shooting weddings, but you are also gathering the necessary items for clients’ weddings you just shot. On top of shooting and fulfilling client orders, you have a photography business to run. Take a look at a few tips to help you stay ahead in your photographer workflow.
1. Assess Your Workload
As you take a look at the tasks on your plate, create a list of upcoming deadlines which require immediate action so you can stay on track. Part of catching up is making sure you avoid falling behind on any upcoming deadlines that will set you back even further. Once you understand the situation you are in, you can devise your plan to get out. Using the list you created, identify the specific task that needs to be completed to check it off the list.
Prioritize your crucial deadlines. If you know you have an album that needs to be sent to a client within a certain timeframe, make sure you also list out the steps it takes to create the album. Some parts of the process may take longer than others, so you need to prioritize those, as well.
2. Set Short-Term and Long-Term Goals
As you make the lists to complete your work, it may become overwhelming to look at everything that needs to happen over the next few weeks. To avoid stress, break your tasks down into more manageable portions. Keep your goals measurable and realistic to help you see the progress made and to keep yourself from getting too overwhelmed. Remember the 5-step process for setting goals.
Your long-term goal will be the end goal. It will be what you want to accomplish this year, whether that means you increase your bookings, have happier clients, or grow your business in a way you may not have before. When creating short-term goals, think about smaller items you can accomplish now that help you reach your end goal. This can include sending out wedding albums to every client before the date you originally promised.
Create incentives for yourself once your goals are accomplished. For example, if you reach one of your goals, treat yourself to a new purchase or a nice weekend away.
Stay in Communication with Clients
If you fall behind, the worst thing you can do is NOT keep your clients up to date. Letting clients know what to expect, even if it is a revised turnaround time, goes a long way toward keeping your positive relationship intact. Your clients are excited to see their images. Letting them know what to expect will help ensure their frustration doesn’t overshadow their excitement. Be realistic. Make sure any revised timetable you give your clients is accurate so you can deliver.
If your turnaround times are later than you promised, find ways to give your clients an extra “thank you” for being patient. Try a gift credit for prints, extra album pages for free, or a favorite print you frame and send to them. Help keep the experience positive, even if the process takes a little longer than usual.
Outsource Time-Consuming Tasks
In your digital photography workflow, post production and album design are common tasks that create bottlenecks. Both can easily be addressed and fixed for faster turnaround times with the help of a specialist. Whether it is hiring someone to help you with album design or teaming up with a wedding photo editing service, avoid pushing aside help when you find yourself behind. It is tempting to think you can dig yourself out when you are buried in deadlines, and it is easy to put off finding a partner to help because you feel overwhelmed. The sooner you can start working with partners to get back on track, the better.
Don’t wait to ask for help until “things slow down.” That time may never come. Getting a plan in place for post production and other areas NOW will keep your business running smoothly.
Keep Track of Problem Areas
Something else you can do is to keep track of the areas that are slipping and work on them later. Are you not getting to all your emails? Are you falling behind in your blogging? What bottlenecks exist in your photography workflow can be eliminated to get a faster turnaround?
Keep track of these areas and write them down. When you have more free time, go back and revisit these processes. How can you tweak them to improve on them for the next busy season? Consider how you can learn from this year to do better next year.
Making decisions under pressure can hurt you. Once you catch up with your workload, go back and improve upon your processes. You might decide to partner with a specialist or use a new app to help you lighten the load. Always think of what the next step can be since it will help you and your photography business continue to grow.
How to Avoid Procrastination in Your Business
Some parts of your digital photography workflow are less thrilling than others. Some of the tasks you have in your photographer workflow may cause you to procrastinate (which can also cause you to fall behind). To help you beat procrastination in your business, and be productive every day, Virginia wedding photographer Katelyn James is sharing how she motivates herself in her business.
Does anyone have days where you get a TON done and then other days that feel like a complete loss? That happens to me… but I think I’ve figured out WHY! I’ve had a realization recently that has totally made me re-think the way I get stuff DONE in the office.
