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The Post-Processing Workflow

iStock_000009603783Small-499x332So, what happens after the photography session? I wanted to feature my post-processing workflow for today’s blog post to better educate my clients, followers, and prospective clients regarding my “next steps” process after the session from the time the pictures are taken to the time the final product is in my client’s hands. This will help my clients better understand the reasoning behind my turnaround time. I’m realizing now that I’m probably doing this a bit backwards — but I’ll post a pre-session workflow in the near future 🙂

My post-process differs slightly from portrait sessions versus weddings but I can give you a general idea on what I do. Of course, all photographers have their own workflow that works for them so this is just what works for me. I’m sure my workflow will be tweaked along the way as my business evolves but the basics below will remain the same.

As soon as I get home from a session, I back-up the images straight from my camera to my Passport portable external hard drive. I recently purchased this device and I love it! An average photo is 2-5 megabytes — During a traditional session I’ll take roughly 250-300 images so that can quickly take up lots of space on my laptop. After constantly getting the “you’re running out of space” message on my computer, I went ahead and bought a portable hard drive specifically for my business. I splurged a little more to get the 2 terabyte version (1 gigabyte  = 1,024 megabytes. 1 terabyte = 1,000 gigabytes). Beforehand, I was using my personal portable hard drive that is filled (overloaded!) with images, documents, music, videos, etc. all the way back from my high school days — it is so unorganized and has been on my to-do list for a long time to organize it but I’ve been procrastinating because it’s so overwhelming. Also, there is a short in the cord so with the slightest touch it would disconnect (99% of the time when I’m backing up files so I would have to start all over again… very, very frustrating!). Now, my prayers have been answered when Amazon delivered this new Passport device to me. It has a USB connector and doesn’t require a wall outlet (like my old one!) so I keep it in my camera bag and always have it with me. I highly recommend getting one to use for personal or business use.

2. Once all of my images have successfully saved onto my Passport, I delete them from my camera. I know, I always cringe when I do it… it’s always a scary task… but I always want to make sure before my next session I have a full memory card ready to go!

Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 9.13.49 PM3. Next, I load images onto my Mac from my Passport — Before each session I already have a folder ready to drop images into (a real timesaver!). I use the format below for organizing my images: “P” is for portraits (“W” is for wedding), the # following is the year (i.e., 13 = 2013), the month of the session, the clients first or last name. Inside each folder has a sub-folder: “Admin.” (where I keep the client’s contract, email correspondence, questionnaires, etc.), “RAW” (these are where I load the original images from my Passport), “Finals” (after I finish polishing them up in Lightroom), “Blog” and “Facebook” (these are where my BlogStomp images go).

Wedding folder: Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 10.28.32 PM


Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 9.03.34 PM
4. Next, I upload the “keeper” images into Lightroom (this is the only program that I use for “editing” — I don’t use Photoshop). In addition to providing basic functionality of a basic RAW converter, Adobe has built Lightroom to be the only post-processing application many photographers will need 90% of the time. The features that this program offers allows me to use it from start to finish. It’s very affordable and worth every penny!

5. Next, I start culling! As I mentioned earlier, during a typical 2-hour session I’ll take roughly 250-300 images (for a wedding I have 1,000+ images!). The culling process is when I remove images where people are blinking, when images are out of focus, the exposure is off, etc. There usually aren’t too many of these images since I routinely check my settings throughout the session but there is always a set of images that gets thrown out. I permanently delete the culled images for two reasons — 1) I don’t want them taking up space on my hard drive and 2) they aren’t images that I would ever deliver to my client(s).)

6. Lightroom provides a logical workflow for processing a lot of my images in an effective and efficient way. Lightroom’s key benefit is its focus on speed when working with multiple images (hundreds or even thousands of images). This program helps me save tons of time by instantly applying favorite looks to images. I can create a “preset” setting that illustrates my style and apply them to other photographs (within the same exposure setting) at any time with one click. Another neat feature is none-destructive editing. It helps make sure original files remain intact and allows you to tweak, set, or cancel any adjustments at any time. It’s also a great program for organizing my images into folders.

