Hi, we're Hunter and Sarah, a husband-and-wife, luxury wedding photography team. We’re also educators, helping other photographers build profitable and sustainable photography businesses.
Hey photographers! Today, we’re excited to introduce a new blog series about a subject we’ve gotten a lot of questions about over the last year or two: how to edit wedding photos! However, when photographers ask us how to edit photos, we often tell them that they’re asking the wrong question. While of course, editing your photos is important, it’s only one step in a much larger post-production process!
From the minute you walk away from a wedding day or a portrait session to the time that you deliver the final gallery to your clients, there a LOT of work that needs to be done. And what many newer or aspiring wedding photographers don’t realize is that editing is just one small part of that!
That’s why we’re (re)launching a blog series called “Post Production Secrets”. We’re going to open up the curtain and give you our step-by-step method of how we turn thousands of raw files into a beautiful and curated wedding gallery for our clients, week after week, as many as 40 times each year.
We confess right at the start that this blog series won’t be nearly as sexy as buying new gear or booking new clients. But every segment of this series is vital for your success as a business! And being a photographer without a way to backup your work is a dangerous game to play. So in today’s post, we’re going to introduce you to the concepts of workflow and systems thinking, then dive into the first and most important step in this entire process: backing up your images.
Although it may seem strange to think about maximizing efficiency and putting systems in place when you only have one or two jobs each season, you’ll thank us in the long-run. If you run your business with a laid-back attitude and approach every wedding or portrait session differently, not only will you not have a very consistent business (and consistency is king when you want customers to trust you!), but it also means you’ll suffer when you start to get busy.
But if you put efficient systems and workflows in place right from the start, then your business can grow with much less pain and frustration! If you have two weddings on your calendar for this year, but put efficient business systems in place as if you had 20 weddings this year, then when you actually do have 20 weddings (and trust us, it’ll come much sooner than you think!), you won’t feel like you’re drowning under the weight of it all.
Maybe this just Hunter’s inner engineer shining through, but we’re basically obsessed with doing things consistently and efficiently, and we know that this approach to our business has helped us grow as quickly as we have. And of course, just because you run your business with repeatable and efficient systems doesn’t mean you need to interact with your clients like some customer service robot. You can still have genuine and heartfelt interactions with your clients, and in fact, having an efficient back-end will help you do that even better! So let’s dive right in.
There’s an old mantra that my high school yearbook teacher used to say: “There are two types of people in the world, those who have experienced data loss, and those who will.” This ominous warning has stuck with me ever since, and was cemented even further into my brain after I lost an entire semester of notes two weeks before finals during my first semester in college. Thanks to a crashed hard drive on my laptop, I had to study for all of my final exams without a single note I had taken on my computer for the previous four months.
It was that year that I really understood the necessity of building back-ups into any workflow. Not long after that incident, my hard drive crashed (again), only this time, it wasn’t just notes from my classes that was on it. We had just shot our first wedding, and the entire wedding was uploaded (and about half-way edited) on my computer. Luckily, this time I had learned from my mistakes, and was able to easily recover the images and my progress using an online backup system. If we hadn’t used backup systems, that would’ve ended our wedding career before it even began!
It’s because of that first wedding that we swear by online back-ups, also referred to as “cloud storage”. We’ve tried most of the big names at some point in our career: Google Drive, Amazon Photo Storage, even Adobe Cloud integrated right into Lightroom. But for whatever reason, we keep coming back to Dropbox.
Exactly which online storage solution you use will depend on how much you’re willing to pay, how much storage you need, and what features you want. But one thing is an absolute necessity: automatic backup. If you have to remember to backup your photos manually, your hard drive will almost definitely crash the one time you forget to back things up.
Thanks to Dropbox’s automatic backup, the minute we upload any photos to an internet-connected computer, the photos are being copied to the cloud, then uploaded to any other computer we have that has Dropbox installed. So when we’re traveling for work, we can upload all the photos to our laptop in our hotel room, and let it upload while we sleep. By the time we get home, all the raw files are already automatically uploaded on our desktop! A lot can happen between the time you finish the wedding and when you get home (imagine if your photos only existed on your memory cards and your camera bag got lost or stolen at the airport), so this automatic backup is crucial.
However, we’d be silly to put all our eggs in one basket. Just backing up your images to a cloud storage then deleting them from your memory cards and hard drive would be dangerous. What if Dropbox’s servers had corruption issues or were hacked? What if you accidentally deleted the images from Dropbox and couldn’t get them back? What if Dropbox’s HQ caught fire and all their servers were destroyed?
Although all these scenarios are incredibly unlikely, this is someone’s wedding day we’re talking about. We’ve heard enough stories of lost memory cards and crashed hard drives to have an appreciation for the pain that comes from telling a couple that they won’t be getting any of their images back. And we hope that, God-willing, we never have to have that conversation.
That’s why some combination of physical backups (on hard-drives or memory cards) and online backup (on a cloud-based server) is probably your best bet. Of course, online storage is expensive and hard drives take up physical space in your home or office, so you’ll eventually run into some limits, especially as you shoot more and shoot in larger file sizes.
The first wedding we ever shot (two photographers, each with one crop-sensor camera, barely 450 final images) took up 31 GB, and we only shot three weddings that entire year. Just one of the weddings we shot this past fall (three photographers, five full-frame cameras, 5,000+ raw images and 1,300+ final edited images) took up almost 200 GB, and we shot 40 weddings last year. Clearly, your systems will have to grow and adapt with time, just like your photography will! But that’s not a free pass to just throw caution to the wind and backup your images whenever and however you feel like it that day.
As a general rule, after you deliver a wedding, you can be less strict about the backups. After all, the most important thing is that your clients get their wedding images! Maybe your weddings will exist in three or four places (some combination of hard drives, memory cards, and cloud storage) while you’re working on them. Then once your clients have their online gallery, you can just keep the raw files on an external hard drive or in the cloud from then on. Since the clients have their online gallery (and, in theory, have downloaded the files to their own devices), existing in just one place after that is probably plenty.
As promised, here’s your peek behind the curtain: our full backup system.
Why do we keep the raw files, and not just the JPGS? So we can re-edit them in the future if we want to! As artists, our art is always growing and progressing. And there have been two distinct periods in our career where our editing style has made a big shift. So if we want to have a consistent website, every image we show needs to be in that new editing style! But maybe the content of old images is still good. So we’d rather re-edit the raw files than just throw them away!
Backup will, of course, look different for each photographer, and will surely change as your business scales. But a word of caution for the wise: decide on a system, stick to it, and stay organized. There’s nothing more frustrating than scouring through a handful of memory cards, a half-dozen hard drives, and logging into four different cloud storage services just to find that one images that the bride asked for!
Thanks for reading! In the next segment, we’ll get into the actual work you do on the wedding images, but in the meantime, go back up your photos!!
If you’re interested in learning more from us personally, and joining a community of other photographers also striving to grow their businesses, click here to join our Facebook Community, Mastering the Wedding Photography Biz with Hunter and Sarah!