Efficient Wedding Photography Editing Workflow

My efficient wedding photography editing workflow starts the moment I begin shooting the commission, one of the key elements to being in control of your editing and processing is actually keeping your hit rate high and not over shooting. Not only will you double the amount of time you need to spend in front of the computer by over shooting but the quality of your work will be much lower. Photographers that overshoot and expect to capture significant, decisive moments and with accuracy are kidding themselves.

Photography just doesn't work like that - you might capture the odd great image but this would be simply down to luck and luck has no consistency. We can all over shoot, the key is to keep a constant check on it and ensure your success rate remains high.

I never document people eating their wedding breakfast, not only do guests need to feel completely relaxed knowing they're not going to be photographed mid-chew, I also need to sit down and take a rest.

Once seated, I begin my editing workflow.

I find this chunk of time ideal for editing as the previous 4 to 6 hours are fresh and vivid in my memory, the process is quick and decisive. It makes absolute sense to utilise this otherwise wasted time rather than increase your workload several weeks down the line.

Importantly, it tackles a 'deal with later' attitude that we're all guilty of at times, by nibbling away at each commission, at the right time, you'll speed up your workflow and be ahead of deadlines. Infrastructure such as this keeps things efficient but you must fully commit.

Phase 1

* Equipment and Software used: MacBook Pro, Sandisk Extreme 4 4GB, Photo Mechanic software and Lexar Professional UDMA Card Reader

I make image selections directly from the cards before importing to the computer. By doing this, I remove a substantial section of the post-wedding editing process. It's essentially a back up and edit combined. Here's how I do it:

Create a folder for your shoot on your desktop, I keep things incredibly simple and use the Groom's surname followed by the Bride's surname and then the date of their wedding. For instance the current shoot I'm editing is called 'Yony-Greene_07.01.12'. Some people choose to do date first, entirely up to you.

Within that folder create another folder named 'RAW' and within that folder create folders for every card you've filled. I've shot six cards during this commission so I have folders 'RAW 1' through to 'RAW 6', see below.

When I've completed each card import I stack the cards in reverse order, that way if there's an error further down the process I can detect which card the error or corruption has come from. Some people number their cards but this can be a little restrictive.

Others just use very large cards which I consider to be a bigger risk than shooting on several smaller cards containing fewer images.

Efficient-Wedding-Photography-Editing-Workflow-001
Efficient-Wedding-Photography-Editing-Workflow-001

Insert the first card into your reader, a folder should appear on your desktop and list of devices, open this folder and then drag the internal folder containing your RAW files over the Photo Mechanic icon, or open directly from Photo Mechanic.

From within the software select 'capture time' from the dropdown menu above the selection of images and then double click on the first image.

Efficient-Wedding-Photography-Editing-Workflow-002
Efficient-Wedding-Photography-Editing-Workflow-002

You will then be presented with a larger preview of your image - this is where you do your selects. I use colour coding to do mine, the number 1 key adds a purple colour class to the file. Use the left and right arrow to navigate through your card.

Once you've done your first pass through this folder close the larger preview window. You now need to select the RAW files you've picked. In the bottom right of the dialogue window tick the symbol for 'none', you will now be presented with only the files that you've picked. See below:

Efficient-Wedding-Photography-Editing-Workflow-003
Efficient-Wedding-Photography-Editing-Workflow-003

I do three passes on each card in order to get to my final RAW selection. To do the second and third pass I simply use the '0' key to remove the purple colour class and repeat the steps above.

When you're happy with your final selection, highlight all of your colour classed files and drag them over the correct RAW folder, see below:

Efficient-Wedding-Photography-Editing-Workflow-004
Efficient-Wedding-Photography-Editing-Workflow-004

Repeat this process on each card.

Phase 2

* Equipment and Software used: Freecom Toughdrive 500 GB

Back up the shoot folder onto a toughdrive, or whatever mobile storage device you use. There are now two copies of the files - one on the desktop and one on the toughdrive. I then format my cards and prepare my cameras for the evening, the laptop goes back in the car and I carry the toughdrive in my kit bag for the rest of the commission.

I usually shoot a couple more 4 GB cards in the evening, so it doesn't take ten minutes to repeat the process on these final cards before leaving the venue.

When I get back to base I immediately back up the shoot folder to the main Drobo and a transfer drive - this robust transfer drive is then dispatched to our offsite location where the files are copied onto a back up system there.

We now have four copies of the files.

Phase 3

* Equipment and Software used: MacBook Pro, Lightroom and Photoshop CS5

Import your shoot folder into Lightoom and start processing your images. By utilising the spare time on the shoot you've removed any unnecessary time spent in front of the screen. If you don't have the opportunity of editing onsite then do it as soon as you're back at base - it's substantially quicker than dumping all of your images into one folder and dealing with them several weeks later, by doing it on the day of the commission you're much more 'in tune' too.

When it comes to processing I perform 90% of my work in Lightroom with a range of basic presets and starting points, I consider this to be a completely separate topic altogether and something that I'm not going to go into detail with here.

Lightroom encourages consistency in your processing, if you're still using Photoshop to individually edit images and would like to be more efficient then I suggest you download a trial of Lightroom and get stuck in.

The only elements of workflow we use Photoshop for are black and white conversions but even then, all preparation work for these conversions is performed in Lightroom, the Photoshop element is totally automated.

I hope you find this useful and if you'd like a more in depth look into ways to improve your business then get in touch to arrange your one to one session.