The Workflow

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If you’re a photographer… or really any type of small business owner, you probably have one.  Workflows are an essential part of running a business and producing quality work in a timely manner. (That just sounded like I pulled it from the dictionary… I’m just feeling really smart this morning!)  As photographers, I believe our workflows have to be top notch.  If it’s taking you 5 full days of editing to get a wedding done, you’re going to drown in work if you aren’t already.  We have to create efficient, well organized systems, just like any other business. When I was in college and shooting weddings on the weekends, I really couldn’t have

a set workflow schedule.  My editing time was from 12am to 5am. Yea. I was so unhealthy in college! But that was the only time I had to run my business! I made it happen but there was no structure to it and so it took forever!!! Recently, since I’m not graduating college and I’m not planning a wedding, I have had the time to revamp my workflow and give it a little makeover. I have tweaked a few areas and I’m loving it! I will explain my workflow and the programs I use and then I’ll give you a few tips that have helped me! Ok? Ok!


So before I start listing out all of these steps, you should know that if I’m shooting weddings every weekend, my wedding clients will have all of their wedding images waiting for them on their online gallery by the time they return home from their honeymoon. GASP. I can hear you now.  There are several reasons for this. 1. We’re shooting digital and this makes it totally possible to have a rapid turnaround time.  2.  I want the end of my client’s experience to be just as awesome as the beginning.  I want to WOW them with how fast I get their images back to them! and 3. If you are shooting weddings every weekend, it becomes incredibly easy to fall behind. If I shoot a wedding on Saturday and then I don’t have it edited by the time the next Saturday rolls around, I then have TWO weddings to edit in one week. That SCARES me to death. I have heard of digital photographers who take over 2 months to get their clients their images! I understand some photographers work full time AND have families to keep up with, that it understandable. However, if you’re full time and shooting digital, it should never take over a month.  Your workflow and post processing time should be JUST as much of a priority as the wedding day itself! When I shoot a wedding, I have to have a certain mindset. After I get home and unload my cards, I don’t think to myself “Well, that one is done, whew! Now I can relax for a few days.” Heck no! It’s almost like a race with myself to see how quickly I can conqueror this wedding!  I have to be this way because if I wasn’t, I would already be drowning in piles of editing and CD burning and gallery uploading! So here are some ways I make this happen:





1. I schedule a WEDDING EDITING DAY and a WEDDING BLOGGING DAY on my calendar the week following the wedding.  This isn’t done figuratively… I literally write those days on my calendar in BIG BOLD letters. This has probably been the BEST change in my workflow and it’s a simple organization tool.  It allows me to have TIME to edit. Before, I was just editing whenever I found time to and other appointments were taking over my calendar! Now, if Tuesday is my WEDDING EDITING DAY… nothing else goes on the calendar. Thursdays are ALWAYS my WEDDNG BLOGGING days  because I always blog weddings the Thursday after!  I like having a system and a routine. It allows me to stay in control and I like that feeling. So I know what you’re saying…. what happens if I’m so busy the week following the wedding that I don’t have two days to commit to blogging and editing. Well, the good news is that it never takes the full day! However, I feel your pain. Sometimes things get in the way for me too but I can plan ahead for that.  Two weeks ago I went to visit my sister on a Wednesday-Friday. This meant that I had to get my wedding editing AND wedding blogging DONE before I left!! Crazy! So I knew that Monday and Tuesday were going to be extreme work days!  It’s a tough schedule to get used to, but it’s giving me my life  back! I shot 3 weddings in a row this month and I’m happy to say that besides making an album, I’m totally done with them!


2. Be consistent! Have a consistent schedule that works for you and stick with it! I blog on Thursdays and I love knowing that is my blogging deadline! It keeps me organized! The great thing about this schedule is that it allows me to be DONE with my editing on Thursday and so my Fridays aren’t full of work!


3.  Never stop innovating your workflow! It’s easy to get comfortable and think “Oh this is fine, it works for me, why change it?!”.  Well, I’m so thankful I bit the bullet and made changes this year because I have increased the speed of my workflow immensely! Don’t get stuck in a rut. If you think there might be a program out there that would help speed up your post processing, give it a try!


