Striking the Perfect Work-Life Balance in Photography
By Rebecca Bradley
Recently, we spoke to Josh Rose, photographer at Josh Rose Photography, Erin Hernandez-Reisner, photographer at Photos Edge and Miles Witt Boyer, Photographer at Miles Witt Boyer about how to nail your post-production workflow in 2022.
Below are some of the key questions we covered during the session.
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Josh: It’s not easy. There's a lot of complexities and managing the complexities often takes you out of your creative process.
The way I look at it, is that the shoot itself is a very creative endeavor. There's a lot of stuff going on that puts you in your right brain, you feel inspired, excited and energized. I want the creativity of that specific shoot to also be in the processing of those exact photos. If you don't have a very efficient workflow, then the air just deflates out of that balloon. For me, it's always working out how to keep the energy from the shoot in the editing process. That to me is the biggest struggle I have with my workflow.
Erin: I love efficiency because the more efficient I can become and the faster and easier things are, the more I can stay on that creative side. When I'm thinking about the headaches that I've had in the past, it was things like culling. You know, you'd look at five images that virtually look the same and you're choosing between them. It gets to be hard because if you're having to look at every single photograph. Your brain can only handle so many questions within a day as far as brain power is concerned. And every single image that you're looking at when you're culling, you're asking yourself a question. For me, the moment we teamed up with Narrative I thought “Yes, finally, something to cut through the nonsense and get me really looking at the things that I want to be looking through!”
Miles: I'll echo exactly that. Photographers always wanna play the game but they never wanna come off the bench, right? It's the pre-production, how well you set up your client experience, how well you establish your brand and the value of your brand, how much people know what to expect and how you deliver on the product that you created. So with workflow, I think the biggest pain points for all photographers are the follow through. When we're inspired it's so self-serving, and even though most of us are doing that for our clients the reality is that this is a really selfish industry in and of itself. There's a lot of vanity in saying our vision should be valuable to other people. So the value then comes in how we follow through on that and how our work is processed. The time that it's processed, how consistent it is and then how we deliver that work. Our clients become our biggest marketing tactic as opposed to consistently having to reinvent ourselves over and over again.
The biggest pain point for me for years was just the sheer number of images that we were processing. From April 1st until today, I checked it this morning, as a company we've shot just over seven terabytes of work. How do you process that? How do you process 90,000 images in six weeks? What does that look like? Creating a process through which you're not asking your clients to be patient for you is not easy.
Miles: I have a business coach that told me years ago to just write down everything in your workflow and your day-to-day life that you hate doing. Then number those things, from things that must be done even though you hate them, to things that you just do, because you feel obligated to do them. His point was those are the things that you need to delegate as quickly as possible because if you hate them, you are not only spending extra unnecessary energy on them, but you are also taking time away from the things that actually make you a stronger or a better professional.
I started integrating people into my team that aren't just carbon copies of me. I was hiring people that could do the jobs that I wasn't naturally good at. I started delegating things. That's hard by the way, because we want to think that we are the only people in the room that can solve the problems. But the reality is most of us are really crappy at taxes, bookwork and marketing. So having people that can help you manage the things that you're not good at so that you can spend more time doing the things that you are good at, is just teaming everybody up for success.
Josh: I think I may be on the opposite side of Miles on this, interestingly, not that I disagree with it. He’s probably got the smarter system.
I worked at an ad agency for almost 20 years. And that is a world where delegation is essentially the business. I switched over to photography to feel more hands on. I just have to plead guilty as I don't think anyone's gonna edit my photos as well as I edit them. I also don't think anyone's gonna have as good a relationship with my clients as I do. And honestly, I worry about other people doing my books. I wouldn't want anyone else touching my website and I wouldn't want anyone else on my Instagram feed, you know? So I do everything, other than a CPA and a lawyer, I do everything myself. I can run a full campaign for myself, including marketing and making websites. I don't hate doing that. If I had to write that list, nothing would be on it. I don't dislike doing it. So I guess there is that side too.
Miles: Let's start off by saying I'm a luxury wedding photographer. So what's the one thing that I get sued over? Losing photos. The back-up process is essential to our workflow, and it has to be something that I can really quickly navigate. We've done approximately 700 weddings in the last 15 years, so our back-up process is pretty refined. We build money into every single contract to purchase a new SSD for every single wedding that I shoot. That probably sounds like overkill to a lot of people, but that's what allows me to never need to clear my editing drives because I can fit a thousand of those in a bank safety deposit box. We back up as soon as I get in. We do a back-up first to that SSD drive, and then that SSD drive backs up into a raid drive that creates multiple copies, as well as to a large,eight terabyte old school USB drive. And that drive is BackBlazed. By the next morning I have four to five complete copies of the RAW files. We then push them into Narrative Select, and start the culling and editing process. After export, those get BlackBlazed and uploaded to PicTime.
