Tools to Keep Your Workflow in Check

Tools to Keep Your Workflow in Check

Benjamin Franklin once said: "for every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned."

And no truer words have been spoken. As photographers, most of us tend to have creative brains, which in my own experience, tend to work in the most annoying way imaginable. Logic and coherence are thrown out of the window for a machine gun of random, inconsistent inspiration, attention span of a 5-year-old, and the tendency to daydream for 15 minutes a time in the middle of your current task. The best way to describe a creative's brain (taken from a meme I once saw on Facebook) is like an internet browser with 30 tabs open all at the same time. Not very productive or time-efficient, to say the least.

So, over the last couple of years, I have been taking the time to add organization into not just my workflow, but my life in general. It is something you have to work at, and eventually, you will find the techniques that work best for you. Turn them into a routine. And slowly but surely, you will begin to become more efficient and with the amount of time saved, more productive with your images, which at the core of everything is what we all want to do, create more mind-blowing photos. If you are one of those rare creatives that have both the creative brain and the logical brain, then damn you, damn you to hell, I say! Here are six ways I added structure and organization to my workflow an routine.


Have you ever been sat on the bus or at work, and like a tightly clenched fist to the face, an idea hits you? This is the best idea you have had, ever! If Carlsberg did ideas, this would be the best idea in the world! Smiling, you continue with your journey home or current order at work. Later that day, you sit down, out comes the laptop; you are about to get planning that crazy new idea you had, but wait. What was it? Like a mind ninja, you try to navigate the dark realms of your memory, but nothing. This, unfortunately, was a true story, and it happened on many occasions. Eventually, through necessity, I knew I had to get these ideas down the moment I had them. This is where Evernote comes in to play.

To make a long story short, it is pretty much a digital notepad that you can have on you at all times. All you have to do is create an account, you have the option of free or various paid upgraded accounts. Once you have your account, it will sync any notes you make to all your devices, which is very handy. Every time I have an idea on the move, I pull out my phone, open up the app, quickly and easily type in my idea/note, and save. Boom! It's that easy, a digital library of photo ideas are always stored and at hand anytime you need them. The interface is very simple and easy to use on both the phone and desktop devices. 

Organize Your Folders

One of the best ways to be organized and one of the most efficient ways to save time is to make sure your computer device and folders are organized. How many times late at night have you been asked by a client for that one document that seems to have done a Houdini and magically vanished from your device? Frantically, you search the desktop, aiming four-lettered words at your innocent monitor while the blood pressure in your head reaches level 11! The folder system you create can be as complicated or as simple as you like, as long as you know you can get to any folder you want easily and hassle-free.

My folder system is to have one main folder on my desktop screen that parents all the other photography-related folders. For example, I called mine simply "files and folders" (you can be more specific to make it easier). Once I open up this folder, I have all my child folders relating to my photography, such as my Facebook upload folder, which holds all the resized images for Facebook. I have a stock folder that holds all the stock images that may be used in any new images, which when opened, reveals more folders. Each folder is named after the image subject, like car stock folder, or tree stock folder, and so on. Every time you save or screenshot an image for inspiration, add them to an inspiration folder, so next time you want to recall that awesome image you saved, you know where it is at at the click of a button. I am planning on being even more efficient and organizing the inspiration images into a subject, like lighting, composition, color, again refining it down further and to make finding the image that I need easier. It may sound obvious and simple, but the number of times I have seen a fellow photographer and their failed attempts to find an important document when under pressure is ridiculous. Get your folders organized!

Get a Wall Calendar

We all have a calendar on our phone right? You go through your apps, find the calendar, swipe to the right month, and search for the day to see what you have booked. Now, try doing this all on your phon, while a client is on the same phone waiting for you to give him said dates and book him in. You need the finger skills of Beethoven. One of the cheapest but most efficient tools I bought this year was a large A1 wall planner. Yes, I just typed those words! That ugly wall planner you used to see on your school room wall or in your dad's office at work is a godsend for efficiency and saving time.

The reasons: It is big, it is on your wall, you can see it from the other side of the room, and you don't have to go through 20 clicks and swipes to write down a booking. As simple and as stupid as this sounds, it truly is an effective time-saver. Place it on a wall that is in eye view at all times so don't even have to move from the seat while engaged in a phone conversation; you can see every week, day, and appointment wrote down. Sometimes, old school is better! And you can buy one from Amazon for as little as $20.

