Shooting portraits are a lot of work! Wedding photography is even more work. I often have people asking questions about the steps I take when I shoot portraits or weddings, so I decided to write this post to give a general idea of my photography workflow. My goal is to share my workflow with other photographers and clients interested in how the process goes from start to finish. I know that I will leave several steps out in this post but this is a general idea on how my workflow goes with each session.
My workflow has changed a bit over the years, however I’ve kept a pretty general workflow for myself which helps me organize, work efficiently, and make sure each one of my clients gets an amazing experience and photos they love. There are a lot of people out there that don’t understand the amount of work that goes into a session and specifically what my session fee covers. On average, I spend somewhere between 6-10 hours for a portrait session from the initial contact to the follow-up contact once the orders are complete. Wedding Photography takes a significantly longer amount of time and preparation!
The Initial Contact
Whenever a new client contacts me regarding my services it is usually done either through a phone call or an email. I typically respond to initial inquiries with a PDF file, which describes my booking process, general investment range, and a suggestion to book a consultation.
Being a customized photographer, I like to meet with every client. I will generally call the client and arrange a no obligation consultation so we can sit down and discuss their needs and goals for their photography session.
Consultations are usually done in my client proofing in viewing area inside our home in West Peabody and typically lasts about an hour. Prior to my clients arriving I generally will stock some snacks and drinks to have available and set up my computer for my clients to view slideshows of my work. The photos and slideshows that are shown during the consultation are shown using ProSelect Pro software and will generally match the type of photography session that my clients are looking for. For example, I would not show a portrait client a slideshow of a wedding. All photos and slideshows are projected on 80” screen.
After the slideshow I will briefly explain to clients exactly what I do. Once that’s done, I like to get to know my clients. My photography sessions are all about my clients so I want to know as much information as I can about that. Everything from style, home décor, to what they like to do for fun, it is all relevant when it comes to my photography.
Perhaps one of the biggest questions and most important questions that I ask all my clients is what they plan to do with their images? This usually gets my clients thinking because it’s not a question that comes up too often. Through past experiences and from what others of told me when they used other professional photographers is that about 90% of the people who get digital images on a disk, don’t use their images for anything other than online activity, and then their disk of images usually ends up in a drawer somewhere without ever being used again. I make it a point to tell my clients this because I believe that when investing in photography people should use their images for more than online social networking. Once I know what their goals are for their session, I plan and adjust my shooting style and editing around my clients.
Photography is an investment and when a client walks into their home or office and sees their pictures on the wall they know that their investment was well spent. Most of my photography clients know me for making heirloom portraits and wall designs for their home that they can appreciate for years to come.
Scheduling the Session
Almost all clients choose to schedule their session with me during the consultation. I will give each client a pre-session question here to fill out, along with a copy of the studio policies and liability, which they will sign. We’ll discuss dates for their session along with locations for their session. Another date will be discussed for their viewing and ordering appointment usually within two weeks following the photo session.
Depending on the type of session my clients book I will send them away with a welcome package, which includes prices about my package collections and services. I will also give them information on how to photograph their own wall in their home, which will come in really handy during the viewing and ordering appointment.
I always send a thank you email to each one of my clients following the consultation. I do this to ensure customer service and to make sure my clients don’t have any further questions that they forgot to ask me during the consultation. It also confirms the date and time of their session along with the location.
Before the Photo Session
Prior to the session date I always scout the location of the session. If it’s a location that I’ve not been to before, I will physically visit the location at the same time the session. If the session is being conducted at a client’s home, it’s important for me to be able to adapt and adjust on the fly during the session. This is where knowing all of my gear inside and out comes into play.
Usually two days prior to the session I contact my clients and confirm the session date and time with them. If the session is a wedding I always recommend to the client that I be present at the rehearsal. This allows composition ideas and me to scout different angles and locations of where I’ll be shooting.
Several hours before if not the day before the session I will charge all my batteries for my equipment, double-check memory cards, pack my equipment in the proper case or bags, and double-check that I have all the equipment I need to complete a successful photo session.
The Photo Session
On the day the session I like to show up to the location early prior to my clients arriving. This allows me to look at the location and see any new objects or obstacles that we may encounter during the session. I always shoot with Nikon DSLR cameras in RAW format. This is the same for shooting in manual mode so I have complete control over the aperture and shutter speeds. This allows me to be more creative during the session and allows me to create what I have in my mind. For portrait sessions, I always have 2 different camera bodies with me, one for backup. For weddings, I’ll bring 3 or more camera bodies.
Most my portrait sessions last about an hour and a half for my Platinum Sessions in about 45 minutes with my Limited-Edition Sessions. I always like to have a very relaxed and enjoyable session with my client. I almost think of it as a play date, where I want my clients to be themselves, act natural, and have fun! Once I get my in camera white balance correct and all other equipment that I may need out it’s shoot time.
Once the session is complete, prior to leaving the location I always backup my images on the spot. I use a Hyper-Drive COLORSPACE UDMA Multimedia Storage drive which I can insert both my Compact Flash & SDHC Memory Cards. By doing this I have two separate copies of images already backed up, one to my Hyper-Drive and one to my memory cards.
After the Session – Post Processing
After I get home from the session I always upload the images onto my computer’s hard drive, and create four separate folders for images. The folders that I created for each session are RAW files, Photoshop files, Web files, and Production files. This takes me about 1-2 hours depending on how many images are being uploaded.
