Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Speeding Up Your Photography Post-Processing Workflow (Importing, Backup and Image Management)

My stomach sank. The timer on my phone was way over two hours. How had I wasted this much time in Lightroom? My to-do list was overflowing and I was using up all my precious time just trying to decide which pictures to give my clients. 

About a year ago, I finally started absorbing the concept that time is money - especially when you are running a photography business and you have 10 photo shoots waiting in line to be edited or you have 100 emails to answer or you have 5 new marketing books to read. If you're just getting started and your inbox is empty, you probably feel like you have all the time in the world to play around with photos but if you want your business to grow, you have to start redirecting your energy away from technical tasks and towards the business side of things. If nothing else, getting your work done faster means you have more time to go rock-climbing and make-out with your husband. ;)

Speeding up your post-processing workflow is an essential step in running a profitable photography business. I

Card Management Oh crap! You're standing in a field staring down at the back of your camera. The little picture staring back up at you looks familiar. It was the family you photographed last night. Now here you are at another shoot, you've used up all your CF cards and this is the extra on you brought along "just in case". Problem don't feel 100% confident that this card has been uploaded & backed-up. If you don't format it, you have to tell tonight's clients that their photo shoot is ending early. If you do format it, you might have to tell last night's clients you accidentally deleted their photos. Crappidy crap crap.

Ever been there? I have. Too many times. So I was forced to find a glorious little solution that gives me peace of mind. I went to Pier 1 and spent $7 on 7 glass votive vases. I went to Benjamin Franklin Crafts and spent $4.99 on a sheet of chalkboard stickers and $3.99 on a bistro chalkboard pen. I went to Amazon and bought a CF memory card purse. A few Pinterest-worthy moments later and now I have a lovely little Card Management system! Here's how it works.

I write my client's name on the chalkboard label and drop the CF cards from their shoot into the vase.
Once I've backed-up, edited and released the images to that client, I remove the cards from the client's vase and move them into the 'To Be Formatted' vase. If I have my camera on hand, I might even format the card right then and there and then I'll drop the card into the 'Formated' vase.

Before I leave for a photo shoot, I grab the cards from the 'Formatted' vase and put them into my memory card wallet. Inside the wallet, there is an entirely different & wonderful system. When the card is formatted, the color side faces out. Once I've used the card, I turn it around so the white side (back side - where you can write your name) is facing out. This makes it easy for me to know at a quick glance mid-photo shoot which cards are available.

Data Management (File Organization)
Backup System
One of the most sickening feelings I've ever felt. It was like a hollow punch to my stomach as I heard the hard drive whirling around and beeping. It's dead and all my files are gone. It's our modern nightmare, this ability to loose all of our hardwork just by dropping a little metal box. Grrrrrrr..... I live in constant fear of this reality. It's taken me three years and 5 broken hard drives to develop a backup system that actually works for me. Because I love ya, I'm sharing it with you now to save you some pain & suffering. Enjoy!

Rule #1: Keep Track & Make It Easy.I am a Google Drive Spreadsheet junkie. So surprise backup system revolves around a beautiful little spreadsheet. First important step, this spreadsheet has to be easy to access or you'll forget about it and give up. I have mine linked on the Bookmarks Bar of my browser. I update the spreadsheet every day to keep track of where all my files are. If it's not on a spreadsheet I won't be confident and I'll be constantly plugging in hard drives to double-check that the files are all there. I panic before I delete anything. With the spreadsheet I can actually sleep at night ;) Also, it's important to make your hard drives easy to use or guess won't use them (enough). Keep them out on the desktop so all you have to do is grab the USB cord. If they are tucked away in a black-hole in the back of your closet, good luck finding the motivation to dig that out every week. No wonder your files aren't backed-up regularly.

Rule #2: Three Places at All Times.
Make sure your precious digital images are stored in 3 separate places at all times. After a photo shoot, the photos are only in 1 place - your CF cards. Danger zone! Rush home ASAP to get them uploaded. I know husband/wife photography teams that drive separately to weddings so they keep their two sets of CF cards separate (just in case one of them gets into a car crash). Once home, I upload my images to two hard drives (HD-A & HD-B) and I drop my cards into their *glass vase.* Now they are in 3 places. Once the images are edited and uploaded to my online storage gallery, I can delete them from the CF cards.

