Raise your hand if you know that taking on any big project can be overwhelming. Raise your other hand if you also know that if you don’t have some plan in place for that project, you are not going to get it done, or at least not in an efficient, successful way… I had to stop typing because I needed to raise both my hands, too. Haha!
If you’re a photographer, you know that taking on a session or a wedding is quite the big project.
You do not just work the day of, but rather spend time preparing before you take pictures and of course after, when you process, edit, and deliver those images to your clients. By nature, I am not a very organized person. Now, I love organization, and I thrive on it, but I have a difficult time disciplining myself to be organized. My poor spice cabinet— I have the best intentions with that thing, and every few months I just pull every bottle and jar and container out of it and start over because it’s literally one of those terrifying little spaces that you see on those tupperware commercials where the lady opens the cabinet and the contents are ejected into her face with all the force of a hurricane. Anyway. Yeah, I’ll be real and I say I struggle to maintain organization. But when it comes to my work as a photographer, it’s really necessary to being successful, sane, and providing good product and customer service to my clients.
I am so very far from perfect when it comes to post-production on images, but I’ve learned from a lot of trial and error as well as the advice and wisdom from very dear and experienced friends.
8 WAYS to Improve Your Photo Editing
- Decide the amount of work you can take on. In doing this, you also have to allot time for the preparation and the post-production for a session. I used to overbook myself (and I admit, sometimes I still do), and I really struggled to fulfill all of my responsibilities with my business, my career as a teacher, and my duties as a mother and wife. There were a lot of sleepless nights, breakdowns, and fights because I was overwhelmed and took on more work than I could handle. I suffered. My family suffered. And my clients suffered. When I put limits on the amount of work I do, it makes the tasks I have to complete after a session more manageable.
- Have an idea of what you want/need to capture before you go to your session or wedding. Preparation is key, and I find this is pretty cyclical, too. Sometimes when I edit I think “Man, I wish I would have gotten a moment like this!” or “I forgot to take a picture of the whole venue… that would have been a great first photo for my blog. Better do that next time.” I also consult with brides about what their priority images are or ask them to share inspiration boards of images that speak to their hearts. While I don’t ask my clients to develop a shot list for me, it helps me to see their vision so I can align mine with theirs. My husband second shoots for me, and we have conversations about what he should be capturing, where he should be during the ceremony, the sort of photos I’d like of the guys getting ready, etc. I also love looking at other photographers’ work for inspiration and planning in advance what I want to cover. It gives me a game plan and helps me stay focused when it started getting chaotic and busy during the big day, or even during a standard portrait session. My clients can all attest to the fact that I save poses I like on my phone and use that to help me and them while we work together. If I don’t prepare my brain beforehand, I would be totally lost!
- Don’t overshoot. You guys, I used to come home from wedding days with TRIPLE the amount of pictures I should have taken. TRIPLE. And you know you already reduce the amount of images you cull, edit, and deliver. I was floundering in a mess of pictures nobody needed or wanted. I worked to become more deliberate in my shooting. And I quit worrying about if onlookers thought I was being lazy on a wedding day for not snapping my shutter every three seconds. I learned that there are only so many dance floor pictures you can take, that you don’t need 20 pictures of the bride’s shoes, and so forth. Not only does that protect the life of my camera, but it prevents some unnecessary work when I get home. For portrait sessions, I still try to be just as deliberate. I think of what I want to shoot and go with the flow of the couple. That has helped SO MUCH when I go to cull images.
- Organize and cull your images. The first thing I do after I back up images and edit a couple previews is go through and organize the pictures to make sure everything is chronological or in the right section, and then eliminate the pictures I obviously don’t want— messed up settings, duplicates, unflattering faces, etc. As I edit, I get rid of some more pictures to make sure what I deliver my client is a thoughtfully curated collection of pictures that reflect our time together. I HATE organizing and culling because it takes me awhile and I really have to look at every single picture, but it does make the actual editing go more quickly and easily!
- Schedule a time and place for you to edit. I really need to follow my own advice better on this! I struggle to be deliberate about the time I devote to editing and often find myself up reallllllyyy late, trying to edit but not doing a very good job because I’m exhausted and can’t focus. I like to be on my own and have quiet to work, so for me, sometimes that means I need to get up early, ask my husband or someone else to watch my 16-month old son, or go some place else to work. This is hard for me, and definitely something I want to improve.
- Shoot in a way that makes editing easy for you. I used to not always set my camera properly or compose an image nicely and I’d tell myself I’d fix that later. NOOOOOOOO. It’s so much more work, and it’s never as good as if you just did it right the first time. Be honest with your clients; tell them you want to try that pose again because you want to make sure it’s perfect. I don’t like my clients to worry that they’re doing something wrong or start feeling self-conscious, so I always assure them, “You guys are great! I need to fix where I am and what I’m doing.” Sometimes this is stressful— I get it (especially when you’re at a wedding doing family photos and that one aunt is super annoyed thinking you’re taking forever and asks if you can just “photoshop” some thing or another…), but just be firm and honest. At the end of the day, that is what your clients are going to appreciate most. They will be so sad if they don’t have quality pictures of the moments they want to remember, and you’ll be really sad, too!
- Be consistent in how you set up photos. For me, this was SO HARD. I had to be mindful when I was shooting to photograph things in a cohesive way— doing detail shots in a similar place, setting up the group photos in the same location, etc. The best thing for me was thinking about what a blog or album of these pictures would look like if I had them all laid out. I had to be vocal with my second shooter and say I wanted my portraits in the same locations so they looked cohesive when the clients printed them or put them in an album. It also made editing more simple because the settings and adjustments I made were the same for each section. Total time saver, and I felt like overall this helped me deliver a more consistent product to my client.
- Be consistent in how you edit. Decide what editing style you like best, what editing tools you like best, and work with those consistently. When you order an item off a menu at a restaurant, you’re expecting that item as it’s described. You don’t think the chef is going to have some artistic revelation and put anchovies in your chicken fettuccini alfredo. Your clients are the same. If they see a certain style on your website, they (hopefully) expect the same style applied to their images as well. I work in Lightroom with some presets I really love, and that has been a timesaver and product-improver for me!
Most importantly, remind yourself that you are a human being. Sometimes you need help, a rest, or a second set of eyes. Walk away from your computer for a little bit and read a book or take a walk to refresh. Remember the importance of planning and consistency, but also give yourself opportunity to breathe. Happy weekend, friends.
Did this blog help you out a little? What else would you like me to talk about in my blogs? Let me know in the comments!