As a professional photographer, sometimes it is hard to remember that time equals money. Because we love what we do, sometimes we spend way too long editing one photo out of hundreds or maybe even thousands from the set. In reality, though, having a set workflow with guidelines or limits on how much time to spend on each step in the process will help us to save a lot of valuable time. That time can be reinvested in the business through marketing, spending time with other clients or less exciting work such as keeping up with bookkeeping. Let’s consider a basic workflow for a professional photographer and discuss how to optimize in order to save time and energy.
When you first contact a new client, do you have a set workflow? It is better to come prepared, with a checklist of questions or topics to discuss. Coming to the first meeting with the client prepared will help you to avoid forgetting to ask pertinent questions. Contacting a client after the first meeting can be very time consuming for both parties and is completely unnecessary most of the time with good preparation before the first meeting. I recommend downloading a template of questions to ask online and then editing the template to fit your personal needs and preferences.
During your first meeting, you should discuss the schedule of the photo shoot. Ask the client to be as specific as possible with any details about the time and order in which things will be happening. Discussing the schedule is particularly important for event photography and wedding photography since these photography sessions can last the entire day sometimes. As the photographer, knowing the schedule helps you to prepare mentally and physically. It also helps you save time because you won’t need to be running around looking for the event host on the day of the event to ask them questions about scheduling.
When you prepare the contract for the customer to sign, be sure to be as clear as possible regarding the work to be performed and the obligations of both parties. I recommend using a shorter contract as opposed to one that is 10-15 pages. If you must use a long contract, make sure you highlight or make the main points stand out somehow. Otherwise, sifting through 10-15 pages of a contract with a customer will sap a lot of valuable time from both parties.
One of the most time-consuming aspects of the workflow of a professional photographer can be location scouting. This is especially true when the location is far from the photographer’s home. Generally, it will save you time to schedule the location scout on a day that you’ll already be in the area. Saving on travel time can make a big difference, especially in cities with lots of traffic. Of course, it is ideal to location scout around the same time of the day that you’ll eventually be photographing the client. The lighting conditions will be similar. Another tip that will help you save time is to take good notes by jotting them down in a notebook and/or taking photos as notes.
On a photo shoot, spending your time wisely doesn’t necessarily mean rushing the client and ending the photo shoot earlier. Instead, focus on getting to the locations you’ve scouted and got the shots that you imagined in your head. Be flexible, but make sure you know when to transition to another location. In general, it is best to split your time evenly at every location if they are about the same size and/or they have about the same number of photographic opportunities. Changing up the location gives both the photographer and client a break and can bring some more inspiration into the photo shoot.
Post-processing is usually the final step in a professional photographer’s workflow. When editing photos – for example, in Adobe Lightroom – it is beneficial to have a time-frame in mind. As a rule of thumb, time yourself when you are editing and try not to spend more than 1-2 minutes on any photo. Our presets can help you to achieve this goal. Doing so will keep yourself aware of the time you are spending on each photo and save quite a lot of time.