A lot of people think that being a wedding photographer is a glamorous life, afterall, we only work on the weekends right? HA! I'm sure that at some level of star power it becomes slightly glamorous- but until you get to that point... it's a lot of hard work, and right now I find myself working 16-20 hour days because of the pressure to get everything done before the holidays! If I were a "shoot & burn" photographer, it would definitely be easier because I wouldn't really care about the quality of my work, but from the moment I started creating images for other people... I just couldn't do it. I HAD to look at the images and make them ALL perfect. It was like I suddenly had developed OCD (not to make light of anyone who seriously has this illness). Well, this year has been a huge lesson in how that is not at ALL possible with just one person bringing in a full time workload.
So, as a little educational segment, I'd like to explain a bit about the process (aka: workflow) that my images go through that makes what I do different from something that can just be printed from a point & shoot camera... (which, if you need a new one for the holidays, I'm happy to give you some suggestions!)
- Wedding Day - capture images in RAW format, with professional Canon cameras, lenses, and flashes and with a really good knowledge of light and composition
- Backup - Download all images to backup hard drive and to main hard drive
- Favorites - Select and give extra special developing to my absolute favorite images, turning them into the works of art that I originally felt and perceived when I first captured them, start to feel like maybe I don't suck too badly
- Slideshow & Blog - Export images in different sizes, select music for slideshow, stitch music together if needed, add watermark and extra sharpiness to blog images, upload blog images to flickr, upload slideshow images to personal sever, write blog post
- Edit - realize that even with great cameras, lenses, and lighting, pictures only look "OK" and that some are just downright awful and should never be seen in public. Delete the downright awful pictures and keep everything that could be mildly career destroying, but might be interesting for a grandkid to find in 80 years.
- Develop - Take the mildly career destroying images and clean them up with color and exposure corrections, maybe a slight crop or straightening in the event that I happened to be walking at a tilt on the wedding day (note: images cannot be printed from undeveloped RAW files, these are "digital negatives")
- Upload & Archive - When the stars have aligned, I can upload all of the images from the wedding in 1-2 days. Usually the stars are scattered all over the place and it either takes forever to upload, with constant babysitting, or I just mail off the final images. All of the final images are archived on servers in California, and then finally placed on the online proofing website- Pictage. Pictage then has to verify all of the files to make sure none of them are corrupted before releasing them to you. If there are any corrupt files, I have to go back and fix them.
- Print & Burn CD/DVD - Double check to make sure DVD image numbers match Pictage image numbers in order to prevent future headaches and ordering confusion, burn a copy to send and a copy to keep, print with personalized image
- Album Design - Assemble favorite images into an initial draft design for an album using geometric equations of golden mean mathematics (j/k!!)
- Album Customization - Get feedback from client about album design preferences and create changes
- Album Printing & Binding - Album is hand-printed and hand-bound in the united states, sent to me for final approval, and then sent to client for happy enjoyment!
In the past, every step of this process was being handled by me (except 11). However, this year I encountered several disasters which taught me that it was going to be impossible to do all of this on my own. So, I hired people to help me with the steps that I felt comfortable turning over to someone else. As of right now, steps 5, 6, 7, 9, and 11 are all being taken care of by people I've hired- allowing me to focus on the things that really need MY special touch and attention.
Aside from everything above that needs to happen with each wedding, a lot of similar steps are required for each portrait shoot I do- but because those are much smaller, and I tend to use portraits as a creative playground to get a sense of each person's aesthetic, I handle more of the workflow on my own. Then there's also time meeting in person, on the phone, or over email, responding to the 50-100 emails I receive each day (which in itself can take hours), preparing images for promotion or contest, taking care of special orders, organizing financial records, TRAVELING (because I live in the middle of everthing, but close to nothing), and oh yeah... sleeping, eating, and going to the bathroom! Did I forget to mention that I also have a husband, friends, and family that like to see me once in a while? A dog that needs walking and feeding, a house that needs cleaning, a car that needs to be maintained, and, and, and, and...
As you can see... even with plenty of people helping me, I still have more "work" than I have hours in the day. All of my "personal" time usually centers around eating a meal or trying to sleep. The only thing I don't have right now, which might actually give me some of my life back, or at least work only 80 hours a week instead of 100+, is an office manager. I've been developing an entire list of things that an office manager could help me with...
- Burn & Print CDs
- Mail items
- Create slideshows
- Pull together images for magazines
- Prepare images for web/blog
- Publicize images
- Tag & organize images
- Download & backup images
- Make album changes
- Enter Contract Info
- Create birthday & anniversary ecards
- Order gifts
- Track inquiries and create mailing lists
- Build a blog book
- Organize office
- Frame & hang images
- Collect Reviews
- Write Press Releases
- Create Newsletters
- Organize archives
- Run bank errands
- Babysit FTP connection
- Place & track orders
- .... and the list goes on....
Even though it would be nice to have one right now, I've already spent a lot of time interviewing different people for the other jobs that I've outsourced, and because that took a lot of time, I know that finding an office manager who I would LOVE to work with and who can do all of these things independently is no small task.... especially in Terre Haute, IN. Of course, having an office manager also means I would need to be somewhat presentable each day they came to work for me... but I guess it's a small price to pay for getting a little of my life back!! If you actually read all of this... I could just hug you right now... but I have to get back to work!!!