Time Management for Photographers: Balancing Shooting, Editing, and Client Relationships


  Time Management for Photographers: Balancing Shooting, Editing, and Client Relationships

If you’re a photographer, you know that balancing time between shooting, editing, and client relationships can be tricky.
In this blog post we’ll cover some of the most effective ways to manage your time, so that you can do more of what you love.

First off – what are the pitfalls of each activity? Shooting is creative work and usually requires energy and focus. Editing is focused work with a deadline: one or two days to get it done in order to get back out on the street. Client relationships are an important part of business life for every photographer: building strong connections will lead to more sales (and happiness!).
Whether you’re a wedding photographer, travel shooter, studio artist or street photographer the following ideas will help you get more done and have a healthier balance of energy.
Before we get started here are my top five tips for time management: Get enough sleep. If you’re tired and cranky it’s so easy to slip into bad habits. If you have to stay up all night because you have a shoot in the morning, then make sure that you take a nap afterwards. Break things down into smaller parts with definite end points: if your shoot is supposed to last three hours then check in with your client at the end of each hour to see if they are happy with the progress. Before you get started, do a dry run. What happens if something goes wrong? Or what if it goes perfectly? Plan your day. Figure out where to focus your energy. I like to have a rough idea of how much time I’ll need for each task before I get started on any given day, but be flexible of course (the shoot might run longer than expected, the client might want a different work flow from you, etc…). Don’t skip the prep: Take pictures in advance of moving around. This helps to prepare the client and yourself for what they will see once things are finished. In this way you are making a plan and taking time to do something that will actually save you time in the long run.
Before we get started here’s a quick video where I talk about the subject:
Shooting & Editing Before we get into some of the specifics of how to balance client relationships with shooting and editing let’s look at an example schedule for a wedding photographer. In this case I know that I will have three hours in the morning for shooting, three hours in the evening for editing and I have two days to turn things around:
Day 1 : Shoot all day, edit from 6pm until 1am. Go to sleep at 2am.
Day 2 : Shoot for three hours, edit from 6pm until 8pm. Go to sleep at 8pm.
Day 3 : Shoot for three hours, edit from 6pm until 10pm. Go to sleep at 10pm.
Day 4 : Shoot for three hours, edit from 6pm until 11:30pm. Go to sleep at 11:30 pm.
Here's an example of how these days could run (in the timetable above I moved around some of the time frames to make it easier to follow):
Shooting Schedule Day 1 : Monday morning: I leave home at 6:45am and arrive at 9am at a location that the client has approved of (for instance). I set up the gear and take pictures of my assistant setting up the props. I shoot for an hour, check in with my client to see what they like, what tweaks they want, etc… (these types of adjustments wouldn't have been made on the day of the wedding itself). I shoot for another hour, check in, make some further adjustments. Now it’s 11:30am and I’ve already taken about 2 hours worth of pictures. Keep in mind that this time would be less than normal because many times you don’t need all this prep-time on day-of shoots as you have enough time to make changes on site if needed. Edit Schedule Day 1 : From 11:30am until 1pm I edit a few pictures that require some major adjustments (such as the post-wedding shoot tweaks) and then I spend the next hour or so editing pictures from the morning shoot. After this I start working on my rough edit of a few selects, which will take me until about 6pm. Edit Schedule Day 2 : From 6pm to 10pm I go through the images for my final edit. At this point things are much easier because I’ve already looked at all of these images before, just not in depth. I go through the images and make any required adjustments (like tweaking color saturation or removing a bit of the blur in an image). At 10pm I make a rough edit on my laptop. Edit Schedule Day 3 : From 6pm to 10pm I do my final edit, which will be about ten selects from my original work. Once it's finished I send a rough edit to the client and then go to sleep at 10:30pm.
The real benefit here is that you don't have to do much prep-work for this type of shoot since you know what the images are going to be like before you start. The downside is that you’ll end up with more work in the shoot itself, since you’ll have to do some time saving measures. Here's an example of what my day would look like if I didn't have this prep-time:
Shooting Schedule Day 1 : Monday morning: I leave home at 6am and arrive at 10am at a location that has never been shot before (perhaps a friend’s home). I set up the gear and take pictures all day long, checking in with my client to see what they like, making any required tweaks, etc… Again on most days such as this one extra shooting time won't be really necessary. For instance if you know that you will be shooting for at least eight hours a day, then you don't need to get up at 6am and start shooting. Edit Schedule Day 1 : From 10am until 12:30pm I go through all of the pictures from the morning shoot and make changes as needed. Then I spend the next hour or so editing pictures from the day shoot. At 12:30pm I send a rough edit to my client, then I go to sleep at 1pm.
The major difference here is that there is quite a bit more time spent editing because you need to go through every single picture in great detail and make adjustments/tweaks (which takes longer).

Conclusion I know that this is a lot to take in so here’s the recap:
1. Keep your shooting schedule very, very clear on the day of the shoot. Don't let your client direct you if it means spending more time shooting.
2. Keep the editing schedule clear throughout the day as well.
3. Be careful with moving around too much when photographing weddings (it can slow you down).
4. Allow yourself plenty of time to do a good job editing and sending drafts back to clients if necessary.
5. Make sure that you give yourself plenty of time for everything that gets thrown at you during a typical shoot (you are not alone… ever ).

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