A day in the life of a photographer
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A WEDDING AND LIFESTYLE PHOTOGRAPHER … AND FREELANCE GRAPHIC DESIGNER
I often hear, why do you spend so much time in front of you computer.
Well, I have made it my mission to try and put down in words the workflow of, firstly being a wedding and lifestyle photographer, and secondly as an album / graphic designer.
Editing weddings and portraits provides a unique challenge for photographers. After a few hours to a day of shooting you’re left with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of images to work through. Timelines are tight, and you’re juggling multiple sessions at once. And then you also try and fit in time for yourself, and time for your family.
My goal is to provide awesome quality to my clients – on time! I will not skimp on anything, not even my own blogs!!
The Perception: How some people think wedding and lifestyle photographers spend their time (and how some photographers WISHED they could spend their time):
The Reality: How wedding photographers REALLY spend their time:
We clearly spend more time in front of our computers than behind our cameras, which is a sign of these digital times.
I have been told that I should have been a millionnaire by now spending so much time in front of my computer. Well, reality is, the digital era and working as a freelance photographer and designer, means working alone and not outsourcing anything.
This also includes spending endless hours on other aspects surrounding my daily life:
- Scanning through my emails daily, sifting out the spam, and responding to queries for quotes, and giving feedback to existing clients on the progress of their photos / albums. (between 30 minutes and an hour a day)
- Updating my websites and blogs – in my case I run two websites each with a blog. I have a wedding photography website and a general photography and design website. I try and update them twice a week, to keep my feeds alive and updating them with the latest photos and designs. (between 1-2 hours)
- Updating my facebook business page. I try and do this straight after I have updated my websites with the new photos and designs, but if time is not on my side, I at least try and do this the following day. (+- 30 minutes per update – this could be twice a week or sometimes more depending on the amount of shoots)
- Once a week, I keep my business accounting updated. I go through all my invoices, deposits, spendings, etc, and log this. (2 hours a week)
- Twice a week, when I have free time available, I try and improve my editing skills by surfing the net, buying tutorials, watching YouTube videos on new Canon equipment available and how to use them. (3 to 6 hours – depending how involved I become in what I am doing).
I am going to share with you my own workflow that I use for every session! I hope once you have read this article, that you will have a better understanding of a day in the life of a wedding and lifestyle photographer and album designer.
1. Import & Backup
The first step for me after a Lifestyle or Wedding Shoot is actually downloading the images from my memory cards. I don’t use any specific software, but merely copy and past into the folders I have created.
It’s also the perfect time to back these folder up. I use external 1TB hard drives to immediately backup my newly created folders. This is a must in my workflow. I will not start with any editing unless I have made a second backup on the TB hard drives.
Reviewing and selecting images is a big task. I use Adobe Bridge for this process. By sorting my images before importing them into Lightroom or Photoshop, I ensure that I only import the exact files I want to work on. The selection will be put in a separate created folder on my harddrive, which is the best out of the thousands that was taken. It can be a painful process. It’s hard to look through images and identify what worked well, but more importantly what needs to be improved. But it’s worth the pain, because I improve by studying my own work. This process can sometimes take up to two days depending on the amount of photos taken
After completing a second sort of the images I import them them into Lightroom for editing.
Lightroom is the most powerful and most frequently used tool in my workflow. It basically takes care of all the major editing. I can quickly make adjustments to white balance, exposure, contrast, brightness, saturation—the basics. I then take it further and create awesome black and whites, apply creative colouring effects, crop, dodge/burn, add/remove vignettes, perform light retouching, reduce noise, sharpen images, and make tone curve adjustments.
The workflow here is simple. I start at the first image, make editing adjustments, then move to the next one. If the photos are similar I can sync adjustments, saving lots of time.
Alternatively, if I have a large group of very similar images, I batch edit them all at once. That gives me a great starting point, and I’ll probably only have to make small adjustments, or black and white conversions/custom toning.
I make sure that the photos are sorted accorting to “time modified”. When the lighting conditions are similar you can really take advantage of those speedy workflow features in Lightroom.
Once I have finished editing the images in Lightroom, I export them as JPEGs. I export at full resolution (300dpi) in the Adobe RGB (1998) color space. I also rename the files with the client name at this stage so that the numbering will be sequential.
Once I have completed the Lightroom process, I start the retouching process in Photoshop. When it comes to retouching I have two ways of handling things:
Weddings: For weddings I only retouch images that go into the album or are ordered as prints. There are simply far too many images to retouch them all!
Portraits: For my portrait sessions every image gets retouched. Luckily the number of images to retouch for portraits is far less than for a wedding!