Once the images are on my computers hard drive, I also back up all images to a network attached storage drive. My network attached storage drive as two separate drives which are mirrored creating two separate copies of images. Once this is complete I now have five separate copies of images from the session. One on my memory card, one on my Hype-Drive, one on my desktop computer, and two separate copies on my network attached storage drive. Only after I verify that the images are on my separate drives will I erased the memory cards. I know this sounds like overkill, but I never want to be the photographer that has to tell the client that I lost their images because of a bad drive. This part of post-processing is the one part of professional photography that takes a lot of time!
My RAW files folder is where all the original RAW images are kept. By shooting in RAW during the session, I’m able to keep the most data in each image file. RAW files can’t be printed until converted to another format and need special programs to view the images.
All of my monitors for editing have been professionally calibrated prior to any editing. This ensures that the images I’m working on are exactly correct in color and brightness.
I use Adobe Lightroom 4 to organize my images and make minor adjustments. Upon my initial review the images I remove all images with eyes closed heads turned, or shots that just don’t make the cut. Prior to making my final selection of images for the client I like to take a short break to give my eyes a rest. On my second review of the images I will generally narrow down images that are similar and pick the best one or two (similar) for the clients review. Clients typically don’t need to see more than one or two images that are almost identical. Anything more than that becomes cumbersome and they all start to look the same.
Once I’m done making my final selections of images, I’ll delete all the “NO” images to save space on my drives.
In Adobe Lightroom 4, I’ll start to work on the RAW files first adjusting color correction and white balance if needed. Some other adjustments that I make are Lens Correction, sharpening, noise reduction, and Metadata. This is done to each image during my workflow. Depending on the type of images and look I’m trying to achieve, I may add some personal pre-sets in Lightroom.
Once I’m happy with the initial edits of the images, I’ll convert each image into Photoshop files and place them into the Photoshop files folder that I created during the importing process. Each image is then edited in Adobe Photoshop CS6. There are several different plug-ins that I have associated with Photoshop that I may use during processing. I may smooth some skin, remove blemishes or enhance a persons eyes. I also have several actions that I use in Photoshop to assist me in the kind of image I’m editing. This is one stage in my workflow that is very creative and detail oriented.
In general, I’ll do the following to each image.
- Correct or adjust the White Balance. Correcting your white balance can have a very dramatic effect on the image changing the overall color and brightness of a photo.
- I use curves to fine tune skin tone and color. I create new layers devoted to improving the skin tone that is easily adjustable.
- Whiten teeth. On many images with teeth showing, I will whiten the teeth to a naturally white shade.
- Remove blemishes. If a client has a small about of blemishes, I will typically remove them at the client’s request.
- Smooth Skin & reduce wrinkles. This is also a step I do on a separate layer in Photoshop. It leaves the skin looking natural and smooth.
- Add sparkle and shine to the eyes. Better catch lights show and help give more interest and focus to the eyes.
- Sharpen. This is one of the last steps that I do prior to converting the final images for output.
The Viewing and Ordering Appointment
Prior to the client arriving, I have already imported the Photoshop files into my ProSelect Pro Presentation Software for the Viewing & Ordering Appointment. I double-check to make sure the music for each session is appropriate, and that the software is set for the client to view their slideshow.
When the client arrives, I offer them a snack and drink. Following the initial greetings is where the client is presented their images for the first time during a presentation slideshow on a large 80” projection screen. This is by far the most rewarding moment for the clients and myself! I love to see the reaction to them viewing their photos for the first time.
Following the slideshow, we go through each image and narrow down the client’s favorites. Once the favorites are narrowed down, I replay the slideshow with their chosen images. I then show my clients what the images will look like on their own walls in the exact size and/or layout they have chosen for their images. By doing this, my client’s will know exactly what they are ordering and what it will look like in their own space. We’ll go over product options, frames, canvas gallery wraps, wall clusters and albums depending on their goals for their images. I have each client review the invoice and ordering policies before making the orders final and collecting payment for the order.
For client’s that can’t attend the Viewing & Ordering Appointment, I offer the same session via Skype. My client’s don’t need a camera attached to their computer, however they do need a microphone to communicate during the online session.
Once the ordering session is complete, I will begin to work on the images that have been ordered. This is making any final adjustment at the request of the clients, adding custom boarders for gallery wraps and album design.
Following the Viewing & Ordering Appointment, I will post ordered images online for my clients to share with friends and family. Friends and family are able to view the images and make purchases online. I review each order to ensure everything is correct and accurate.
I also make it a point that the images my clients are viewing during the ordering appointment are on a calibrated projector and may look different on their own personal computer that has not been professionally calibrated. I do this because in the past, I’ve had a few clients contact me because their ordered prints didn’t match the colors on their personal un-calibrated monitor.
When the images are ready to be sent to my lab, I convert the images to their final output files and upload them to my lab through their online ordering system. I use several different Professional Labs depending on which types of products are ordered. For example, if a client orders a canvas gallery wrap for their wall, I may use a specific lab for the gallery wrap. I may use a different lab for album orders or framed art.
When the orders arrive at my studio, I carefully review and double-check each item before it is presented to the client. If there is a problem (which is very rare) I can rectify the problem before my clients even know it!
I send a follow-up email to every client within 2 weeks after my client’s receive his or her orders. I like to see if they are enjoying their ordered items and I also ask them how their experience was with me and also if they would be willing to share their story with a review.
This is my typical workflow for each photography session although no two sessions are alike. This is what my session fees cover and what my clients can expect when they use my services at Jon Delano Photography. You have any questions or comments, I would love to hear from you! Please feel free to comment below or share this article.