Photography Workflow for Wedding Photographers

This week we welcome back guest blogger Matteo Cuzzola from Milan. Matteo travels all over Europe to photograph weddings, and developed an efficient photography workflow system. He shares his system with PhotoMint readers, and I think you’ll enjoy the simplicity and ease of workflow. Here’s a bit more about Matteo:

If you like stories in pictures, travelling and food, we’re going to be good friends. I am an enthusiastic photographer since childhood and I have the privilege of documenting the most important moments in people’s lives. To see Matteo’s work, visit his website: Matteo Cuzzola.

Photography Workflow for Wedding Photographers

Implementing a consistent photography workflow for a professional photographer is an important part of organizing the job.

Only in a structured way can all phases of work be efficient and safe. The working essential parameters for a wedding photographer, but not limited to weddings, are the following:

– Efficiency (time and resources savings)
– Quality
– Effectiveness (goals)
– Backups
– Minimum downtime

Once we understand how to implement a backup and a consistent and efficient workflow, we can ensure a high quality product for our clients.

The workflow that respects the prerogatives of a professional photographer must cover all phases of work: 

– Import
– Image catalog, selection and rating
– Development of images
– Export
– Upload and presentation on the Web
– print
– Backup! Backup! Backup!

The solution I choose for my workflow is Abobe Photoshop Lightroom 4.1, a software that allows me to follow all the steps of the workflow. Using a single software for my work is the key that gives me consistency and rationality to the process. If I have to spend less time on the boring and routine steps, I can dedicate more time to the creative part of my job. 

Now let's take a look in detail to the workflow that I use to handle a photo session. The resources at my disposal are:

MacBook PRO 17″ – My Lightroom machine

External hard drives: RAID (2 physical hdd 2TB mirrored) contains all the original raw files and Lightroom catalogs

External HDD contains the MacBook backup (TIME MACHINE)

How to approach a Wedding Photography Workflow

– During the post-processing of a session I want a copy of RAW files on the MacBook PRO and a copy in the RAID. This choice gives me ‘flexibility'. I am able to process images anywhere anytime, without being tied to the RAID.
– Do not use a single catalog for all images, for performance reasons (big catalog = slower catalog) and for safety reasons (having all the information and changes in one file gives me goose bumps just thinking about it). So I decided to have one catalog for each photo session.

At work: WIP is a folder (where I put all the “Work In Progress” only for the processing time) located in my MacBook PRO. I create an empty catalog and I name it in this way: I import to the catalog all the files from the memory card by copying the original files into a subfolder of WIP that I will call Wedd-NAME_OF_CUSTOMER_DATE and simultaneously (Lightroom has this great feature) creating a copy of the RAW in the RAID. While importing I enable the feature to convert my Nikon RAW file to DNG (Adobe Digital Negative) for three reasons:

  1. It will probably be the standard in the future.
  2. Can save the file inside all the LR post-processing actions, so you don’t need the catalog to open the file
  3. You save space 🙂

Now my original files are located in 3 different physical HDD:
– 1 MacBook HDD
– 2 HDD RAID Just because I am a little bit paranoid I launch an incremental backup with Time Machine software (included with OS X) to have copies of the WIP (RAW and Catalog) immediately accessible with a restore (just in case :-! ) The special feature of Time Machine is that it stores multiple versions of files, so in the unlikely event that we find the catalog file corrupted, I'm sure to minimize job loss, since I can access all the different versions of the catalog (I can lose no more than the ‘last hour' of work). Not bad, right?

Summing up the situation of copies of the files is as follows:
– My Mac: \WIP\Wedd_FOLDER: RAW + LR Catalog
– RAID: \Weddings\2012\Wedd_FOLDER: RAW + LR Catalog
– TimeMachine: backup files versioning of the Mac HDD During photos selection/post-prod/rating the TIME MACHINE is always on, so it makes a backup of the catalog every hour.

Now, once all the pictures are developed, it's time to Export the files ready for printing. This step is not particularly critical. I export files in JPEG format. The next step is preparing the web gallery for my clients. I use the LR Slideshow Pro plugin, which allows me to publish a high quality slideshow directly to my site with background music and customizable effects. Take a look at site it is a great plugin and web service.

However, the job is not yet finished.

The WIP folder on the MacBook is only temporary and after those steps it will be deleted, so we move the catalog (including all changes to files) in the corresponding folder on the RAID (RAID\Weddings\2012\Wedd_FOLDER). Lightroom at this point needs to RELOCATE the path of the files (because they are in the RAID now!). In the past, I used to create a DVD backup also, but is too time consuming, so I decided to buy another HDD (same size of the Raid Mirrored) and I sync to it every night. Remember! I store this HDD in a different place (secret 🙂

Last but not least: Every wedding photographer has a respectable ALL THE BEST to show to his prospects, but what if the images of each photo session are located in dozens of catalogs? I created a catalog where I import, at the end of each job, all the images without copying the file but just pointing to them (to RAID). This way I can create my Collections, filters, Starring as I prefer. I keep this catalog in the MacBook so it is always with me (just the preview of the files). For customer presentation, I export my best to my iPad- a great device for presentations, especially if you go to your clients houses as I often do. The images are stunning; the contrast of the screen is great. And you can show your work as slideshow with music with just a few “taps.”

Photo Delivery: Simple! I deliver my work using DVD. Yes, I use this media because it permits me to create a cool packaging for my clients. A personalized cover wrapped with a nice ribbon. Want more from Matteo? Check out his article on Managing Wedding Clients with Gmail and Google Docs.

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