Client galleries have become the de facto way of distributing photos post-shoot, whether you are a seasoned pro delivering to a corporate client or helping out at a friend's wedding. Can you do this on a shoestring and is there an efficient workflow?
Here's the scenario: you are invited to a friend's wedding and, although not asked, you are keen to offer your services and photograph them as an unofficial second shooter. You're going to stay out of the way of the hired pro, but want to make a range of less formal photos available to the couple, ultimately delivering them via the web. They gladly accept.
The day of the wedding arrives and (less stressed than the pro!) you rattle off a thousand frames. Then comes the long-haul of post production in Lightroom. You have your workflow of sifting through all the images, rejecting those that are obvious duds and then starring those that stand out. Five stars for the immediate big hitters, three stars for those worthy of inclusion and one star for the 'take-it-or-leave-it' type shots. That leaves two and four stars for those indecisive moments where you can't make your mind up!
One point to bear in mind - if you are using more than one camera, then they will almost certainly be out-of-sync which means that when you come to edit the photos the sequence will be wrong. The best option is to set the cameras to the same time at the start of the shoot, but if you forget, use Lightroom's Metadata -> Edit Capture Time feature. The likely scenario is that the dates are the same, but that they are hours or minutes apart. First, find a photo from each camera taken at the same time (or purposefully take two at the same time!). Then, if you enter a positive number of minutes for the selection of photos from the camera "behind," Lightroom will make a relative adjustment to all the photos selected. It's magical and it works!
Once you've got your starred list, start working your way through the three, four, and five-star images in terms of processing. This'll likely include standard options such as color correction (or going black and white), cropping (and aspect ratio), brightness, and sharpening. You might have a range of styles saved as presets and, for your best shots, process to a number of different variations.
Ultimately though, you are working toward your two hundred or so shots to deliver and it's this part of the workflow that can sometimes turn out to be time-consuming and fiddly when it need not be. In fact, there are really only two things you need to bear in mind. Firstly, you want to produce a set of photos to be delivered to your friends. Secondly, you want a website to host the photos that offer some flexibility in what you (and your friends) can do with them.
Starting with image export, Lightroom offers the ability to save export presets. These are fantastically useful so utilize them! Some of the things you might want to consider are the image resolution (I resize to 3000 px on the long axis), watermarking (I tend not to), sharpening (for screen and print), metadata (I strip out all but the copyright), and file naming.
It's this last one that is absolutely critical as you want to avoid a series of unintelligible DSC filenames that your friends download - not least because the default sort order on most computers is alphabetical which means the photos won't bear any relationship to the order they were taken in. File naming in Lightroom is the answer! It's tempting to start the sequence at 1 and proceed from there - however, if you do that, the alphasorting that PCs use will render the first sequence as:
1, 10, 11, 12 ,13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 2, 20
Adobe have thought about this problem and the solution is simple, however, in typical Adobe fashion, it is well hidden! Select the Custom Settings option to open a new dialog and then create a Custom preset. For the "Sequence and Date" option you want to start at 0001. This solves the problem with alphasorting!! However, remember that this numbers the selected photos in your catalog and you now need a way to tie this sequence to the JPGs you will export. For me the simplest solution is to start the name of the JPG with the sequential number, followed by the import filename. That way if your client sends you a list of them you can always track them down.
My current online gallery of choice is Pixieset - this is principally because they have a reasonably generous amount of storage space at 3Gb. Not only does it allow you to have a simple online portfolio, but you can create client galleries which look great out of the box and have good granular control over how they are displayed. They also allow you to sell photos directly with full shopping cart and payment options - the assumption of this article is that you are creating a gallery for proofing and delivery and at this it does a sterling job.
You can make the gallery public, hidden or password protected - for weddings and portrait shoots I go for the hidden option and enable downloading of both individual photos and the entire collection. The latter you can protect with a PIN code, but if you are simply delivering the photos there is no need. This integrates really well with the ability to star favorites - individual users can mark the photos they like and then download them or send a list to you. This is a great tool both for guests at a wedding and when selecting images for inclusion in an album by a client.
The benefit of resizing the photos at export is two-fold - firstly the file sizes are not too unwieldly for the client as a gallery of several hundred images will only be tens of megabytes. A notional 6MP image prints fine up to A3 which meets most immediate client needs. A second benefit is that it uses relatively little of your free gallery space.
Of course, Pixieset offers a Lightroom uploader plugin. The benefit of going with a workflow like this is that it affords you control over the process and can be used with other online galleries. Pixieset is one of many (e.g. SmugMug, ShootProof) online galleries, so test and take your pick. If you want some more reads then check out these F-Stoppers' articles from Trevor Dayley and Zakk Miller.
Galleries are a great way to simplify your workflow, so if you don't use one yet try creating an account and use it for delivering your next job. If you are already using one, post a comment with your recommendations for both workflow and online gallery of choice.
Lead image courtesy of geralt via Pixabay