This is the craziest year I’ve ever known in business. Plans are almost impossible to make and it feels like a case of having to roll with the punches. In ordinary times, I wouldn’t book weddings on days after another one. But this is 2021, a complete anomaly of a year and I find myself shooting weddings on weekdays and shooting weddings in clusters. Many of us are having to accommodate all the postponed bookings as well as accommodate new ones and so the ‘season’ is feeling very condensed.
Now I’m not complaining – after so long without being able to shoot weddings, it feels incredible to be able to get out there and do my job. However, I cannot imagine how I would be coping if I didn’t have an incredibly efficient workflow. This is not the case for everyone and I’m seeing many posts from photographers struggling to meet their delivery dates and sometimes taking several weeks to get an edit ready.
Trust me, it does not have to be like this. There is no glory in spending days and days at your desk, a slave to Lightroom or whatever editing programme that you use. I love my career but I also love my life and I want to enjoy as much of it as possible. I didn’t get into photography to be an editor, I got into it to shoot. That is when I am most fulfilled and that is really the only time most of us make money from our photography. There’s no overtime paid out because you spent extra long on an edit.
So, how can you also speed up your workflow and gain back your sweet and precious time? Here are my tips –
Get It Right In Camera
What slows you down in any editing software is correcting your mistakes so try not to make so many! I understand that there is pressure on you when you shoot weddings. We often get very little access to our subjects. In these times of Pinterest, you might find yourself trying to produce creative portraits influenced by something that another photographer created in the US with half a day to shoot the couple. In the UK we are lucky to get 10 minutes so it’s natural to panic shoot. But trust me, there is always time to get your settings right. Just take a moment, check your light reading, check your composition, check the edges of the frame, check if you are straight (I have to have my camera spirit level on), and then take your shots.
Yes, with digital cameras and fast memory cards, the sky’s the limit on how many images that you can take on a wedding day. I’ve heard of photographers hitting 25k or more – That is just insane. You could give a toddler a camera set on automatic and if it shot that many images, by the laws of average, there would be at least 500 good ones. But can you imagine having to cull all of them? Be intentional with what you are shooting, try to wait for the good moments and anticipate what subjects might do. Having less pictures to upload and cull will save you time and hard drive space.
Use a Culling Tool
Culling is an integral part of the editing process but it can be time consuming. You can either do it as you go along or do it in advance of importing them. Photo Mechanic has been the tool of choice for many photographers for this but there are some new developments and apps that employ Artificial Intelligence to cull photos. The two most popular ones seem to be AfterShoot and Narrative’s Select. Ahead of my season hotting up, I did the free trial offered by Narrative and was surprised to discover how easy it is to implement. I estimate that using Select has reduced my culling time by around two thirds. I use it as a guide rather than just eliminating all of the images that it suggests. Just as I don’t use my camera on 100% auto settings but I sure do use it for guidance on the decisions that I make. Once you’ve made all of your sections, you then ship only those files across to Lightroom so your import will not take as long and you don’t have to spend ages trying to figure out if people have their eyes closed in your group shots.
Use An External Drive
Never clog up your computer with raw files. You want to upload and store them on an external drive so that they don’t impact how efficiently your machine runs. I use Drobos, a system that lets me have huge TBs in storage with built in safety features. So if an individual drive fails, the Drobo will distribute the data across other drives and protect it. In addition I use online storage (Backblaze) as a backup so that my files are as safe as they can be but they are not taking up space on my main computer and slowing it down in any way.
Optimise Your Lightroom
Lightroom is like any machine, it needs maintenance. If you just throw job after job into the same catalogue, eventually you will start to run into issues. Some photographers create a new Lightroom Catalogue for each job but I’ve found that having one per year seems to work fine.
Regularly go into the Preferences Panel > Performance, clear the cache and click Optimise Catalogue. Smart Previews are Lightroom’s secret weapon and I have it set to build them on import. Then in that same Performance section I click to use Smart Previews instead of Originals in the Develop mode. So I’m working just on the much smaller preview files. I can also choose to work on a different device because Smart Previews do not need to be attached to the original raw files. So I could for instance upload them to Lightroom on my main computer but do the editing on a Laptop or an iPad. Personally I like the discipline of being at my desk for an edit but equally I know I could take my laptop to a coffee shop and edit in that environment instead.
Set Editing Times
If you have an ad-hoc approach to when you edit then you can end up with an incohesive set of images and spend longer than you need as each time you have to get back into your flow. Instead, I like to set aside a day to do the main part of a wedding edit. I dedicate the day to the job and work through in chunks taking regular breaks. I either work through each section of the wedding day or a set amount of images at a time..
Batching Is Your Friend
Your editing program is set up to apply changes to multiple images at once. So don’t individually work on each and every picture. My big tip on this is to remember that there are basic adjustments that can be made in the Library mode of Lightroom. So if like me, you shoot underexposed as a rule, you can simply pull every single image up a stop before you even go into Develop mode. Speaking of Develop mode, I always have the film strip running along the bottom of my screen while I edit so that I can see the images coming up and use the Sync button to do the changes on similar photos. Then before I export, I batch change the names of all the images so that they are sequential and optimised for SEO. I also bulk add appropriate keywords to the metadata.
Export Straight To Gallery
t seems that most of the online gallery providers have a Lightroom Plugin that you can install. These eliminate a step in your workflow and mean that you can send your images straight into the delivery space. I am a Pic-Time user and what I love about their Lightroom Plugin is that I have it pre-set to create folders like Getting Ready, Groups, Portraits etc within my Lightroom. I can then separate images into the relevant folders and these automatically appear as scenes in my gallery. This makes the image delivery less overwhelming for the client without me having to do any additional work in the gallery. I also select my highlights and duplicate those into a Slideshow folder and then I use Pic-Time’s feature to create a slideshow of the best images to music. This is the first thing that couples experience when they open the gallery and it always makes for an impactful delivery.
With these tips and with discipline, yes I really do edit a wedding in just one day. We have a mini workshop available to download if you’d like to know all my tips and tricks. I love shooting weddings but I also want a life and time to see my family and friends, even in the summer.