Post-Wedding Workflow: The System That Won’t Make You Crazy Part 1

One of the things that was most difficult for me when I first started photographing weddings was finding a post-wedding workflow that worked well for me.  I tried following the advice of various photographers, attempting to implement their exact workflow into my unique business.  All of these attempts failed because I was replicating the practices of someone with a completely different vision and business!  After a year of frustration and insanity, I took some time in my slow season to evaluate my post-wedding workflow and figure out what was and wasn't working.  I ended up implementing ideas from my mentors combined with my own personal ideas, and came up with a system that hasn't failed me yet!

Here, I'll share with you my entire post-wedding workflow, from beginning to end.  However, please keep my above confessions in mind when considering what works best for you.  Try bits and pieces, find what works well for you, and don't get discouraged if this entire system doesn't work for you.  As with most things in life, this is all about trial and error.  So, try it, and if something doesn't work for you, modify the system so that it's perfect for you!

Post-Wedding Workflow - A photo of an engaged couple during sunset
Photo by Erica Kay Photography

Backup, backup, backup!

The wedding is over.  Your body is sore and aching, you're completely exhausted, and the only thing you want to do is dive head first into bed and sleep for 20 hours.  But (of course there's a but!), you know that as a wedding photographer, there are a few things you must do to protect your clients' images before slipping into a wedding hangover induced coma.

First and foremost, you MUST backup your images from the wedding!  I think the worst thing that could ever happen to a wedding photographer would be to lose a client's wedding photos, so protect yourself from that nightmare and back everything up immediately.  And, back everything up in multiple places.

My first method of backing up (which isn't really backing up, but is more of a security practice for me during the wedding), is utilizing both memory card slots on my Canon 5D Mark III.  I always shoot weddings on both a CF and SD card so that if one card fails, I'll have all of the images on another card.  Like I said, this isn't technically backing up as one may envision it, but it's a great idea to implement this practice, especially if your camera has dual card slots.  Again, it's better to be safe than sorry.

Post-wedding workflow - A photo of the My Passport for Mac hard drives, available on Amazon.
The hard drives I use – My Passport for Mac. They're portable (great for my travels), durable, and reliable. I love them.

Now, for actually backing up, I immediately upload all images to my computer desktop and two external hard drives.  I know I'll get some people calling me crazy for adding images to my desktop, but again, this is what works for me and this is what I prefer.  I actually edit from my desktop rather than a hard drive, so having them on my desktop allows me to get straight to it when I sit down to edit.

On my desktop and both hard drives, I have folders titled “To Edit.”  The RAW images go into these folders in all three locations until I begin editing them, at which time I move them to another folder titled “Editing.”  This allows me to keep clients separate and to easily see who I'm working on and who still needs edited.  This, combined with the desktop organizer below, is the best way for me to stay organized when dealing with 30+ weddings during wedding season.

My Desktop Organizer

Post-wedding workflow - A photo of my desktop workflow organizer
My desktop workflow organizer.

This desktop organizer has been a lifesaver for me.  I was originally introduced to this idea by Leah Remillet of The Thriving Photographer.  I took her organizer that I received as part of the Thrive program and tweaked it to meet the needs of my personal workflow (kind of like what I've suggested you all do with this workflow system!).  I use this image as my background on my desktop and simply move folders to the correct area throughout the workflow process.  Again, this has been so helpful for me and it's also very helpful when office assistants need to know where I am within a certain project.  By utilizing this organizational chart, we can all easily see who is being edited, who is working on album designs, who needs their gallery delivered, etc.

The only downfall to this is that having so many files on your desktop can slow down your computer.  If you find this to be a problem for you, I recommend keeping the actual files on your external hard drive, then creating empty folders to move around on your desktop.  This will let you stay organized without having thousands of files slowing down your system.  It's a win win situation here, people!

The Editing Process

Hi, I'm Erica and I'm a chronic procrastinator and I do not love to edit.

Many would say I'm doomed as a wedding photographer.  And, I probably should have been doomed.  I spent the first few years of my business avoiding editing at all costs, pushing it back until the very end of my contracted turnaround time.  I dreaded sitting at my computer for hours, culling, editing, choosing images for the blog post, etc.  It was SO BORING and took SO LONG.  I tried outsourcing, but it didn't work for me either.  I was going insane.  Until…

I came up with a simple but also very effective editing system!

Post-wedding workflow - A photo of a bride and groom next to their vintage Bentley
Photo by Erica Kay Photography

Basically, I've broken down the editing process into small, bite-sized pieces.  Here's my culling and editing process:

  • Day 1 post-wedding:  Cull the images using Photomechanic, an AMAZING culling program that allows me to cull down thousands of images in approximately 20 minutes.
  • Day 2 post-wedding:  Edit the “getting ready” portion of the day.  I also mark blog worthy images with 5 stars while I'm editing in order to eliminate having to go through all of the images again when I'm getting ready to blog.  Export the edited images to my two external hard drives.
  • Day 3 post-wedding:  Edit the ceremony and mark blog images with 5 stars.  Export the edited images to my two external hard drives.
  • Day 4 post-wedding:  Edit all formals and mark blog images with 5 stars.  Export the edited images to my two external hard drives.
  • Day 5 post-wedding:  Edit the reception and mark blog images with 5 stars.  Export the edited images to my two external hard drives.
  • Day 6 post-wedding:  Blog day (see below)
Post-Wedding Workflow - A photo of a bride and groom
Photo by Erica Kay Photography

So, in a matter of 5 days, I'm completely finished editing an entire wedding and I do not want to die by the end of it!  By dedicating an hour or two everyday to editing, I'm able to stay on track with weddings without procrastinating and without dreading the process.  This works so much better for me than sitting down and editing an entire wedding in one sitting.  Gone are the days of dread and procrastination!

