Photo by Scott Bourne - Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs Creative Commons

Photo by Scott Bourne – Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs Creative Commons

I get asked workflow questions every day. I have trouble answering them because every photographer is different. If you shoot weddings you have different needs than you do if you shoot commercial stock. But there are some things that might apply across the board so I’ve decided to try to tackle this big topic. There is one caveat to the title of this post. This is MY professional workflow. It might not work for you. But it has worked for me. There is no right way or wrong way. There is only THE way – the way that works for you. As for my workflow… Use it if you like it, forget it if you don’t. It’s a 30,000 foot view because to get more granular would be a waste of time. Each person has to adapt the workflow to their style and needs. But for at least the new pros, this should give you something to think about. There’s nothing earth-shattering here. It’s all common sense.

1. Start with good gear. The best cameras, computers, software and accessories you can afford, maintained in good operating order and properly cared for – are essential to any pro photography workflow. Make sure you have backups for your backups on the hardware side as well as the photograph side.

2. After you acquire all that good gear take time to learn it. No I mean REALLY learn it. Are you getting 100% out of your gear? I doubt it. Most of you haven’t even read your camera manual. If you want to be a professional you have to know every inch of your gear inside out. It has to be second nature. If you’re trying to figure out how to make something work in the middle of a shoot, you’re in the wrong place.

3. Prepare. Before each shoot make sure all batteries are charged, menus zeroed out, memory cards formatted and everything is ready to go. Also research your subject. Have a “one-sheet” with the basic info on the job, contact names and numbers, location research, etc.

4. Hire an assistant. If you want to make sure things go well, it’s always a good idea to have a co-pilot who’re reading the checklist back to you – just in case you get too comfortable. It’s also good to have spare hands and spare eyes. Many times my assistants have helped me to see a better shot.

5. When you’re shooting block out all other thoughts and give the job your full attention. This is not the time to think about your taxes or your date next weekend. Focus. Literally and figuratively. Capture everything you might need. I use an acronym called EDFAT to help me shoot everything I need.

Entire – shoot an establishing shot
Details – shoot all the small details
Focal Length – vary your focal lengths
Angle – shoot from different angles and heights
Time – shoot at different times of day and vary your shutter speeds for creative control

One other thing I like to do is make a horizontal AND vertical of every shot I take. You never know what cropping the client might prefer.

6. Shoot RAW when possible. This gives you the most data. Shoot HDR or bracket when possible. You never know when you might need it and if you don’t shoot it in the field you can’t fake it in post.

7. Pay attention to white balance, color, the color of light and how color is impacting your shot. When possible – shoot with a custom white balance to make sure that you start from the best possible image. Work in a color managed workflow with profiled monitors, papers and printers.

8. In post, try to select only your best shots and then make everything else invisible so you are staring at the best of the best. Then use a non-destructive image editor so you can go back and make changes if you need to. Avoid converting anything to JPEG or any other compressed file format until the very end of the project. And then only if the client needs JPEGS.

9. Make sure your deliverable match the contract. Make sure you deliver your final output the way the client wanted it and go the extra mile. Use nice presentation materials instead of just throwing stuff in a plastic bag or envelope. A professionally-branded deliverable gets you the next job.

10. After the job spend a few minutes cataloging it, backing it up and archiving it. Develop one system and stick to it. Always – ALWAYS have an off-site backup. Use metadata so that you can find images quickly and easily if clients re-order. Keywords help too.

11. Protect your work. Embed your Copyright or license in each file. If you are selling rights managed work, register it with the Library of Congress BEFORE you deliver the job to the client.

12. On a quarterly basis check and test all your backups and archives to make sure they are all operational. Make sure all backups are recoverable. Replace any corrupt files and make sure to maintain your databases.

13. If you’re successful, get a good accountant and let them do their job.

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