Josh: From a hard drive back-up perspective, I have three G raids and a 1 terabyte SSD. My philosophy on drive space is that I never have any files locally. At least I don't have them on my computer, everything is on an external drive, including all creative files, LUTs, plugins, overlays, sound effects, royalty free music, graphics, all my portfolio items. Nothing is on my computer itself.I believe that my computer should only be used for the processing of applications. My Samsung SS has all my creative tools. That's my toolbox that has the overlays and graphics and templates and all that kind of stuff. I also keep my Lightroom backup on that. I'll plug in a hard drive, get my best-ofs off, usually rendered files. I'm not obsessed with keeping my RAWs but I have a ‘best of’ group that I'll keep in a safety deposit box in a bank. I also have Dropbox, which I use separately. I have all my deliveries to every client I've ever done. Because I do photojournalism, editorial and a lot of fine art, people are constantly asking for the files again. It happens almost every day. So having it in the cloud on Dropbox, ready to send at any given time, is really helpful in terms of keeping it super easy.
Erin: When I'm doing portraits and editorial, I look at each section of the day almost as if it's a separate photo shoot. When I categorize people I will put the client's name and the date. I will section out the things that we're photographing because each card will then be that section, and then that way I have it saved, we can back it up. I usually have somebody already culling as we're moving on to the next thing so that I can make sure that I got my vision. And then sometimes I'll have that person start editing after they've culled, I'll look at the cull, I'll make sure it's what I want. And if they miss something, I'll go in and grab it. Then while we're waiting for the client to do something, I'll sit down and actually edit that very first image and then use batch.ai and have the other technician sit there and go through it and start culling and then color correcting what we've culled. I'm virtually almost done with that entire section of that shoot before we shoot the next one.
Miles: Select solved my biggest pain point, which was the number of images I'm shooting. I open Select and the goal is to get the files culled as quickly as possible so that I can do an initial edit and get a slideshow ready for my clients. All of the other files will then go to the editor. We do the funnel system where we get rid of everything with wonky eyes and all of the out of focus images. I personally go back through the out of focus one because a lot of them I shoot soft on purpose. Once it goes into Lightroom and I have done the initial edit, it goes to my editor.
I'm getting this done fast because I have a lot of people waiting for me to be creative again. And this is the one thing standing in between me and being creative.
I edit one, color, and correct. And then everything that I want to have the same color profile, I synchronize it up. It does its thing. It's awesome. And then I can kind of look over it and make sure if I need to tweak something, but it's kind of auto done. And then at that point, if I need to do additional editing in Photoshop, then I can, and I do.
Miles: I think everybody's sort of getting the point. Let's break down the answer to every question so far, and just say, as long as you're intentional, you'll be successful. Right? But if you're reactive, so if one client gets treated one way, because you enjoyed the shoot and another client gets treated another way because you didn't, then there is no longevity in your career. Now you may be a really talented artist, but your success is going to be completely and totally reliant on whether or not you can rinse and repeat the process. I say that to our delivery process as with everything else, it's just very intentional.
We send sneak peaks on the actual day of the wedding. Our cameras all have Bluetooth so after the first look before the ceremony, typically I will step around the corner for about 15 minutes. I'll have my assistant or a second shooter cover for me and I'll pull two or three images over and I will get them in my inbox, in a text thread that's ready to send to the bride on their way back up the aisle. The reason for that is because I want to celebrate with my couple. When they come back up the aisle and they are kissing and they're happy I get to say, “Hey guys, all the people that weren't able to come to this wedding, don't go check your phone right now, but when you get a second, you already have a few photos in your inbox waiting for you so that you can share that with them.” This way, there isn't a temptation to post a selfie, you know, from the dance floor, right? You paid thousands of dollars to have a high end photographer and photos are already waiting for you. But that allows me to open the door to say, the rest of this process takes a lot of time. And the reason it takes a lot of time is because we're going to do this manually. very piece of art that we deliver to you is delivered intentionally.
Within a few days of the wedding they'll receive a slideshow and that slideshow usually has about 40 to 50 photos. And it's a compiled set of a few of my favorite images, just so that I can say, “Hey, if you click over into your PicTime gallery that we have officially activated, you can now see your slideshow and isn't that exciting!” Also, the only way that everybody else can see this slideshow is by sharing the Pic-Time gallery, which allows me to get more people onto my mailing list.