A few days ago, I found myself among a group of wedding photographers discussing how late they were in editing. Responses varied, as did attitudes. Some felt they were only eight weeks late, which was fine. Other photographers seemed anxious, with 17 or 18 weddings in a backlog of months. When it was my turn, I swallowed. I said, “Two weeks. The wedding I’m delivering today was shot two weeks ago.”
Now I almost feel guilty saying that. I was asked why I was not so far behind; I didn’t know the answer. One person suggested that I should only photograph a few weddings, and I informed them that I would be photographing over 60 this year. What’s my secret? The truth is, I don’t have a single bomb to drop. I just go through my editing stack like everyone else, but I do some things differently than some photographers to make my workflow more efficient.
And so, dear Fstoppers readers, an article was born! Originally I wanted to write a comprehensive overview of my selection, editing and delivery process to give a detailed explanation of why I am doing each step in this specific way. However, this workflow has been adapted to me over the years and is fantastic for the way I work at weddings. Many people can shoot differently.
And so, the answer was to divide the article into some tips that could save you time with your workflow. You can agree or disagree with each of them and make changes to your workflow wherever you see fit.
Complete Wedding Workflow Timeline
I edited a wedding while writing this article and decided to timeshare to deliver the entire gallery.
- I started at 1:35 p.m. That’s when I opened my culling software and selected the folder containing 3,130 raw images.
- I had finished culling at 2:38 p.m., up to 646 photographs.
- I left my computer to import the photos. I played with my cat and had lunch.
- At 3:35 p.m. I returned to my computer and the images were ready for me with a preset applied.
- At 4:34 p.m., all the photos were edited and I pressed export.
- I like to choose my highlight photos during export and export those in high resolution and web resolution. My computer hates me for this, because I make it work hard.
- After about 40 plus minutes of playing with the cat, my photographs are ready. Highlight images are also ready for a client slideshow. A separate export for my website is also done if I advertise the wedding.
- The entire gallery is uploaded to Pic-Time, the slideshow is built using their fantastic platform, and the gallery is sent to the client.
The client has his gallery at 6:10 p.m. This whole process took about 4.5 hours. Some days I will sit at my computer and complete two whole weddings.
I also put this wedding and the slideshow on my site. The images have already been chosen and exported, ready to use. My blog posts follow a template, so the process takes 15-20 minutes. You can see that exact wedding here!
This timeline highlights that effective editing is possible. Weddings don’t have to be a chore.
1. Shoot thoughtfully
My first piece of advice has nothing to do with editing, computers or fancy software. We can easily assume we’ll fix things in the mail. Heck, most of the time we can. But does that mean we should? These small changes can be magnified when we have hundreds of photos to edit.
Cropping 200 photos can take about 10 seconds per photo. It’s 2,000 seconds or a little over half an hour.
Overshoot can also be a problem. Shooting down twice as many photographs means twice as much time to do it. Do yourself a favor and change that 12fps burst mode to 5fps. I can’t imagine needing more than that.
Consciously thinking about these things when we take photos will greatly help when it comes to batch editing photos later. Most will also become second nature. You can read more about how I like to photograph in this article.
2. Eliminate before importing
I like to sort my photos before importing them into my editing software for several reasons.
The main one is speed. Although many photographers will say that Lightroom can be set up to scan through images quickly, those images still need to be imported first. Building all these previews takes time which I prefer to spend working on the photos. We can set up Lightroom in different ways, and I’ve tried many, but couldn’t find anything faster than external disposal.
I’m not going to review all the programs here, but there is the popular choice and the one I like to use. For many wedding photographers, the proven program is Photo Mechanic. This has been the industry standard for disposing of thousands of photographs for many years. It works using the built-in preview (even for raw files) on screen, which means it can make the job of sifting through thousands of photos a breeze.
The program I use is slightly different, with a few extra features: Narrative Select. Almost everyone I have recommended this to has converted. Unless you’re using a PC (Select is Mac only), this might be the fastest way to delete photos. The software uses a similar approach to Photo Mechanic, using built-in previews. However, we also see a few additional tools that help, including face and eye ratings and detail panels. It will even give you a discreet warning icon when an image is the worst of the bunch.
We only have to send the chosen photographs to our editing software, which makes this process much faster.
3. Optimize Lightroom
I’m following a few guides to get Lightroom to work the way I want. You need to make sure that you are working from your fastest computer drive. My MacBook’s internal SSD is fast, so that’s where I keep my images and catalogs when editing them. Everything is then moved to slower drives for long-term storage.
4. Presets for everything
I like to save all repeatable settings as a preset. It starts when I import the images into Lightroom, where I can set an import preset. At a glance, I know my preferred settings and preview sizes will be applied by Lightroom.
I’ve gone through many developer presets in the past and bought packs from other photographers. My current master preset has been designed over time to work with most images. I then have indoor and night versions with slightly different fits. Applying this basic preset to all photographs when importing them will get images close to where I want them. They usually need a minor exposure adjustment and possibly a white balance adjustment. Some don’t need either, and I can skip to the next photo with smugness.
Settings can also be saved when exporting our photos, and I find this much faster than going through the individual checkboxes each time I want to post photos.
Whenever I need to change the settings, I wonder if I will use these new settings in the future and create a relevant preset.
5. Use a Loupedeck
Shamelessly, Loupedeck products have sped up my workflow more than anything I can think of. I started using a Loupedeck+ photo and video editing console before switching to the Loupedeck Live console. I’m also familiar with the Loupedeck CT, but didn’t need the extra features it brought. I love how small and neat the Loupedeck Live is.
If you’re not familiar with the functionality, the various Loupedeck consoles allow you to control a computer in a more tactile way, using dials and buttons. I find it a very intuitive way of working.
I have mine set up simply and probably only using part of the functionality. Still, it allows me to quickly make any necessary adjustments without taking my eyes off the image or fiddling with Lightroom’s fiddly sliders. I can also load my development presets there and quickly apply them when needed.
6. AI is your friend
I almost didn’t include this tip, because I didn’t use the program for this particular wedding. However, I have no problem using Imagen AI when I want a set of photos even faster. It’s reasonably quick and easy to set up, provided you can provide at least 5,000 photos that you’ve edited. It learns how you edit and creates a profile for you.
I like to edit my work. I like to isolate myself and lose myself in the project for a while. However, ImagenAI works wonders when you’re against the clock. I probably use it with about 20% of my weddings.
7. Blog immediately
This advice won’t apply to everyone, and it doesn’t even apply to all of my marriages. But, if you put your photos in an article on your website, I recommend that you do so as soon as you deliver the photos to the client. The project will be fresh in your mind and your energy is currently invested in these photographs.
It shouldn’t be an all-day task either. I have a simple template (a nod to my love of presets) and can create a message in no time. The images have already been selected when choosing client highlights, and I am using the client slideshow on the page.
If I don’t post the wedding right away, chances are I won’t make it.
8. Don’t overthink it
Finally, I find that when we start overthinking, we slow down. Every time an image pops up on my screen, there is potentially something I can edit, change, manipulate, or fix. The trick is to make changes quickly and naturally without consciously thinking about them. As soon as your intuition is right, move on. It’s probably no less perfect than spending an hour on it, especially to the average customer’s eye.
And there you have it, my tips for faster and more efficient assembly. I think everyone could find a different way to improve their workflow. There’s no one big secret to making you faster, but many small changes will ultimately make things go faster.
My wedding photography work is never heavily manipulated. Your work may be different, so my workflow may not work for you. However, most of us can improve our efficiency slightly, giving our families more time, days off, and probably more weddings.