Sometimes we have what we call “Stay at Home Days,” where we work from home. I’ve found that some of those days are not as productive as others. And then sometimes, I have days where I get so much done, and I have no idea why. It’s literally like something trips in my brain and it’s like, “you’re going to kill it today,” and then there are other days that are like, “nope, today you should just give up now.”
2 Types of Business Tasks
I realized this is what was happening: there are two different types of tasks in my business. There are maintaining tasks and growing tasks. Maintaining tasks are ones I have to do over and over again just to maintain the current state of my business. Some examples would be blogging or writing emails. In my mind, I don’t view writing emails as pushing my business forward. I don’t feel like I’m moving and shaking the industry when I’m writing emails. So when I have a maintaining task in front of me, I normally lose a lot of my motivation.
Growing tasks are ones that actually make me feel like I did something really great for my business; something I wanted to do for a really long time and it’s going make a really big difference, or it’s going to help somebody or make my website look really awesome.
So, growing tasks for me are all the awesome things I never get to because I’m stuck on the maintaining list. And, sometimes when I know the maintaining list is so long, I shy away from getting it done because I’m not motivated. So, I realize that I tend to get more done if I have some maintaining items that I’m doing, knowing that if I finish them, I get to do a growing task.
For example, it could be, “Okay Katelyn, if you get through your inbox before 10am, from 10-1 you get to work on that eBook you’ve been so excited about for 6 months and still haven’t done yet.” I’ve started to realize that if I can look at my life and look at my business and think about what I view as maintaining versus growing, then I have a better chance at being productive because I am going to schedule my day where I get to do a little bit of both. It’s kind of a happy balance.
Here are some things you should pay attention to on this journey to productivity:
1. Identify What Slows You Down
Identify those things that slow you down and that really create those days where you feel like you really didn’t get anything done. Identify what tasks slow you down and then what tasks fire you up. An example of my own life would is we just did the KJ Education website. I did it myself, I designed it. And once I started doing it, I finished it in 48 hours. How can I do that in 48 hours but yet it takes me 2 days to get my inbox cleared out? It’s because that website is a growing task. It’s something that grew my business and made me feel like I really did something and I was really motivated. Emails, not so much.
2. Divide Growing and Maintaining Tasks
Divide up these tasks into what are growing tasks and what are maintaining tasks. So, I’d go through your workload. It could be that blogging for you is not maintaining, it’s growing. Maybe it’s not a normal part of your daily rhythm, and so whenever you get a blog post done, you feel like you’ve accomplished something. But, it could also be that recording mileage or writing emails bogs you down. If you label them at growing or maintaining, you can create a healthy balance for your days.
3. Find a Healthy Balance
Once you know what your tasks are divided up into, the 2 categories, then you can make sure every day you are doing a little of both. Because when you do a little bit of both, at least in my life I’ve found this to be true, you end up feeling more motivated to work toward the growing tasks. You end your day feeling like, “I got something done off of the big list and off of the normal maintaining list.”
I hope this is helpful. I think putting names to it and really recognizing what is happening in our office life is really going to help us get to a place where we can have more productive workdays. And that’s what we all want, right?
How to Simplify Client Communication
Client communication is integral to maintaining and growing your photography business. When you keep client communication simple, your clients receive benefits and so do you. That’s because simple communication respects their time and yours. This meaning everyone gets faster results.
Simplified Communication Benefits your Clients
Simple, concise, and efficient communication helps your clients feel comfortable with you and your work. This builds your reputation with your clients. On the contrary, lengthy and overwhelming communication can kill it. Nobody wants to read emails that are long like a college essay.
By keeping communication simple, your clients won’t feel overwhelmed or be tempted to ignore you. Plus, if you are buried under your inbox writing a slew of long emails, you can’t serve your clients face-to-face.
Simplified Communication Benefits your Business
When you simplify communication, you will have fewer moving pieces to juggle. That means you will have more time to dedicate to crafting powerful and effective communication. And, of course, you will have more time to shoot.