It's also important to point out that I use Lightroom for 97% of my editing and only take images into Photoshop if they need extensive editing done or if I want to get creative with it.  I'm able to edit quite quickly in Lightroom by having my favorite custom preset applied to all images upon import and then making small tweaks to each image as needed.  Because the preset is applied automatically, the only editing I have to do on 97% of my images is cropping and straightening, adjusting exposure and white balance, and removing unwanted distractions.  If I feel the need to do more with an image, I will then take it into Photoshop for more detailed editing.

Of course, in order to do such minimal editing, I attempt to “get it right” in camera at all times.  By taking a couple of extra minutes on the wedding day to make sure everything is right, I'm saving myself loads of time during the editing process.  Sorry for the tangent…

The Blog Post

Post-wedding workflow - A photo of a bride and groom on a golf course
Photo by Erica Kay Photography

As mentioned above, during the editing process I'm also thinking about the blog post.  Blogs are so important to photographers for many reasons.  First, they give potential clients the chance to see what a full wedding might look like from you.  Also, they're great tools for clients to share so that they don't have to give their full gallery to all of Facebook.  (And, this is good for you, too!  The more your clients share your blog post, the more your name gets out and the more hits you get on your website!)  Further, they're great networking tools for you.  By discussing and crediting the vendors who worked alongside you, you're making even more of a connection and building rapport with those vendors.

However, there is another reason that is probably more important than any of the reasons I just mentioned:  blogs are so great for growing your SEO.  SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, which is the very detailed and somewhat difficult to understand process through which search engines like Google rank your website in their search listings.  I'm not an SEO expert (I actually pay someone to manage mine), but if you'd like to learn more about SEO and how blogging affects it, definitely check out this interview I did with Ben Turner of Turner Web Services on a recent episode of Portrait Session.

Post-wedding workflow - A screenshot of my blog page.
My blog page. Feel free to check it out for an idea of how I structure my blog posts.

Now, back to the blogging portion of my post-wedding workflow.  As mentioned above, while editing in Lightroom, I mark my favorites with 5 stars.  These 5 star images are the images that I plan to use in my blog post.  After editing all images, I go to my 5 star folder and export the images with a watermark and at the size specifications that meet my blog requirements.

I then import these images into Fundy Designer, which is the program I use to design my blog collages, albums, etc.  Within Fundy, I put together my collages, rename the collages to meet SEO standards, resize the collages to meet my blog standards, then export into a folder within the client folder called “Blog Collages.”

Now, it's time to create the actual blog post.  When blogging, I always make sure to do the following:

  • Tell the story of the couple.  I already have this information because in their “Get to Know You” questionnaire, they tell me about how they met, how they got engaged, etc.
  • Thank the couple.  Let them know they're appreciated.
  • Detail the wedding.  Talk about the vendors, the locations, the details, and anything else important.  This is great for SEO purposes as well.
  • Include SEO optimized images or collages.
  • Link to all vendors.  Give a little love in order to receive a little love.
  • Follow the recommendations for the Wordpress plugin, Yoast.  This plugin gives you the guidelines for a good SEO blog post and marks things off as you accomplish them.

If you're in need of a little blogging inspiration, head on over to my blog to see what I do and how I structure the blog.  Also, I recently talked with Jenika McDavitt from Psychology for Photographers on a Portrait Session episode.  She gave some really valuable advice about writing and blogging and she also has some great e-courses on writing and creating engaging website content.  I've taken both of her e-courses and really benefitted from them both.

I do want to point out that blogging isn't as terrifying or time-consuming as you may think.  At first, it'll take a bit to get comfortable with writing, formatting, meeting SEO standards, etc.  But, after a bit of practice, you'll be posting blogs faster than Usain Bolt.

Post-Wedding Workflow - A photo of an engaged couple walking during sunset
Photo by Erica Kay Photography

Up Next…

Check out Part 2 of this post-wedding workflow series where I discuss image delivery, product ordering and delivery, the very important but often overlooked follow up process I use, and how 17 Hats helps me with my workflow!

2 thoughts on “Post-Wedding Workflow: The System That Won’t Make You Crazy Part 1”

    1. That’s interesting since most of the wedding photographers I’ve come across have turn around times of several weeks, if not several months! I think 5 days is on the shorter end of the spectrum for weddings. Sticking with the “Won’t Make You Crazy” premise of the post, I’d have to argue that breaking the process down to more bite size pieces is very helpful for people who are still trying to find a workflow system that works well for them.

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