Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Workflow for a Family Portrait Session (part 1)

Workflow. We hear it all the time. What is it, and why is it important? Workflow in the photography world is literally the life cycle of an image, from pre-conception, to birth, to death, with the possibility of resurrection. It’s important to establish a workflow no matter what level of photographer you are. If you are a photographer that deals with a large quantity of customers, then an extensive and detailed workflow is essential. The point of a workflow is to stay organized and to make sure that nothing falls between the cracks. A Basic workflow looks like this.

Take Picture- Download Picture- Print Picture- Burn Picture to CD and put in Storage box.

Ya see, basic. I told you not to expect anything really crazy. Workflow is something that should be flexible enough to accommodate changes, but reliable enough that if it is interrupted, it is very easy to re-start.  For some of you brave enough to take on the task of the entire workflow, including retouching, printing, and fulfillment then I applaud you. There are some easier ways to go about it as well, and personally I would rather be shooting photographs than troubleshooting a printer, but that’s just me. Here is how I set up a workflow. Feel free to comment and add in any nuggets of information you think might be of value. Whether you are working with a client, or your own personal family photos, you need to have something to shoot. I am going to take the majority of this workflow from a Family Portrait perspective. The rest of this post will deal with Step 1, because it is a pretty big step and can lead you to success, or disaster.

Step 1: The Phone Call- You have done some type of advertising and a client has contacted you and wants to pay you money to photograph them. This is a good thing.  Right from that first phone call you need to collect as much info as possible. You need contact info, which includes phone numbers, address, e-mail, and of course their name.
You also need to determine what type of sitting this will be. Since this is a family sitting, you also need to find out how many people will be in the photograph. Other good questions to ask is if this is a special occasion, are there different group breakdowns that need to be done, and what they are wearing. It’s good to ask these types of questions because people in general don’t think about this type of stuff until the day of. This also gets them mentally prepared for the length of the session and what prints they are planning on purchasing.  The largest group that I every photographed at one time was around 120ish, and that included about 60 kids under the age of 10.  During that shoot there were 3 assistants, and 1 photographer just for the shoot and we were all exhausted afterwards. Imagine what would have happened if we hadn’t gotten that information and had planned on a family of 6. (Shudder).
What also needs to be discussed is the location. Are they photographing in-Studio or is this an “On-Location” shoot? If the family is expecting a studio, you better make sure your studio is free and large enough, or you might have to rent out a studio. Have your calendar on hand at ALL TIMES. If you are a solo- one- person show you need to get some type of a smart phone that syncs with your computer back home and that has your calendar, contacts, and an internet connection (necessary). If they are expecting an outdoor On-Location shoot, then the address and distance is also a factor.
One more thing to establish is the point of contact. Who is the Client? Who is making the decisions? In most cases, this is the matriarch of the family.  It’s just good to know who will make the decisions and who will look at you and say “I dunno”.

Put ALL this information in your calendar on the date of their sitting. Also set a little alarm to call and remind them about their session, usually the day before.
There are some specific programs out there to help you with scheduling, and I will talk about that more in my next post.

Finally, get some type of a Fee. It is a fact that if there is not a sitting fee paid, then the chances of them showing up decreases significantly. You don’t necessarily have to charge an arm and a leg, heck you could even call it a down payment on their order, but get some type of payment if you want them to show up. Now, what do you do if you are a one-person solo act, or if you are out and your credit card machine is back at the studio? This is why you need a smartphone with an internet connection. There are several great little credit card swipers that you just plug into the audio jack of your smartphone, and for a very small percentage (which is normal with credit cards) it will deposit the money into your account. Awesomeness. And here’s the thing, the card swipers are FREE, and the account is FREE!  I put a link below if anyone wants to get one and set it up.

Next Post: Session Organization Software!!!! (You’re all thrilled, I can tell)

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