Professional Photographer Miami | Kate Benson Photography | File workflow

This week I did my final interview with my new intern/assistant/protege (welcome Nadia!) and it keeps becoming clearer with each new helper that I really do love teaching. Photography, especially becomes a guarded secret that many hoard close to their hearts in fear of someone taking their clients. But really, clients will come and go whether or not you share what you've learned. At least by helping other people learn how to do this (because, as is often pointed out to me, not everyone can make it) I can help build a higher standard for photographers overall. Or maybe it's just because I've never cared if other people know as much as I do (or more). This, I'm sure, is a result of being the middle dyslexic child stuck between to geniuses. Yes, real ones. Like, both went to Washington DC to either compete in national Mathcounts competitions or meet the president to receive a gold metal for her brain. I'm serious. That really happened. Meanwhile I'm over here like "look mom and dad! I painted you a picture!!!" Anyways, getting off track! What I want to share today is my typical post production workflow. I gave Nadia my notes describing this because I thought she would find it useful and since my last intern Matt is getting ready to go full time shooting I figure he'll need this too. So I figure, why just send it to him in an email when I can share it here with everyone else who may want to know! So keep in mind, there are different shoots that command different variations on this. If I can, I always shoot tethered, which combines quite a few steps in here into one. But Since most of the photo enthusiast out there are shooting to cards, I'll go over these steps for shooting to cards. If any of this gets beyond what you know, feel free to leave a comment and I'll try and answer any questions you have. Because I'm not going to write down how to use Lightroom or Photoshop. That is a HUGE project and other people have already taught it better (especially on Lynda.com. If you haven't subscribed and want to learn those programs, do it!!! It is one of the best professional investments you can make).

  1. Load your shot cards to computer (and it's not a bad idea to back them up on an external HD right now too). I organize my files by date, so if I were doing this today I would put these new files in a folder titled 06_06 NameOfTheClient. I also keep my folders organized like this in the Pictures folder, put a year folder so 2013, put a month folder 2013_06 JUN, and then your new shoot). 
  2. I open the folder in Adobe Bridge and do a first edit. ANY shots I like or the client has said they like gets a rating of 1 star (on a Mac hold down the command key and hit 1) if I REALLY love a picture, it gets 3 stars (hold down command and hit 3). Go through all the images and rate them like this.
  3. Use the filters in Bridge to only show 1 star selections. Now I check the focus. This has to be done at 100% so I select the first image and hit space bar to fill the screen with it. Then click on the place that should be in focus. It will take a second to load and if it is in focus change the files rating to 2 stars (hold command and hit 2). Go through all the files this way.
  4. Select to only see the 3 start files in Bridge. Now that you're starting to get to know your files, go over those ones you really loved and check the focus on those. This is a bit heartbreaking because every now and again an image you love isn't in focus. If it isn't in focus change it's rating to a 1. If it is in focus and you still love it, change it's rating to a 4. Check all the 3 star files for focus the same way you checked the others, spacebar, click on place that should be in focus, hold command and the appropriate number for the new rating.
  5. Now you have really narrowed down your images. Sometimes take a short break here to look again with fresh eyes, or if you good keep going. Now go through all the 2 stars and pick favorites. One of the reasons to use Adobe Bridge is because when you have a picture selected you can hold command down and click on another shot (or multiple shots, up to 9) to view them side by side. Your favorites should be marked with 3 stars.
  6. Depending on how many files you have, go over those AGAIN. Narrow it down further and mark the ones you really, really love with 4 stars.
  7. And if you still have a ton of files, do it all again and this time mark the ones you love as 5 stars. I know this seems super repetitive but viewing images are. And if you are tired of a photo after seeing it 5 times it's probably not worth taking to the next step. Your client will be looking at these images way more than 5 times so take the extra effort to make sure you don't bore them.
  8. Make a folder in Bridge (make sure you aren't viewing only 5 star items, if you are you won't see the folder). Rate that folder 5 stars and then select to view only 5 star items. Now the folder should be within your 5 star selections (or 4 stars, or 3 depending on how many levels of editing you had to do, always rate your folder the highest level of stars you went to). Move all the top rated files into that folder and open it in Lightroom (click and drag the folder into Lightroom or use Lightroom's navigation to find the folder).
  9. In Lightroom, import all the images you've selected to the Library.
  10. Then select Develop and give the images a quick white balance, contrast fix, or apply filters you want. I'm going to be less descriptive here because it takes time to explain how all those items work in Lightroom and this blog would go forever if I did it.
  11. Once you've done all the image, Export them. Just for safety I export a high res tiff first and then export them all setting them to be small jpgs for an online gallery.
  12. Post these images somewhere online where your client can view them (box.com, dropbox, picassa, private gallery on your website, wherever).
  13. Send the client and email letting them know where to find review the images at. Ask them to let you now their choices of what they want to use and therefore what will be retouched.
  14. Once they get back to you with the files they want retouched. Open the large files from Lightroom in Photoshop and retouch them.
  15. Once the images are retouched upload them to a place your client can download them from or email them to your client (high res or low res depending on what they ordered).
  16. IF, this doesn't always happen, actually rarely it happens but it does happen, the client has further retouching they want you to make on the file go back over it make the requested changes. Then send the fixed file back to them.
  17. Backup again, now with the edited finished files. Backing up twice doesn't hurt either. About 4 times a year I backup my external HD to another. Two copies is better than one. Once they are full, I send them to NH for storage. Totally paranoid I know but a lot of good a double backing up of your archive is going to do you if they are both in your house and it burns down.

Of course there is also invoicing and payment collecting that happens in there somewhere. It differs depending on the client so I left that out.

I think it is important for everyone who wants to be a photographer to see these steps. I didn't even include in this the steps to retouch in Photoshop or how to correct an image in Lightroom because each photo needs something different and it would take a book not a blog post to describe it. But when you quote a job, and someone feels like the quote is too high because they just wanted a quote for "an hour or two of shooting time". It's important to know that for ever shoot you have 16-17 steps to cover to just get the files to a client, without including steps in file retouching. So when you bill your time, you have to consider how much time this is going to take too. I did a shoot for a friend this weekend, we shot for 6 hours Sunday morning and then it took me 8 more hours to get the shots ready to send him. Not retouched.  Just getting to step 12. So be smart about your time and if someone wants to hire you for an hour because they don't think it will take more time than an hour to capture the shot they want. Always consider how many files your taking and how much time it will take to get the files to them!

I hope this helps some of you who read this!