A few days ago, I found myself among a group of wedding photographers discussing how far behind they are with their editing. Answers varied, as did attitudes. Some felt they were only eight weeks behind, which was fine. Other photographers seemed anxious, with 17 or 18 weddings in a backlog lasting months. When it was my turn, I gulped. 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 I must only be shooting a few weddings, and I informed them I'd be shooting over 60 this year. What's my secret? The truth is that I don't have a single bombshell to drop. I just plow through my editing pile like everyone else, but I do certain things differently from some photographers to make my workflow more efficient.
And so, the wonderful readers of Fstoppers, an article was born! Initially, I wanted to write a complete run-through of my culling, editing, and delivery process to give an in-depth explanation as to why I do each step that specific way. However, this workflow has been tailored to me over the years and is fantastic for how I work at weddings. Many people may shoot differently.
And so, the answer was to split the article into some tips that may save you time with your workflow. You may agree or disagree with each one and implement changes to your workflow wherever you see fit.
Full Wedding Workflow Timeline
I did edit a wedding as I was writing this article and decided to share the time taken to deliver the entire gallery.
- I began at 1:35 pm. This was when I opened up my culling software and selected the folder containing 3,130 raw images.
- I was done culling at 2:38 pm, down to 646 photographs.
- I left my computer to import the photographs. I played with my cat and ate some lunch.
- At 3:35 pm, I arrived back at my computer, and the images were ready for me with a preset applied.
- By 4:34 pm, all photographs were edited, and I hit export.
- I like to choose my highlight photos while the export is happening and export those in high resolution and web resolution. My computer hates me for this, as I make it work hard.
- After around 40 minutes and more time playing with the cat, my photographs are ready. The highlight images are also ready for a client slideshow. A separate export for my website is also made if I am publicizing 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 their gallery by 6:10 pm. This entire process has taken approximately 4.5 hours. Some days, I will sit at my computer and complete two entire weddings.
I also put this wedding and the slideshow on my website. The images were already chosen and exported, ready to go. My blog posts follow a template, so the process takes 15-20 mins. You can see this exact wedding here!
This timeline highlights that efficient editing is possible. Weddings don't need to be a chore.
1. Shoot Thoughtfully
My first tip has nothing to do with editing, computers, or fancy software. We can easily assume we'll fix things in post. Heck, most of the time, we can. But does that mean we should? Those little changes can be amplified when we have hundreds of photographs to edit.
Cropping 200 photographs might take around 10 seconds per photo. That is 2,000 seconds or just over half an hour.
Overshooting can also be an issue. Culling twice as many photographs means twice the time taken to do so. Do yourself a favour and change that 12 fps burst mode to 5 fps. I can't imagine needing more than that.
Consciously thinking of these things when we are taking photographs will significantly help when it comes to batch-editing photographs later. Most of it will also become second nature. You can read more about the way I like to shoot in this article.
2. Cull Before Importing
I like to cull my photographs before I import them into my editing software for several reasons.
The main one is speed. Although many photographers will argue that Lightroom can be set up to flick through images quickly, those images still need to be imported at the start. Building all those previews takes time I'd rather spend working on the photos. We can set Lightroom up in many different ways, and I've tried many of them, but I've not found anything faster than culling externally.
I won't go through every program here, but there is the popular choice and the one I like to use. For many wedding photographers, the tried and tested program is Photo Mechanic. This has been the industry standard for culling thousands of photographs for many years. It works by using the embedded preview (even for raw files) on the screen, meaning it can make easy work of sifting through thousands of photos.
The program I use is slightly different, with some added features: Narrative Select. Almost everybody I've recommended this to has converted. Unless you use a PC (Select is Mac only), this may just be the fastest way to cull photos. The software uses a similar approach to Photo Mechanic, using embedded previews. However, we also see a few more tools which help out, including face and eye assessments and details panels. It will even give you a discreet warning icon when an image is the worst of the bunch.
We only need to ship the chosen photographs to our editing software, making this process far quicker.
3. Optimize Lightroom
I follow a few guides to get Lightroom acting the way I want it to. You should ensure that you work from your fastest computer drive. My MacBook's internal SSD is snappy, so this is where I keep my images and catalogs when I'm editing them. Everything is then moved to slower drives for long-term storage.
4. Presets for Everything
I like to save any repeatable settings as a preset. This starts when I import the images to 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 been through many develop presets in the past and bought packs from other photographers. My current main preset has been made over time to work for most images. I then have indoor and nighttime versions with slightly different tweaks. Applying this base preset to all the photographs as they are imported will get images close to where I want them. They usually need a minor exposure tweak and possibly a white balance adjustment. Some need neither, and I can smugly skip to the next photo.
Settings can also be saved when exporting our photographs, and I find this much faster than going through the individual tick-boxes each time I want to publish some photographs.
Whenever I need to change settings, I ask myself if I will use those new settings in the future and make 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 & Video Editing Console before upgrading to the Loupedeck Live Console. I'm also aware of the Loupedeck CT, but I didn't need the extra functionality it brought. I love how small and neat the Loupedeck Live is.
If you're not clued up on the functionality, the various Loupedeck consoles allow you to control a computer more tactilely, using dials and buttons. I find this a very intuitive way of working.
I have mine set up simply and probably only use a portion of the functionality. Still, this allows me to quickly make the necessary adjustments without taking my eye off the image or messing around with fiddly Lightroom sliders. I can also load my develop presets into this and quickly apply them when needed.
6. AI Is Your Friend
I almost didn't include this tip, as I didn't use the program for this particular wedding. However, I have no issues using Imagen AI when I want a set of photographs out even faster. It's reasonably quick and easy to set up, providing you can supply at least 5,000 photographs you have edited. It learns how you edit and builds a profile for you.
I quite like editing my work. I enjoy zoning out and getting lost in the project for a while. However, ImagenAI works wonders when you're against the clock. I probably use it with around 20% of my weddings.
7. Blog Immediately
This tip won't apply to everybody, and it doesn't even apply to all my weddings. But, if you put your photographs in a post on your website, I recommend doing this 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 those photographs.
This shouldn't be a task that takes all day, either. I have a simple template (a nod back to my love of presets) and can put a post together in no time. The images have already been selected when choosing the client highlights, and I use the client slideshow on the page.
If I don't post the wedding immediately, there's a strong chance I won't get around to 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 correct. The trick is to make changes quickly and naturally without consciously thinking about them. As soon as your gut feeling is good, move on. It's probably no less perfect than if we spent an hour on it, especially for the average client's eye.
And that's it, my tips for quicker and more efficient editing. I feel everybody could find a different way to improve their workflow. There isn't one big secret to making you faster, but lots of small changes will eventually see you speed things up.
My wedding photography work is never heavily manipulated. Your work may be different, so my workflow might not work for you. However, most of us can improve our efficiency slightly, thus giving more time for our families, days off, and probably more weddings.