Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Workflow (3) The Photoshoot to Archival

The last post about workflow...... I hope.

Ok, so in the last two posts we talked about setting up the appointment, and we discussed the purpose of some type of management software. In this next post I am going to outline how to finish the workflow, ending in archiving.

1.     Call the day before to confirm the appointment. This will increase your sitting show rate.
2.     The client arrives, greet them and have them fill out a model release form that includes all their contact info (you can double check it with the info you have in the computer). If there are any unpaid sitting fees at this time, collect them.
3.     Talk to your client, give them a run-down of how you plan to do the session, and then ask if there is anything that you left out.
4.     Shoot the session. (Simple enough)
5.     After the session and you have said goodbye to the client and set up a return appointment to view the photos, this is where the workflow begins. Begin by downloading your images to your computer, in a folder designated (and make sure that folder is annotated in your management software).
6.     Burn 2 disks of the session and LABEL them.  Store one copy with your customer’s information in your studio/workspace and the other in an offsite location. (If your studio is at home, you can rent a small storage unit).
7.     At this point, I like to pull my images into a raw file manipulation software. Right now I use lightroom, but you can use Aperture, Capture One Pro, or heck, even Adobe Bridge with Photoshop can work (it’s just a little clunkier).  This is where I make any minor adjustments to my images to make them show worthy, such as cropping, quick color correction, deleting unwanted images, etc. It’s easy in these software programs because you literally adjust one and then synchronize all the others. More on that later.
8.     Export your basic retouched photos as Jpegs for ease of viewing (It’s faster viewing this way).
9.     Meet with the client and create a sales order, outlining the entire order and all retouching requested (very important, if you don’t write it down, it won’t happen.) Make three copies, one goes to the lab, the other stays with you, the last goes to the customer along with their receipt (make sure all orders are paid in full)
10.  After the client leaves, you have a few choices. It all depends on how much control you want over the next process. For me, I do all my own retouching and then send the files off via FTP site to be printed at a PROFESSIONAL LAB!!!
(Walmart, Walgreens, Target, etc are NOT professional labs.) There are a lot of different options for labs, and if you don’t live close to any, there are quite a few nice ones online. Locally I use Masterlab at and have had great results. Some of my friends from grad school have had amazing success with . They are located out of San Francisco and do a great job as well. Whatever you choose to do, I suggest getting to know the lab pretty well so that they get to know your expectations and so that you can understand their work ethic. There are some labs that really do not care about your work, and if they don’t care, they don’t deserve your business. So I retouch my photos and then let Masterlab do all my printing. Other options are to send it all directly to the lab and let them handle the retouching, printing, mounting, and even fulfillment of your order (packaging, mailing, etc). Just remember, when you do this, every bit of retouching they do costs money, so you better have billed your client for it as well, because if not, it’s coming out of your pocket. And as stated before, if it’s not written down, it won’t get done. This is where the more notes there are, the better. If you don’t write it down and the lab prints it as you specified, but not how the client wanted it, guess who is paying for a re-print?
11.  Your order comes back from the lab (if it’s a local lab and you do enough work with them, some labs will put your business on a pick-up drop off route as a courtesy and incentive to use them).
12.  Double check to make sure everything is there and the way you want it to be. Cross check with the order slip that you retained and if all is set, include that order slip with the order
13.  Think about presentation of the final images. Your customer just paid hundreds, if not thousands of dollars for these images, and they need to be presented in such a way that shows that off. My wedding photographer (when I got married) gave us all of our wedding photos in a beautiful decorative cardboard box. It was nice and showed that the photographer cared about his work, and cared about making us happy. (Note, if there are any large portraits, present them in a frame that you have for sale. The chances of you selling a frame go up incredibly at this point)
14.  Call the client to come and pick up their pictures.
15.  The client leaves with their photographs, and are happy. At this point you take the finished order slip and place it in a queue to be archived. I typically wait about a month after the client has picked up their order to archive their session.
16.  Write the client a thank you card. Include an incentive (coupon, gift card, etc) for them to come back again soon.
17.  It’s time to archive the session. You can do this by simply burning a disc, or to make the most out of your time and space, multiple hard drives are ideal. You already have two copies of the session, now it’s time to make at least two more, this time including all the artwork that you did for the client. There is several software options for archiving your images, but if you have a studio management software, it should be built it. Here’s how I would set it up. Two hard drives (three is better, but sometimes it’s overkill, especially if you still have the original disks). Copy the client’s session (it’s easiest if they just have a numbered session instead of just their name). Name the hard drives with a date. Write that date directly on the hard drive with a pen or permanent marker. Once you have copied the session over to the hard drives, make an annotation in your studio software as to which hard drive they have been archived to. It is now safe to delete the session off of your computer’s hard drive.

So that’s it. Now this is just one way of setting up a workflow, obviously there are may different twists and turns to this entire set up. Some people may want to simply upload their images to an online proofing, ordering, retouching and printing site and just make a commission off their photos. That’s cool. Others may want to create their entire lab in the studio and take out the middle-man. That’s cool too. Whatever you decide to do, the point is to keep it organized, and a workflow helps a photographer do just that.

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