What is a Photography Editing Workflow and Why Do I Need One?

Systems, workflows and ways to be more efficient with your time - if you’re anywhere in the online entrepreneur world (which you must be if you found this blog post) then I’m sure you’ve heard some of the hullabaloo about keeping yourself in check as a small business owner.

There’s client management systems to keep your happy customers happy, outlines for how to post on social media and coffee dates with potential clients, but have you ever thought of how to best utilize your time in your portrait photography workflow?

If I can be honest with you, I didn’t realize how vital a sustainable, consistent and streamlined editing workflow was until it was probably a liiiitle too late. Like, I’ve injured my back from too much stress and can’t sit for more than 30 minutes at a time, too late.

If you’re a portrait photographer who works with clients you love but feel like you may be spending too much time behind your computer screen editing - I feel ya. Here’s a fun explanation of what a editing workflow is, why you need one and how to design one for yourself (plus, I’ll show you my exact workflow to show you what I mean).

What is a photography editing workflow and why do I need one

So, what is a photography editing workflow?

An editing workflow is exactly what it sounds like. Portrait photographers who work with clients can easily get backed up on editing sessions - between actually shooting the sessions, running your business, keeping up with current and future clients plus still remembering to eat and sleep sometimes, it’s almost destined for you to fall behind on editing. What that leads to is a stressed out you, dissatisfied clients and bad business.

Workflows are basically what you design for yourself and your business to most efficiently and quickly get your work done without wasting your limited time. It entails everything from right after your portrait session all the way through to delivering the final edited photos to your portrait clients.

What my photography editing workflow looks like:

Right after the portrait session I come home and back up the photos onto 2 external hard drives, my computer and the cloud. Then when I’m ready to edit, I cull through Lightroom and label all the photos I plan to give the clients with a blue color label, and all the photos I plan to delete with the red color label (so I don’t end up editing photos I don’t want).

Then I edit the photos I loved with Lightroom presets and brushes until I’m happy with how they look (presets save me time and help the images look more consistent). I check for consistency in colors and overall tone of the photo, edit for blemishes, and make sure they all look beautiful!

Once I’m happy with the entire session and feel that it represents my work and that my clients will love it, I export for both web optimized and print resolution and upload both to an online gallery for the client to access.

I go more in depth into the exact steps and tools I use for my workflow in this free video tutorial which you can grab here!

Why do I need a photography editing workflow?

If you work with clients and want to run a sustainable and efficient business that doesn’t make you want to rip your hair out - you’ll want a photography editing workflow that you can use consistently for years. Hsaving a workflow takes the guesswork out of what you should do next or if you’re wasting time on something possibly insignificant - should I edit this photo even though it looks exactly like the next one I took?

Easy workflows keep your sanity and health in check

I mentioned this in the intro and I want to touch on it again - having a sustainable workflow for your portrait photography business is vital for the sustainability of your career and your physical well being. I did a terrible job of utilizing my time in editing and it wasn’t until I literally couldn’t sit down for very long that I decided it was time to figure something out.

You don’t have to wait until you desperately need a good system to have one - figuring out the steps that work best for you and your business right now while you’re able is looking ahead for the future (not wasting time).

Keep your current clients happy (which will lead to referrals)

You probably already know that always giving your clients their galleries when they’re told they’ll receive them is good business and builds trust - but imagine how good it would feel to give your clients their gallery BEFORE the deadline? Like, way before?

If you flushed out a portrait session within a week and gave your unsuspecting clients their photos that quickly - they would gush over your professionalism, tell their friends and family about how amazing you are, and refer you to everyone who would listen. Having a strong and sustainable editing workflow will help you crank out those sessions quickly because you know the exact steps you need to take and how long it will take you to complete.

Builds trust with potential clients

Ya know how I was just saying that getting your clients their photos before the deadline will help lead to referrals? Your raving fans will let everyone know about you which will make those potential clients who need a portrait photographer feel confident in knowing the type of treatment you’ll provide them. If you can replicate that same workflow you did the first time to get the gallery edited in a week, you can do it again and the process will continue. Word of mouth referrals are one of the biggest contributors to portrait photographers sustaining their business - why not make use of it?

If you want a bit more insight into what a photography editing workflow looks like I go in depth into the exact steps I take with each client in my free video training you can grab here!


Free Lightroom Portrait Editing Workflow Tutorial

Watch my free video training and see my exact Lightroom workflow for portrait sessions

Katharine Hannah

Katharine’s work has graced the walls of institutions such as The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Harold Washington Library of Chicago, and local galleries such as Dreambox Gallery, Siragus Gallery and Blick Art Materials. She has also been featured on websites such as the Huffington Post, Phlearn, Fstoppers, Tigress Magazine for Girls, Bitchtopia, and Golden Boy Press.

In addition to photography, Katharine has been a mentor and educator in the arts since 2013. She has worked with students in various organizations and projects over the last two years, including Hive Chicago’s PROjectUS initiative and Digital Youth Network’s Digital Diva’s and Chicago City of Learning programs.