Don’t forget, regardless of how demanding email can be, it still isn’t your top priority as a photographer or business owner. Your business and your life will go on, even if you don’t answer every email within minutes of getting it.
Dmitri Leonov, the VP of growth email management tool SaneBox, sums it up like this:
“Treat email as one of your priorities, but not your number one priority.”
After all, your priority as a wedding photographer is improving your business systems to make serving your clients efficient and fun.
Try Using Templates to Simplify Communication
Create pre-written responses for frequently received messages (inquiries, FAQs, instructions for viewing images online, what to expect after the wedding, etc). Email templates can be created in your email program, in apps like TextExpander, or if you use a studio management system like ShootQ, in the email template section. This will save you time by avoiding tedious repetition.
Establish Systems for Your Email Communication
Create set communication points throughout all your pre-shoot tasks and activities. When you invest the time upfront, you will establish the consistency you need to gain momentum from your message.
Establishing systems for any task in your photography workflow means creating a list of steps for how you will execute this task every time. Doing this will ensure consistency, increase efficiency, and dramatically reduce the amount of hair you pull out during busy shooting seasons. Having a clear communications schedule in place will give you a solid system to fall back on when your schedule gets crazy.
How to Create a Streamlined Booking Process
Another part of your wedding photography workflow that needs to be managed is your booking process. We reached out to wedding photographer Vanessa Joy to discover her suggestions on how to create a cohesive business plan to set you up with bookings for next year.
It’s December, and you’re nowhere near your booking quota for next year. Panic sets in.
You’re not alone this time of the year. While everyone is celebrating a season of plenty, you’re wondering if this is your last. Even in my busiest booking years, I had this kind of fear set in right before the new year rolled around. You don’t have to be scared. You probably need to analyze a few things, but if you’ve been doing what you need to do as a business owner all year, it’s unlikely that you’re about to meet your demise.
Below, I’m sharing a few tips on calming your fears and planning for the year ahead.
1. Keep Good Records
Odds are, you’re right around the same number of booked weddings you were at this time last year. We just don’t remember it. Keep good records using your client management system (I use 17Hats) so you can look back on this. I can’t tell you how often my husband and I have had this discussion where one of us is freaking out, but then looking at our numbers, realize we’re right where we need to be.
2. What Have You Done Differently?
Raised your prices? Then you should know the number of jobs less than you can book and still make the same income. Cut back on advertising, marketing, or social media efforts? Hey, now you see the effect of it and it’s time to kick it up a notch. Lost focus on making your clients 110% happy? Treating your clients like the gold they are will always ensure they send you new business.
3. Know Current Booking Trends
When I first started my own business back in 2008, it was typical for a bride to book their photographer 12-18 months out. Now, for a multitude of reasons, the booking trends have shifted and I typically book my clients 8-12 months in advance.
Take that into account when you’re looking at your expected bookings by this time of the year. And take heart, after all – engagement season is now through Valentine’s Day and a lot of people plan same-year weddings nowadays.
If you think about it, we’re the lucky ones. How many other working people can see months and months ahead of time that they’re going to have a change in income, and have the chance to do something about it? Around the US, 2 weeks is the standard pink slip notice, and you have much more warning than that if your bookings are in fact experiencing a decline.
The last thing you want to do with this information is to blame it on the industry or anything else out of your control. That won’t do you or your business any good, and your mortgage company certainly won’t be taking excuses for payment next year. If there are things you need to change, do it now.
Breath Your Passion
Not sure where to start? Check out the inspiration section on www.BreatheYourPassion.com for both free and paid marketing videos. Best of luck next year!
With all of these tips for maintaining your photography workflow, what will you get started on first? Let us know in the comments! Then, click on the banner below to download our How to Grow Your Wedding Photography Business Guide to discover 50+ pages of tips and tricks geared toward helping you keep a streamlined workflow and grow your business!