As you may have seen in my recent post about shooting in Manual mode, I rarely use flash (with the exception of wedding receptions). Here are some before (on the left) and after (on the right) shots from a recent newborn session to illustrate how my slight polishing in Lightroom gives my photos an extra POP of color.

Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 10.04.35 PM

Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 10.07.54 PM
7. While editing, I’ll grab a few of my favorites from the session and edit those first so I can quickly post a sneak peek on my Facebook and blog. This is a great teaser for my clients and it gets them even more excited to see the rest of their images. I love posting sneak peeks! I sometimes get carried away and post more than I should… after all, it is only a peek 🙂

8. Once all my images are polished and ready to go — I export them back to my “Finals” folder from step #3. This usually takes roughly 5-10 minutes depending on the number of images.

9. While my images are exporting from Lightroom, I start writing up my blog post from the session — this is where I go into detail about my client(s), how I met them, I tell their story, and talk about how the session went (where we shot the portraits, something funny that may have happened that day, etc.). My blog posts are a great way for my followers to get to know my clients and see their story through my lens.

10. Roughly around the same time I’m wrapping up my blog post, my images have finished exporting from step #8. The next step is to load the “final” images into PASS. This also takes roughly 5-10 minutes depending on the number of images so while I’m waiting on that… I move onto step #11.

11. I then take all of those “final” images that were exported from Lightroom and upload them into BlogStomp. This program is an incredible workflow tool which simplifies and expedites image preparation for web use. I especially love this program because it’s completely customizable — I can change colors of the borders around the image if I wanted to (but I just use a neutral white), include my logo, create collages, and more! I can even upload my images directly to my Blog and Facebook if I wanted to. It is a huge timesaver and very easy to use!

(Step 11A & 11B?) For my Facebook page, I’ll “Stomp” roughly 10-12 images and it will include my logo. These images are uploaded into an album on my Facebook page with a link to “view more on my blog”. I’ll then “Stomp” my blog images without my logo because here I’ll post a lot of images (I probably post too many in my blog post… it’s something I’m working on, LOL!). Once these are “stomped”, I’ll upload my blog images into my blog post but I hold off on posting the Facebook “stomped” images, for now.

Here are some example StompIt images…

12. By this time, my PASS images are uploaded from step #10. Sometimes I’ll create an “Allison’s Favorite’s” album — this is the album that my client’s see first when I send them their unique URL link. Then there will be sub-folders with the rest of their images. These are high-resolution images that can easily be viewed, shared (via social media), and printed. All of my clients will enjoy VIP access with their PASS gallery and will have peace of mind knowing that their images are stored in “the cloud” for 10 years! Click here to check out a gallery from a family session at Deep Run Park.

13. During this step, I’ll write up an email to my clients and include links to their PASS gallery, to their blog post, etc. I’ll also include a PASS Guide on how to navigate their gallery so their comfortable getting around the site. I always make sure that my clients see their images and their blog post first before I “launch” the images to my Facebook page linking to my blog site. Once I get an email back, a call, and/or a text that they’ve seen their images, I’ll upload the Facebook “stomped” images from step #11 and include links back to the blog with more images.

14. Lastly, I’ll mail a thank you note to my clients! (I could have included this step in #13 but I’m superstitious and didn’t want to end it on 13, LOL!).

SO! That’s the gist of my post-processing workflow. For weddings, I add in a few additional steps at the end (reach out to vendors, submit my work for the opportunity to get featured and/or published, design albums and process canvases, send my clients a wedding gift, etc.). The 14 steps above may sound like a lot of moving parts… it is!… but the more I do it, the faster I get! The fastest I’ve been able to turnaround a portrait session was less than 3 hours!

I know this post was a long one… but I hope this was helpful in giving you some insight to the post-work behind the scenes!

Happy Monday!

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