The most common complaint that I hear from other photographers who have dipped their toes into the wedding photographer world is.. I just cant deal with all of the pressure and all of the edits! Being in the slog of thousands of photos, feeling backed up and chained to a computer screen, is not anyone’s idea of living their best life. So today I’m sharing my secret weapon. My two truths: a commitment, & a strong wedding workflow!
I Melissa Gayle, do solemnly swear that I will finish editing a wedding before I take off to shoot another.
Holding myself to the commitment of not falling far behind is crucial to my sanity because it has allowed me to get to my other projects after being a wedding photographer is over. I do make minimal exceptions. If I am shooting 2 events in one weekend or if I am one or two behind I don’t trip. But after that I do trip.
Because, if you are continually behind you will never EVER have time to get create and grow your business, and personal life or shoot the type of weddings and things that you hope to. SO MANY wedding photographers I know have a backlog of weddings from months ago they need to edit. This, my friends, sounds like my living nightmare. Having the weight of multiple weddings to edit is the energetic equivalent of having your ex-boyfirend living in your house. He wants to get out, and you want him to as well, so let that boy free to go flourish in the world and get on with your life.
Not only does the commitment save you from accidentally shooting over a card that you forgot to backup (because you notice something is missing before that is even at risk.) You also have the benefit of seeing where to improve on a more rapid cycle. Maybe yo should be more careful cropping peoples feet out of photos? Perhaps you think you pushed your ISO a little too bit in a low light situation. Editing on a timely manner allows you to evolve your work more quickly. The more opportunities you have to examine your work and course correct the better photographer you will become.
I have a great WORKFLOW that kicks butt and moves me through the edit and upload process relatively painlessly
So for what it’s worth here is is. My workflow and tools I can’t live without
I shoot everything RAW on SD cards and put them in this hard case; and when I return home or to my hotel from a wedding my number one job is backing that-ish up! That way I have not one but TWO copies of the photos living on my body as soon as possible.
If I go to the bathroom at a gas station on the way home- one stays in my purse and the other in the car. NEVER give the opportunity for all of your hard work and someone’s wedding to be stolen. Don’t let this be you!
I use a USB External hard drive for my working drive that is pretty rugged. These guys are the best. I call this my “working drive” and it travels with me everywhere.
After backing up my cards to the drive I then LOCK my cards so I don’t accidentally shoot over them and carry on my merry way.
When backing up the cards the file numbering system I use is key to being able to consistently look like my image catalog at home. This way is Chronological when it sorts and I try to use it consistently everywhere I can, including in Lightroom.
and then within that folder I label my cards in shot order: Card_01, Card_02, Card_03 , And so on …
Here is a screen shot of what that looks like for those of you who hate reading the words and whose eyes just glazed over.
(ProTip: Make sure you bring enough cards for you AND your assistant. Having to send his or her cards back can be a pain in the tuckus. Also you don’t know what they have done with their cards and to have one fail on you for factors outside of your control would be sad. Oh. So. Sad.)
The first thing I do when I get home is then take my “Working Drive” and back the entire wedding up to my massive external hard drives at home for safe keeping. I do not work off of these drives when I edit. The files just get dumped and stored there.
I use a series of G-Drive Desktop External hard drives to backup my large library of wedding work over the years. So far I am up to using 6TB drives. I find this usually is the amount of space I need for one wedding season’s entire RAW library and edits. Anything bigger scares the bejeezus out of me because if it failed I would lose a lot of work.
Once I have the wedding backed up onto the bigger drives I then unplug those big drives and keep my working drive plugged in to my computer.
This portable working drive is what I will use the entire time I edit and upload the photos. That way I know there is a safe copy of everything living somewhere else in case of a nasty power surge, water spill, if there was a tsunami- I could take one set and run. Get it? Got it? Good!