My retouching is pretty simple. We reduce bags under eyes, whiten teeth, heal temporary blemishes, and remove distracting elements (exit signs, garbage on the ground, etc.). My philosophy is that good retouching needs to be realistic, especially when you’re shooting “real” people (i.e. not models in a high fashion shoot). I am very careful not to take an image too far (glowing eyes, plastic skin, etc.)
6. Gallery Page creation
Once I have completed the Lightroom process, and done all the Photoshop retouching, I create a client wedding gallery. This process is done in Lightroom. The gallery includes thumbnails of all the photos selected and retouched by myself, with an Index. This process can take up to 1 hour depending on the amount of photos. With the Lifestyle and Portrait shoots, this process is fairly quick. But with the Weddings, this can take very long as there are easily between 400 to 800 photos.
7. Uploading the gallery to my web server
The gallery then gets uploaded to my web server, always via FTP. This gallery gets hosted for a maximum of 4 weeks, and is only visible to my clients. This process can also be a long process depending on the amount of photos.
8. Emailing clients with the link
Once the gallery has been uploaded, I will email my clients with the link. I will ask them to go through the gallery and email me a list of their favorite photos to be included in their albums. For the portrait photography clients, I ask them to make a selection of 40 photos , and for my wedding photography clients, I ask them to make a selection of between 200 and 300 photos.
9. Designing of Album
Once I have received my client’s selection, I start with the album design in Adobe InDesign. For the portrait Portrait sessions, I normally design a landscape A4 book of 20 pages (10 page spread). For the Wedding Albums, I normally design a 30×30 personalised hardcover book of 60 pages (30 page spread).
Design time for the portrait albums = 2 days
Design time for the wedding album = 2 weeks
With the portrait album designs, I ask my clients if they have any colour combination in
mind to include in their designs. For my wedding clients, they also have the option to use the same designs as with their invitations and the rest of the wedding stationery used in their album design.
10. Client Proofs
Once the albums are designed, I send my clients a PDF low resolution proof. My clients can make two proof changes.
11. Ordering Products
Once the PDF albums are signed off, I review review the images one final time. I make sure that no additional retouching is required and that the brightness, contrast and colour temperature are perfect. I also apply a bit of sharpening at this stage, to ensure a crisp print.
12. Final handover of albums and DVDs
Once I have received the albums from the printers, I package the album together with the DVDs containing all the high resolution photos. I then contact my client to make arrangements for collection.
I NEVER OUTSOURCE ANY OF MY DESIGNS!
As a certified graphic designer, I take pride in every design project, which means I never outsource and I never use the same template twice. These designs are unique and a one of a kind for every client!
A RUNDOWN OF HOURS SPENT:
Time is a number, in the end, that is a plain fact: how many hours does a photographer invest in your wedding. Let’s run down my own list:
- first consultation meetings, emails/calls: 2 hours
- engagement shoot, editing, create disc, upload to gallery, creating album: 8-10 hours
- follow up communication and/or meetings: 1-2 hours
- stopping by the rehearsal to scout and prepare: 2 hours
- actually preparing and packing the night and morning before: 2-3 hours
- wedding day coverage: 10-12 hours
- downloading, backup, and editing images: 6-8 hours
- uploading to web galleries, create DVDs: 2-4 hours
- creating album or book, revising, ordering: 10-12 hours
- follow-up communication/delivery: 2-3 hours
- total travel time (local wedding): 2-3 hours
Total comes to +- 44 hours per wedding. (Think for a minute about how much other full-time professionals get paid for 1 week of work. Net take home pay, versus gross pay). This does not include the time it takes to operate a small business week to week: web site design and maintenance, marketing materials, meeting and communicating with prospective clients (some of whom may never actually book), travel out of town, training and education, maintaining or replacing equipment, researching and ordering new equipment, reading and learning new things, paying bills and filing taxes, other bookkeeping and archiving images, etc. This all really adds up, and must be spread across all clients.
Apart from the wedding and lifestyle photography, I do the following:
- Studio photography (which involves editing and designing as well)!
- Graphic design projects – this can include: logo design, business card design, brochure design, flyer design … and all designs for the print industry.
- Website design projects – I try and keep these designs to only take on small web design projects.
MY WORK REVOLVES AROUND GRAPHICS AND TECHNOLOGY … WHICH MEANS MY LAPTOP … AND ENDLESS HOURS OF EDITING. SO YES, I WILL BE GLUED TO MY LAPTOP UNFORTUNATELY – AND IT’S MY PASSION!!
Source reference: thanks Google, and all the endless articles !