So here are the programs and tools that make my workflow run smoother:


Adobe Lightroom 3

My Drobo

Smugmug Pro




1. Ingest cards via a firewire card reader (much much faster than USB, especially when you’re uploading over 80gb of data!)  These RAW files go into a folder on my DROBO.


2. After downloading images, I cull them (pick the best of the best!).  I do this through PHOTO MECHANIC…. my new best friend. When you’re trying to sort through images in LR, you have to wait for each image to resolve and you don’t realize how much time that is sucking up! Photo Mechanic allows me to cull a wedding in under an hour…..and I normally have 4,000-5,000 images to sort through. (I’m an over shooter, I know, I’m working on it!)


3. I then pull the images I’m keeping into a new folder and import that to Lightroom.  If you’re editing through a wedding in Lightroom with ALL of your images in one folder, your computer is sorting through thousands of images unnecessarily and that is wasting power and time! So move your “5 starred” images (the keeper images:) to a separate folder and THEN import to Lightroom.  Your computer will love you for that. Also, I edit straight from my DROBO via an ethernet connection so that also saves me a boatload of computer power!


4. EDIT AWAY! I edit everything in Lightroom and then sort into categories/sub folders (Preceremony, Ceremony, Portraits, Reception).  If you’re wondering if you should invest in LR3…. the answer to that is YES.


5. Upload to Smugmug through Lightroom. (This is a direct upload to the client’s online gallery and it’s so simple!)


6. Export edited images to a new folder on Drobo.  My Drobo is amazing and it puts my mind to ease! It stores my images and is incredibly safe and reliable.  They are a bit pricy but it’s worth it!!


7. Burn my client’s DVD, write them a little thank you note because I love them and get it in the mail ASAP.


8. BAM! Done!


Now I will admit that there is a totally separate blogging workflow but I don’t have time to explain it all today! I hope this was helpful.  There are some other techniques for how I store  and save images that I will talk about one day as well! Promise!! Have a wonderful day! I’m off to take some friends to visit CNU!! woohoo!


xoxo, Katelyn
29 Comments Ask Anything, Education, Photography, Resources
  1. Adriana Morett reply

    Wow!! This post is so great, thanks a LOT Katelyn!! I just have one question but it’s not directly related, I see you use Canon gear, I have some friends that own 5D MKII’s and they say it has FOCUSING ISSUES!! :S OMG and I’m saving for mine but they are thinking about going nikon, have you encountered focusing issues in your Canon gear? what do you recommend for a begginer who already learned how to use Canon?? Thanks again, I love your blog more and more each post ;)

  2. Arielle reply

    Thank you so much for the amazing advice, Katelyn! Small question: Do you edit any photos in Pshop? Maybe just the faves of the faves for blog posts? I find that I am super fast in LR3, but once I get in to pshop for the faves it really slows me down (even with a few favorite actions…) Any advice would be hugely appreciated :) Thanks!!!

  3. Abbey reply

    This is awesome! I love reading about other photographer’s workflows. Seems like you’ve got this down to a science. Thanks for sharing!!

  4. Sarah Danaher reply

    this was incredibly helpful, K! love you!!

  5. Jade Norwood reply

    I have only just started following your work… And I must say I LOVE IT… I am still going back through your blog to catch up… I love this entry, thank you for sharing… I also just have a little question, do you offer any edited image with skin smoothing etc? Do you offer any fine art images that need to be processed in PS? And if so, how does this add to your workflow.. Thank you.. Cant wait for your next post

  6. Sarajane Case reply

    I LOVED this peek into your workflow. I am currently in the process of testing out both aperture and lightroom to see which I would like to purchase. One of the things I didn’t like was trying to cull in either progrom. I was used to doing it all in PS Raw. But, I will look into photo mechanic. Thanks for this : )

  7. Erin Cefalu reply

    Sooooooooo helpful! Thank you a bunchhhhh!

