**Today we are SO excited to welcome Chris Bartelski from The Color Well on to guest blog for the Pancake Session!! Enjoy!**
Simplicity is freedom.
In everything you do in life and business, I have found that simplicity is freedom. It took me a couple of years to get our workflow down pat, but now I can honestly say editing is something I really enjoy. The goal for me was to get consistent, high quality results in a very fast manner. I tried every kind of shortcut or preset and all of them turned out to only slow me down. So I devised a workflow where I edit every image, with no presets. I adjust exposure, white balance, tint, recovery, blacks and cropping/straightening for every image. At first I thought giving this kind of attention would actually slow me down, but I’ve found the opposite is true. I really got in a groove and started turning our weddings around at lightning pace. A while back one of our best friends, Maya Laurent, an amazing senior photographer in Indianapolis asked me if I’d start editing her files, and that was the beginning of The Color Well.
In September, my best friend got me the book Start Something That Matters. Honestly, it’s the first book since high school that I finished reading. The book shares the story behind how TOMS came to be, and how you can make giving part of your business model as well. The entire time I was reading it I had the idea for The Color Well in the back of my mind. So I formalized my editing for other photographers into this business model: 20% of all money (gross, not net) gets immediately donated to Thirst Relief. It’s really that simple. If your wedding cost you $250 for us to edit, we donate $50. Through Thirst Relief, every $5 provides one person with clean water for 25 years. So an average wedding’s worth of editing changes the life of 10-15 people. What a motivation for us to get your images done fast! Because the quicker we turn your files around (1-4 days), the faster someone gets water! Simplicity really is freedom. In this case, a simple business model means the freedom of clean water. If you like the sound of that, pop over to our site and give us a shot.
But in case you do choose to do your own editing, here are the three biggest lessons I’ve learned along the way for creating a high quality and speedy workflow to help get you started!
1. Out of sight is out of mind.
One of the biggest battles in a good workflow can be won before you even start to edit your photos. Take the time to cull your photos before you bring them into your editor. I’m sure most of you already do this, but how many of you cull within the same program you edit? If you do, I highly recommend that you don’t. This is one of the most common mistakes I see when people ask me to help sort out their workflow and here’s why: out of sight is truly out of mind. Using the same program to edit as you do to cull is going to leave you with the temptation to keep going back to make sure you don’t really prefer some other version of the same shot. You’ll end up drowning yourself with options of a single photo, and cause your workflow & efficiency to slow down to a snail’s pace. Instead, my wife and I have worked out this system for culling:
a. Eliminate any bad shots (out of focus, bad composition, etc). Then, walk away. Yes, that’s hard to do. But my family, creative energy, peace of mind, and clients are worth it. We’ve started using the program Photo Mechanic to do our culling because it is ridiculously fast, and saves us a ton of time on our workflow. And that’s time that I can be with my family. b. Decide on what’s great. My wife then takes what I’ve have culled and, with the story of the day in mind, she makes the call on which photos are great. We know before every session or wedding a range of the number of photos we are going to want to show to the client. For an engagement session, it’s 50-80. For a wedding it’s 400-600. That way we’re not tempted to show too many. c. Import only the great ones.I then take her selection of great files only – without second guessing – and import only those files into an editing project within Lightroom/Aperture. Note that we don’t delete any of the usable, but not great, images from our original set. We just store them elsewhere. So we still have our “just in case safety net,” although most likely we’ll never need to go back. In the 100+ weddings Allie and I have shot, we’ve had to go back and find a single photo within the rejects only twice. Cull for the 99%, and deal with the 1% as the issue arises. Plus, keeping the number of files we load into Aperture/Lightroom to a minimum makes sure those programs keep running lightning fast.
2. Presets can actually be the enemy of a speedy workflow.
There are many products out there claiming that their set of presets will cut your editing time in half. This is, in my opinion, a mistake. It’s so easy to click a preset to make a photo look a certain way, but no preset takes into account all the parameters that change within every photo. And then you spend even more time trying to make the preset look good on an image that isn’t right yet. Before you lose yourself in applying looks, take the time to properly develop your photos. At first, the only parameters you should be looking to to get your images color corrected are: white balance, tint, recovery, blacks, basic curves, exposure, crop and straightening. Now, once you’ve brought all your files to a standard, applying a single look to all the images will guarantee consistent results across the board. You could take any image from all of the weddings my wife and I shoot, put it next to an image from another one of our weddings, and the tones, color and depth will always fit together.
3. Big job, small goals.
I used to start editing weddings at the top and work my way down to the bottom. That was a daunting task. I’d be staring down over 500+ files and would easily get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work I still had to do. Like you’ve probably heard in other business or life situations, it’s good to break a big goal into little goals that are easier to manage. So what we do, is after we import the culled images into Lightroom/Aperture, we take the time to sort the images into categories like getting ready, ceremony, bride, groom, etc, leaving us with 6-10 categories and a manageable amount of photos in each. I then usually start editing the categories I like the least (reception and ceremony) before I dive into my favorites (bridals and the couple), and I give myself a mile markers along the way- I can run to Starbucks once I finish this category- to keep myself moving along. Taking this extra step to sort first has honestly cut my editing time in half.
Thanks again for taking the time to read about The Color Well, and hopefully the tips above will help you with your workflow. If you want to give, whether or not you use The Color Well, please visit our campaign with Thirst Relief HERE All donations are tax deductable, and no donation is too small. Really! $5 saves a life. It’s that simple.
**As a little bonus today for all you J&M readers out there, we’re giving away 1 wedding (400-600 images) and 3 sessions (50-90 images) worth of RAW processing!! All you have to do is leave a comment below telling us why you want to win and then follow us & send us a tweet @the_color_well to let us know to come check it out! We’ll be announcing the winners tomorrow!
Also, if you email the folks at Photo Mechanic at firstname.lastname@example.org with the code TCW041512 that will get you 10% off your purchase for the next month!