Have you ever kept track of the amount of time that you spend editing each month? I was shocked the first time that I did. Realizing how much of my time that editing was consuming caused me to search out ways to be more efficient, and this is what I found.
I am a wedding photographer, which means editing thousands of photos each month. I enjoy editing, but the amount of time I was taking was causing burn out in my work and killing the other areas of my business. I had to find a way to optimize my speed. There are many things that I have done since then to cut down on wasted time while editing, and here are two tools that have helped me along the way. These two purchases are some of my favorite pieces of equipment that I own.
Although they are simple tools, I had never considered using a multimedia controller for editing. If you are unfamiliar with what a multimedia controller is, basically it is a tool with several controls that allow you to program the buttons to perform a keyboard shortcut or other computer function. You can customize these controllers however you want. After some research, I purchased Contour’s ShuttlePro v2. This controller has 15 buttons and a couple of dials. For me, this tool is used exclusively for Lightroom. To set it up most efficiently, I wrote out my most used Lightroom tools and assigned them to each of the controller’s buttons in a layout that made sense to me. Getting used to this tool was a slow adjustment at first, but after only a day it was second nature.
This tool is handier than you would think. While editing, my left hand rests on the controller and my right hand controls the mouse. Nearly all of the shortcuts I would ordinarily enter are now done instantly with a single click of the controller. I no longer have to stop and think what the shortcut is for that function. This $100 investment was well worth it as it has saved me hours in editing time.
In my research, I also wanted to find a tool to increase productivity in Photoshop. You have probably heard of Wacom tablets, and many of you likely have one. Several people encouraged me to buy one, and it hasn’t disappointed. It is honestly one of the best purchases I have ever made. The use of the pen has not only improved my accuracy using tools in Photoshop, but it has increased my speed in editing as well. I purchased Wacom’s Intuos Pro Medium. This particular product comes with the pen and the tablet, which includes eight buttons and a dial.
Following the process that I used with the ShuttlePro, I wrote out my eight most used functions in Photoshop. I then assigned each button to those functions. Not every tool in Photoshop has a shortcut, but you can apply a custom one if it doesn't. To do this, go to the Edit menu and find the option for Keyboard Shortcuts. I assigned a keyboard shortcut to all of my most used tools and then applied those shortcuts to my tablet’s buttons. I chose things like the flatten image command, the camera raw filter, and open Nik filters. The pen even has a few buttons of its own, which I assigned to right-click and to undo. It might not sound like much, but there is a great deal of time saved in not searching through menus and being able to do what you need in one simple click.
I will admit the tablet was much harder to get used to. It felt so foreign at first. Even after a few days, it was still difficult to use. However, after about a week it was completely normal and now it feels so odd to try and use a mouse when editing a photo. If I had to choose a favorite out of the purchases that I have made, this tablet might be it. The ability to zoom in or change the brush size with the dial, have my favorite functions available at one click, and be so precise with the brush tool has allowed me to get rid of the keyboard and mouse for the majority of my work and save a great deal of time in doing so.
These two tools have a cost, both in time and money. However, as someone who has a large number of photos to edit on a weekly basis, these tools have allowed me to decrease my time spent on editing considerably, allowing me more time for other areas of my business. I can say both of these tools have easily been worth the cost and are among the best purchases that I have made as a photographer.