Task Sheets

In the early years, as I progressed in photography, I noticed the bigger my ideas got, the more work I had to do before, during, and after a shoot. Gone were the good old days of picking up my camera, and shooting on the fly, hoping I would get something at least worthy of a social media upload. Everything had to be planned. Now, I thought I could keep all this information in my head. My brain was overloaded with info like where the location was, the angles I would be shooting from, how I wanted the model to pose, how I wanted it to look in Photoshop after. Now, if you have been taking any notice of this blog post, you will have worked out by now that this is not my kind of brain. So, every shoot, I would be under pressure, forget at least one thing I wanted, or needed to do. Only later would I find out and be frustrated. Eventually, after numerous occasions, I came up with the idea of task sheets. Very simple, yet very effective. These task sheets are like checklists with points I need to remember, which I fill in before every shoot. They cover planning, a shoot plan, the shoot day, post-processing, and uploading of the images. I do not shoot without filling one of these in. You have to be strict with yourself and turn these techniques and using them into a routine. Since I began using these task sheets, productivity on a whole for me has risen quite dramatically.

Organizing Your Finished Images (In Lightroom)

Recently, I had a feature in a magazine. I opened Adobe Lightroom and as I always did when looking for finished images, browse through the entire catalog of photos. If you were new to photography, this would be acceptable, maybe, as you wouldn't have many images and might be unaware of how to organize your images. I, on the other hand, have 24,000 images to search through and should know better when trying to become a more efficient worker. Finding the images was a slog, so following on from organizing my desktop folders, I got my finished images into the correct order. I created a final image collection folder. Now, selecting has become far quicker, easier, and enjoyable!
If you haven't organized your final photos in Lightroom, I highly recommend you do.

It is this simple:

  • Make sure your left side panel is activated (shown in the image above).
  • Scroll down to collections and click the plus symbol on the right-hand side. Select "Create a Collection."
  • Name the collection "Final images" or something similar, and click "Create."
  • You now have a folder to hold your finished images. You can either click on an image, hold the button and swipe it in, or hold down CTRL, click on many images, and then swipe them all in at once.

Social Media

Social media is one of those entities that is a gift and a curse. On one hand, it has opened up borders and knocked down social barriers. We are all but one DM away. But, on the other hand, it consumes your time, like a child consumes chocolate on Christmas morning. It distracts and is one of the reasons we tend to end up procrastinating when we should be writing blog posts. Social media is vital to the business; it is a necessity! If you are not on social media promoting your business or work, you are possibly at a large disadvantage.

I'm not sure about you, but I use more than one social media, and I'm guessing most of you do too. I have accounts on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter. So, not only does social media consume time by distraction, it wastes more precious minutes by having to multitask between each social platform, uploading work, updating your status, and answering messages. It may as well be a second day job. For the big companies, the solution is easy: they just hire a social media specialist, but for us everyday folk, we have to manage our own. This is where Hootsuite comes into play!

Hootsuite is a social media management system for brand management. The system’s user interface takes the form of a dashboard and supports social network integration for all the platforms I mentioned and more. It is all your accounts in one place at the same time. The Hootsuite dashboard is pretty simple to use; just follow the quick step-by-step guide when you first sign up, and you should be flying within minutes. It lets you have numerous social media streams on the screen at once, which means no more switching between Facebook to Twitter, back to Facebook, etc. Not only that, but you can also schedule posts all at the same time for weeks in advance, which alone is worth signing up for. The way I used the post scheduler was to take one day (usually Sunday) and spend two hours creating content including status updates and image uploads. I would then schedule them throughout seven days to fill up a whole week's worth of social media and then go through the same routine the following Sunday. The amount of time freed up from doing this was immense. I had so much extra time that I began yoga. Well, not really, but if I liked yoga, I could.

Other great features of this tool are suggested posts if your ideas for content runs dry. You can have more than one person managing the account if you are lucky enough to have a team that controls your social media. It is all cross-platform, so whether you are on a train or at your aunties' birthday, as long as you have your phone or tablet, you can always keep track of what is happening online. There are plenty more features, but for my personal use, I mainly use the schedule post feature and the multi-stream dashboard. Hootsuite lets you sign up and have a basic account for free, or you can upgrade to various paid accounts. So, hopefully implementing some or all of these techniques will help you become a little more efficient or save you some time. You may already use some of these techniques already or at least heard about them, but if you have any of your own, leave them in the comments, and we can all benefit.

Remember, organization is key! The more efficient we become, the more time we save, the more images we can make. And that is what it is all about!
What are your tools for keeping organized? Share in the comments.

Clinton Lofthouse's picture

Clinton Lofthouse is an Advertising/Entertainment photographer, creative artworker and Photoshop expert from the U.K. Specializing in composite and photomanipulation imagery.
When he is not chained to his desktop PC editing, Clinton likes to put on Synthwave music, wear Aviator sunglasses and pretend to be in an 80s movie.

Log in or register to post comments

OneNote is better than Evernote in my experience, and it's free with Office 365, and it's cross-platform/web interface. I use it extensively with a Surface Pro to do shoot diagrams, plan projects and create mood boards plus much more. Then include the costs break down which links to Excel, e-mails and so on.

It also allows me to create task lists, job responsibilities and other details.

Agreed. Evernote used to be very good. The endless tape look was cool when the product was first released.

But OneNote is by far a better product. Works on everything. Works with a stylus. Works with Word and Excel. It just works.