I couldn’t do without the image cataloging program MEDIA PRO by Phase One. In Media Pro images are not actually duplicated to another place in your computer. They are merely referenced- think of it as a visual indexing system. This step saves SO MUCH time.
It has been proven in clinical studies that loading everything into Lightroom will cause you to loose-your-effin-mind! Why? Because waiting for every image to load in Lightroom is slow AF . Once it’s in there you will want to edit it. It will suck away all of your time. Be a smartypants and cut down your work BEFORE the import.
ProTip #2: You can go through an entire wedding in Media Pro making all of your selects red. Then importing just those labeled red into Lightroom with one simple drag over from the catalog. (Select “Find” in the menubar and sort by “Red”) Boom! Drag & drop.
Once I have dragged all of my selects into Lightroom I create a catalog folder of the images. Select all of the imports you just did and next click the plus button next to the Collections window. Label this the same as you have on your hard drive:
ex: YYYY.MM.D_ClientLast name.
You are now cooking with bacon grease.
Editing in Lightroom I have a few favorite presets that I have made on my own and a few that I have purchased from the internet. Remember that these are just a starting off point to get your images from point A to their final look that is completely your own. I almost always remove all grain for my style and manipulate shadows and lens corrections. You will find your groove too. For more on how to edit keep following along with my blog.
Adjust one image leading the series then shift to select all of the images in the same color group and then hit the “Sync” Button. This will bring all of your images close rather than editing them one by one.
You are only as good of a photographer and editor as you have the mental capacity for. Take breaks, walk away. But do try to edit groups of like images together to maintain the same feel and tone.
Here are some of my favorite photographers presets:
Once you’ve edited all of your images you are ready to export them to your working drive. In a separate folder below the card folders create a folder called “Edits” Select all and export your files to this edits file.
I don’t adjust the size I use full resolution jpegs. That way I can go back in and make any additional edits. I do all of my editing to skin, erasing pesky distracting content from backgrounds, and really fine tune a select amount of edits at this stage in Photoshop.
I love Pro Retouch by Totally Rad Labs. I use this Photoshop based set of actions for all sorts of skin retouching!
Before and after a quick retouch using Pro Retouch…
Personally I don’t make everyone look like a blemish free doll. Philosophical values aside I am drawn to a more natural look in my editing. I will make some skin enhancements. Especially on close up portraits but I don’t buy into the expectation that you should look as smooth as a plastic barbie or as thin as a rail. My clients are not typically looking for this level of retouching either. This is where you will find your own way with this but it is a major place where you can eat up a lot of un-necessary time trying to make people look perfect who may be completely happy with the way the look naturally.
Once my Edit is complete and the fine tuning in photoshop is done I drop that “Edits” folder back into my large external G-Drive for safe keeping. Now I have two identical complete copies of the wedding living somewhere in case my working drive is stolen or fails.
Last but not least I want to tell you about my very favorite way to send photos to my clients and that is Pixieset.
I have tried several other sites for this service but I have stuck with Pixieset for several years now because I love just paying one fee annually rather than a per gallery fee. I have the largest plan and I use every GB of it. The interface is clean and simple and I can upload/ sell/ and give clients and their guests all sorts of levels of access to their images. Each gallery is distributed with a DOWNLOAD PIN that the client can use to access their digital files in Original, Large and Web sizes. It has truly been a wonderful subscription.
Well guys, there you have it. This my workflow- tried and true. Hopefully you can gleam a few little tips and integrate them into your own workflows! Happy editing!
So to recap here it is in a few east steps
1) Back it up onto a working drive that you can travel with
2) Back it up at home onto a larger external HD
3) Make Selects using Media Pro
4) Import selects into Lightroom
5) Batch Edit in Lightroom- Edit groups of images by using presets & your own adjustments then shift select and paste your edits on similar images with similar color and exposure.
6) Export to jpeg files
7) Do fine tune editing in Photoshop
8) Backup again to larger external HD
9) Upload Using Pixieset
10) Share and promote!