  8. eryn kesler reply

    LOVED this post! Have you purchased any presets for LR? I’m still learning LR, and still open up some photos in Photoshop for skin retouching and stuff like that. Do you do that in LR also?

  9. Hailey reply

    thank you so much for this! so helpful!

  10. ami reply

    Thanks SO much for sharing Katelyn! I love organized work flow and it’s so great to have an example of one that clearly works! I was also wondering what Drobo model you’re currently using? I think maybe I’ve commented once, but my name is Ami, I’m a photographer in Southern California :) Just wanted to properly introduce myself!

  11. Lauren Wakefield reply

    Very well said. I love your ask anything posts! I think I will now be rethinking my workflow. :)

  12. Amanda Hedgepeth reply

    Ohhhh I had an AMAZING workflow until I got pregnant, and then morning sickness totally ruined mine! Thank GOODNESS I am slowly getting out of it, second trimester I’ll be back to editing like a championnnnnnnnnnnn! Love this post!

  13. Hope Helms reply

    So helpful! Glad to know one of my favorite photographers uses Photo Mechanic as well. LOVE IT.

    Now I’m curious to hear about your blogging workflow! You seem to do stuff with the blog so well, and that is something I definitely struggle with.

  14. Johnna King reply

    Geesh–I love following your blog and you are so helpful! Thank you thank you! And you always have gorgeous photos. Take Care!

  15. Sarah reply

    Great Post Katelyn! It’s always great to hear about another’s workflow and get some tips & tricks to make our own better! I’ve had my eye on the Drobo…which card reader do you use?

  16. Kellie reply

    So helpful!

  17. Sarah Heinle reply

    Thank you for sharing this post Katelyn. Very helpful. I would love to know how you decided on SmugMugPro.

  18. Girish reply

    That’s great mention. Thanks for sharing the workflow information and the links.

  19. michelle brooks reply

    Good stuff! I also was turned on to Photo Mechanic a few months ago, & it is sooo much faster than culling in LR3! Very generous of you to share this info. I looked at the My Drobo, and yeah, pricey! Could you share exactly HOW it helps in your workflow? I know you mentioned safe & reliable, but is there more? Thanks, again!

  20. Chelsea Patricia reply

    Ummmm, you are a lifesaver. Thank you so much for sharing. Photomechanic is now MY new best friend as well. Just culled an engagement, two rehearsals, a family shoot, and a wedding in under two hours–KABLAM! Love you, girl!

  21. Lydia reply

    It’s fun to see how other people do it! Last summer I wrote down my workflow, every single step I have to do to get the pictures back to them! And wow was it long! But I outsource my proof editing, so it takes the sting out of the behind the scenes work and keeps thing flowing smoothly!

  22. Jessica Morrisy reply

    Extremely useful tips! I am just curious, I have a drobo, but have mainly used it as a raid backup- so you actually use that in lieu of an external drive? Thanks again for the awesome post:)

  23. Ashley Daniell reply

    Hey Katelyn! Thanks for sharing this. Which Drobo do you use??

  24. Victoria Shirley reply

    What a great blog post! I definitely feel ya when it comes to trying to have a work flow in college. I definitely would stay up until 4 in the morning editing video every night!! I can’t wait to set up a structured work flow now that I’m out!

  25. Alice reply

    So helpful! Thanks for sharing!

  26. Alicia Candelora reply

    HI Katelyn! Not sure if this is the place for “ask Anythign” question or if I should do it on your fan page. I notice you were feature din the last two pro photog magazine. SUPER CONGRATS! Did they seek you out, or did you seek them out? I would love to write some articles or features for the magazine but I am not sure what the best way is to do that :)

  27. Eryn Kesler reply

    Another question…I just downloaded the trial of LR3…and you’re right. Totally worth the upgrade!! Love the publish feature! Wondering if you rely on the “sharpen for screen” option when you’re exporting for client previews or web use, or if you use another way to sharpen for web use.

  28. Joshua reply

    Today, I went to the beach front with my kids.
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    She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is completely off
    topic but I had to tell someone!

  29. pool cleaning san jacinto reply

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