Rule #3: Multiple Locations Your photos should be in 3 places at all times BUT those 3 places need to be separate. It's no good having 3 hard drives side by side on your desk. What if your desk got bumped and they all fell off the edge? Bye-bye photos. While I'm working on photos, I store them on one stationary hard drive, one portable hard drive, and my CF cards. After I'm finished with a shoot, I store images on one stationary hard drive at my house, one stationary hard drive at my grandma's house, and in the cloud in an online gallery (this is the same gallery where my clients view their images). At the moment, I'm also experimenting with adding a 4th location - good ol' fashion CDs. I'm saving each shoot to a CD and then storing the CDs in a CD binder that lives in my office closet. Ain't nothin' wrong with extra backup!

Rule #4: Stay Regular News flash, backing up files is not fun. It's time consuming, boring and sometimes stressful. You're never going to 'feel like it' so it's way too easy to procrastinate and then BOOM! your harddrive breaks and you realize you haven't backed up anything in 2 months. Not cool. So, I backup everything every two weeks - on the 1st and 15th of each month. These are my power days where I do everything from payroll to bookkeeping to logging miles and backing up files. I'm committed to the fact that I have to spend two days each month keeping things organized. I've spend years living in business choas and now I know that these two days each month is totally worth the sacrifice. Having these set days for tough business chores (in this case, backing up files) is my secret ingredient to photography business success.
Rule #5: Use Labels Save yourself the mental energy and stick labels on all your hard drives. This makes it easy to know which hard drive you are using and which one you're talking about. For business, I always have three hard drives in active-duty. As mentioned in Rule #3, two of these are big stationary hard drives in two separate locations and one of these is a smaller portable hard drives that travels around with me. Since I work at home, I upload the photos directly to HD-A (portable) & HD-B (at my home). Once I'm finished with a shoot, I take HD-A (portable) on a road-trip to grandma's house to transfer the completed folder of images from HD-A (portable) to HD-C (at grandma's house). Once the images are on both HD-B (at my house) and HD-C (at granny's house) AND I've uploaded to them to the online gallery, then I delete them from HD-A (portable). I delete them from HD-A because HD-A is a portable hard drive that I use as a transportation device. The big hard drives are the apartment buildings where the images live. The portable hard drive is their public bus transport. When the apartment buildings (aka hard drives) become full, they are retired to live safely on a padded shelf in two separate closets and they are replaced by two new big hard drives. The portable HD-A just keeps chuggin' along until one day when it will inevitably die and beeping death.

HD - A 1TB Lacie (Portable Hard drive)
HD - B 3TB Western Digital My Book Studio for Mac (Stationary hard drive at my home office)
HD - C 3TB Western Digital My Book Studio for Mac (Stationary hard drive at my grandma's house)

Image Management
Struggling to remember if you already released those pictures to your client? Wondering if you already shared those pictures on Facebook? Wonder no more!! We use Trello to keep track of our post-production. If you haven't used Trello before, you must start now! It's amazeballs!! It's a lifechanger. I heard about it from Entrepreneur on Fire and I've converted all of my friends! Seriously cool stuff!

So once you have your Trello account set up, you need to create a board called "Image Management" or "Post Processing" or whatever floats your boat. Then you create a list for every stage in your post - processing system.

These are our lists:
Import & BackUp
Photo Editing
Video Editing
Time Log

When we get home from a shoot, we copy a template card from the template list. We rename this new slide to our client's name and we relocate it to the 'Import & Backup' list. Once the images are imported to our hard drives, backed-up, and imported to Lightroom, we move the client's card to the 'Photo Editing' list. So on and so forth. You could also use a spreadsheet to keep track of this data BUT a spreadsheet has it's limitations. It will only let you see the big steps in the process. It won't let you include the million little steps. Well, technically, you could include those in your spreadsheet but that would be 75 columns wide and way too overwhelming (trust me, I've tried it). So thank you Trello!!

When we click on a card, it opens up a checklist. We put all of the little baby steps in the checklist. For example, when the card in on the 'Photo Editing' list, we will be using the check list to go through the following steps: "Culling" / "Retouching" / "Editing" / "Exporting" etc... If the card was on the 'Release' list, we would be working our way through the checklist that has little tasks like: "Upload Gallery" / "Release Gallery to Client" / "Share Photos on Facebook" / "Make a Slideshow for Client" etc...

This system make it possible for us to log-in at any time and see exactly what has been done for every client. We know what stage of the post-processing system they are at and what little steps need to be completed before they can move on to the next stage. It's fantastic. This system also makes it easy for you to share tasks with multiple people. Fab! Try it out and let me know if you like it! :)