Outsourcing your wedding photography workflow could be one of the most important business decisions you make.
Here’s a topic that might just be as controversial as the shoot-and-sell versus shoot-and-share business models. Opinions on this topic are polarizing to say the least. I’m talking about wedding photography workflow and outsourcing your post production (GASP!). Yes, this is a professional service that exists for photographers, specifically wedding photographers. And, for my studio, it has actually allowed us to build our wedding photography business. This article has not been written to review the different services. I’ll go ahead and name a few of them and let you decide if this is something for your own business. What I’m going to focus on is outsourcing as a business operations model and why it might just work for you.
Looking back to third quarter 2012, that’s when our wedding business really took off. On top of that, we were running a busy studio with various photographers shooting portraits, commercial projects, boudoir and whatever other project walked through the door. Now, photographing weddings was definitely a revenue generator and although we were just taking off with weddings, we knew we wanted to have something to stand above our competition. It came down to turn around time.
After shooting a wedding, sitting down at your computer to get working is like the beginning of a very, very long road trip. All of which just eats your time. But with us, our other shoots, work and projects didn’t stop to allow us to dedicate all of our time to culling, processing, color correcting, spot removal, artistic editing, album building, exporting jpgs, blogging, posting, delivering, etc, etc… So, we looked to Lavalu for help.
We considered a few different providers: ShootDotEdit and Photographer’s Edit before choosing Lavalu. All three companies did basically the same thing, we just found Lavalu’s customer service in line with how we work.
Our Wedding Photography Workflow
- Shoot wedding.
- We do a basic cull, getting rid of obvious misfires, etc. (NO need to pay for that.)
- Overnight FTP upload of raw files to Lavalu.
- Fill out Lavalu’s order form requesting ‘Culling’ to approximate number of images included in the client’s package and ‘Image Correction’ based on the profile they have on file. In the notes section, we ask them to keep a copy of the finished files as an album design order will be coming.
- A few days later later, Lavalu sends us back a Lightroom Catalog. We pair up the LRCAT with the images and make any little adjustments like cropping.
- Reveal images to clients. Upload images to a gallery; we use Zenfolio.
- Clients select their “must have” images for their album.
- We go back to Lavalu and fill out their Album Design Order Form, this time noting about 2 hours of ‘Artistic Editing/Retouching’ time — this allows for dodging, burning, b/w conversion and some skin softening.
- A few days later, Lavalu sends an online album proof where we can work with the client to make notes and changes. There are a total of three rounds of album edits. At this point, we also work with the client to choose the album cover.
- Once the final album is approved, Lavalu sends us .psds, which we convert to .jpgs and send to the album company. We typically use Finao.
- Once the work is completed, Lavalu sends us an online invoice which we can pay with a credit card or PayPal.
So, even with using Lavalu, there are a lot of steps in completing a wedding project. And, if you’re a “one wo/man show” working from home, doing all of this yourself, you know that this is almost more than a full time job. By sending our wedding editing to Lavalu, we literally SAVE up to TEN DAYS of processing and album design time. In 2014, we conservatively expect to shoot 24 weddings. That’s over TWO HUNDRED DAYS SAVED! What are we doing in those two hundred days? Shooting more projects and making more money! What about turn around time? From the wedding to the first reveal and gallery, we’re averaging about a FIVE DAY TURNAROUND TIME. This has had all sorts of positive results, with the most frequent client comment something to the effect of “ Wow! Thank you! My friend waited months just to see her photos!”
So, how much does this cost in real dollars? In 2013, our average invoice from Lavalu was about $675.00 USD for image processing and album design. Seem like a lot? Well, if you break it down to days saved, it actually worked out to an overall savings for our studio. Another, not so obvious benefit was how outsourcing affected our pricing. Because we now have a concrete service that we had to build into our wedding photography prices, it actually allowed us to increase our prices and work with the higher end clients. True, our margins take a bit of a hit, but it’s only about 10% which is easily made up in our other projects.
Only you can answer the question if outsourcing is right for you. But, at the end of the day you’re in business to make money and we all know that time is money.
Let’s Get the Conversation Started
- Would you ever outsource your editing? Why / Why not?
- What are some things you wish you could do, but don’t have the time?
- Can you share a time saving tip?
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