Twenty Shoots in One Week - Process and Workflow
While it’s generally a good practice to streamline the production of any shoot by using tools to automate any repeatable tasks, each commission has unique requirements. Because each job is different, you’ll need to remain flexible in your approach. This means keeping true to your vision and values but know when you need to deviate from your regular practices to serve the needs of your clients and photography.
The Assignment and Overall Process
For this assignment, I’m documenting 20 events in a week for an international art festival here in Austin. The shoots are a mix of networking events, art installations, and art rehearsals. Since the work is needed to promote the festival while it’s happening, I proposed to the client to deliver finished images after each shoot. The deadline is by end of each day but since I want to add some value while also keeping my post-production time streamlined my personal goal was to deliver a handful of finished images within a couple of hours after each shoot. Since I’m doing multiple shoots per day, a streamlined workflow that results in quality photography is key to overall success here.
As a vision based photographer, you are being hired for your unique perspective on the world. This means that while your lifestyle practices will shift during a shoot, overall you must remain true to yourself since this is the main reason why you are being hired in the first place. Every day we have routines that we go through that we must not change in order for a successful shoot. For me, my wellness practices and time with my family is a top priority as well as making sure I give my body the right fuel it needs to function right. Operating with a focused mind and a healthy body makes us a better photographer and is something we should never overlook as it will impact the quality of our work.
I like to start each morning with a quick 10 minute guided meditation, some water or non-caffeinated tea, then after my son is awake, my wife or I start breakfast. My showers start with warm water and end with about 30 seconds of cold water which gives me a chance to practice controlled breathing. If my schedule allows, I like to have one cup of coffee followed by a deeper meditation around 11 am. If not, I have some type of coffee on the go at 11 am with added fat to reduce jitters and have a meditation in the evening.
So that I could be of service to my client and not get trapped in post-production hell, I would need to deliver finished photos within two hours after every shoot. My ideal post process would be something like using Capture 1 Pro (C1 Pro) with a small laptop or Microsoft Surface with LTE to ingest, edit then export to a folder on Google Drive shared with the client. Since my laptop is a 15” MacBook Pro it was a bit too big for my liking to take with me on 20 shoots and I don’t have a Surface Pro anymore so here’s what I came up with.
Using my 1st Gen iPad Pro with LTE I would import a small portion of the images captured into the iOS Photos App. From here, I would favorite around a dozen or so images. From the default Favorites collection in Photos, I would send ten images at a time to Lightroom CC then import into the shoots corresponding album. At this time LRCC would begin to upload to Creative Cloud so it’s important not to import the entire shoot otherwise it will severely bog down the LTE connection. Once the upload began I would drive to the next location leaving the iPad unlocked so by the time I arrived for the next shoot everything was uploaded and ready for the client. All albums were created and shared as galleries with the client in advance to a Google Doc. The shared gallery would only show the clients images flagged as Picks so the moment the images were finished and flagged as Picks they would be available to download. What’s more, if later I wanted to make any adjustments, LRCC would update the image on the client's side without any more work on my end. At the end of each shoot day, I would add the remainder of each shoot to the shared album/gallery.
Not a complicated workflow but there was no option for things like easily adding metadata or renaming due to the limitations of iOS or LRCC. Knowing my camera and lenses was key to getting my work as close to done in camera as possible. Most of the time, if I needed any slight tweaking, I could do that in LRCC as the photos were uploading and in some cases, I used LRCCs Auto Adjustments which can be quite effective.
As I’m writing this, I’m in the process of going over the body of work in Capture 1 Pro on my Mac which, yes is causing me more work, but the quality of the renders is far superior in Capture One than with Lightroom CC especially if you’re using a Fujifilm X system which I am.
After leaving my sponsorship with Panasonic I spent thousands of dollars and a years time looking for the right (baseline) system for me. Doing this meant me realigning my vision and values as a photographer and in the process, I created a class called Finding the Photographers Vision. After going through my own course and finding my vision free of corporate interests I found that a simple system with two X-Pro 2’s and three primes worked for 99% of what I’m creating. I purchased everything used and saved a ton of money doing it. Because photography is a meditative art, it’s important that the gear presents as little of a barrier as possible. I could use almost any gear to do my work but I found that this kit has worked very well for me and I’m super happy with the results. Know your vision first, then get what helps you achieve that vision. I suspect that you will find what you need is not the latest and greatest but the most useful and that will assist you in making your best work ever. Remember everything is a compromise so don’t fret over little things. When you have an assignment, personal or professional, there’s no room to nitpick over slightly better ISO or AF speeds. When it’s time to create, use what works for you and trust your emotions here. If the gear you have is not a fit sell it, take the financial hit, and get back to creating. That said, here’s my kit:
What I will change for the next shoot
Now that I’m a couple of hours into getting the content into Capture 1 Pro I wish I had just brought my MacBook Pro, made a quick selection, airdrop to my iPhone and send to a Google Photos Album for the client. Google Photos is a collaborative workspace, works with videos, .tif, even raw and every one of my clients has a G Suite account. As of this writing, I'm thinking that when the time comes for my iPad and Mac to be replaced I’m going to take another look at a Surface Pro device either as an addition to my kit or to fully replace my Mac. Content velocity is important to most of my clients today so being able to deliver fast makes my client's jobs easier. Since Capture 1 Pro and other tools, I use daily like Evernote, Chrome, and Gmail are platform independent, what OS I’m on is not as important as it was years ago. Owning a Surface Pro 3 some years ago, I can tell you it was a very cool device but too slow for my needs however that might be different today.
I love people not products and have no allegiance to any one product but in terms of importance, the camera and software that I use come before the computer it’s running on. If I can be faster, more efficient at my job I have more time to spend with people which overall makes for a better life.
While this was a super fun job, only a few images I can claim as my art. This is because while everything I shoot has some of my personality in it (I’m a vision-based creator) when documenting a performance of another artist, they are the creator and the work is about them, not I. Also, basic event photography is not an area of focus for me but I do get hired for event work and am more than happy to do it. As a professional, you must understand that when you have your vision defined, your work will inspire and you will get asked to shoot a variety of subject matter. If the work is far off from my vision I will decline but in the case of event or art documentation, I’d say it’s a good fit for regular work. Also before you say “yes” to a shoot it’s a good idea to be working with people that you like and respect which was the case here. It’s always an honor to be asked to photograph for individuals or brands regardless if it’s a fit or not. Being a professional photographer goes far beyond making a photo look “good enough” for sharing on socials or in print. We must consider our personal wellness, the impact on our communities and of course how can we be of service to our clients.