client workflow

by Winnie Bruce

I just finished my busiest holiday season, and with that came the need to keep things organized. With how busy things are, it’s easy to get lost with keeping everything organized. The key is to start with keeping things organized right from the very start. It’s always the hardest going back to the beginning and retracing steps so it’s best to just get it out of the way, and have a flow. It starts with the very first inquiry email.

Whenever I get inquiry emails, I always try ask if I can meet the clients in person. I like it this way because we get to meet in person prior to the shoot, and during client consults, I get a lot of things out of the way like contract signing, session deposits, and also get to talk about what kind of session they’re looking for.

I first started out with paper contracts, and I still do use them for some sessions, but for the majority of my sessions, I use my iPad. I have found it easier though to use an app on my iPad to do contracts. I use Photographer Contract maker, and it’s only $2.99 at the app store. It has great features where it saves all my contracts, the client can sign on the ipad, I can plug in information like session information. I also like how when I input client contact information, it automatically saves all information on my iPad’s contact database, and by syncing it with the cloud, I get all the same information on my iPhone, and iMac. The best part about this contract is that I am able to email the contract to my client so they’re able to keep the same copy that I get to keep also.

client workflow photo

client workflow photo

I print out the contract that’s emailed to me by my client, and I place it in a folder with their name on it. My friend Missy B photography gave me this tip, so I thank her for keeping my office a lot more organized. I place a checklist right outside the folder so I can keep track on how much progress I’ve done with the particular client’s session. I go back to it per step just to make sure that I know exactly where I’m at and that I’m not forgetting anything. I bought one on Etsy, or of course, you can make your own. I like this one in particular from SpikeandPippa. It’s an 8-piece form, which is completely customizable for your needs. It also has a client information form so I’m able to note down during the consult what kind of session we’re doing, and the names of everyone I’m photographing, and any other special notes.

client workflow photo

I really take advantage of iCloud. I use the calendar to sync my schedule between all of my devices, but I also am old school so I still keep a white board calendar to make sure that just in case technology gets the best of me, I have everything still.

I tell my clients that I will send them a confirmation email a couple days before their session, so I just email them and confirm with them everything that we discussed. I refer to the client information form to make sure that I have all the information correct. I go back to my checklist also to make sure that everything is on the right track.

Once I do their session, I upload the photos out of my memory cards right away. I’m semi-paranoid that my card might get corrupt, or I may lose it. I have my desktop organized to several categories: needs to be edited, waiting for order, need to send in order, transfer to external hard drive, miscellaneous, and documents. I put the name of the session for the folder, and the date when it is due for turnover. I used to save my pictures in the pictures folder, but I’ve just found it much easier when I put it at the desktop. I see right away what I’m working on, and I put them in order. It makes it less confusing for me to keep up on what’s next on the editing dock. Also, right after their session is when I plug-in at excel all the fees collected, mileage, taxes charged, and any other extra expenses spent on the day of the session.

client workflow photo

I open up all my images in Bridge. I like it a lot and it makes it easier for me to organize things. When I upload my pictures, I keep a subfolder and title it RAW to indicate that this is where I want my RAW images to land. In Bridge, I rate the photos that I want to keep with 5 stars. I click on show filter, and then I have all 5 star rated photos show. I move them then to a new subfolder called Final Raw.  From there, I edit first in ACR, then Photoshop. I save my edited photos in another subfolder titled PSD so I know that is where my master edits land. Once I am done with them, I batch rename all my PSD files in bridge to make sure that all their numbers are in order. This makes it easier for me once the orders come in.

client workflow photo

I then batch convert all my PSD images to JPEG, these are now what I upload to my gallery. I use Zenfolio, and my clients are able to buy their images from there.  There are other services out there that do the same gallery ordering system. Once I get the order in, Zenfolio shows me exactly what the file numbers are, a tiny thumbnail of the image ordered, and this is where naming them in order comes in handy; it makes it easier for me to find the files that my clients want. I do make a printout of the order itself because it makes it easier for me to keep track on what photos were ordered.  When I pull up the images for ordering, I don’t save them in the same PSD folder, I have a new folder now called Print Orders that I also leave on my desktop. Also, I do use PSD files when I order prints, and not the JPEG files. I save the images ordered for prints in the Print Orders folder as jpeg so that I do not contaminate the master files. I would hate to save an image that I just cropped 5×7 in the PSD or JPEG folder, especially since I leave my edited files in the native 2:3 ratios.

client workflow photo

Once the orders come in, I refer to the print out that I made of the orders sent to double check that I received the same ones that I sent in. I have my packaging items organized in a little cabinet in my office. I have everything in there, and I just pull everything out when I’m packaging my products. Once my clients receive, I go back to the checklist again and make sure I have done all of the important items on the list. I then place the client’s folder in my client file organizer, which is organized into categories: Sessions booked, Sessions done, and grow with me babies for my baby planners.

client workflow photo

This particular workflow works for my portraiture business. It took me a couple years, and a lot of unorganized months before I realize that I needed to have a proper system to keep my sanity. It also makes it easier for me at the end of the year because I can pull up all the numbers that I need. I hope this helps with keeping your workflow organized as well!

client workflow photoWinnie Bruce, Washington DC
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Winnie is a portrait photographer specializing on families, children, and newborns in the Baltimore / DC area. Being a photographer is her full-time job, but she is also a mommy to Elliott and Finnegan, and an Air Force wife. Winnie shoots both Canon and Nikon cameras, and enjoys them both thoroughly. When she first started with photography, she intended to be a food photographer, and was an aspiring chef. Portraiture though has definitely found a special place in her heart. Winnie enjoys shopping, specially at stores like Anthropologie, functions on copious amounts of coffee, and loves listening to sports talk radio.

Read all photography tutorials from Winnie Bruce.

61 Comments

  • Elena says:

    Such good info! Do you do in person ordering. Still bummed we didn’t run into each other at WPPI! ;)

    • Winnie Bruce says:

      hi Elena! I do, sometimes. I wish my schedule permitted to do it all the time. And yes, I wish we were able to meet up!! Next year =)

  • amy kay says:

    This is so helpful! Thanks for sharing!

  • Christina T says:

    in the very first image what program is that?

  • Kimberley says:

    Awesome advice! I am working on nailing down my client workflow and this is going to help me hugely! Thanks so much!!

  • Tina says:

    WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh how I would love to fly you up here to organize me but this is a great start! SO HELPFUL and I appreciate you doing this blog article! (Love your desk too…..cute!!!)

  • Tara says:

    thank you for sharing!

  • Love your system, Winnie!!

  • Cary says:

    Great info, tfs :)

  • I love this! I love being organized :) thank you so much for sharing!!!

  • Kim says:

    Great system! Thanks for sharing.

  • Cassidy says:

    Super helpful tips, thanks for sharing!

  • jitka jahn says:

    Thank you for sharing your article. Very very helpful. I have silly question…How do you batch convert all your PSD images to JPEG???
    Thank you for sharing all your tips!

    • Winnie Bruce says:

      Hi Jitka! Just wanted to make sure you got my message back on Facebook =)

      • jitka jahn says:

        Winnie, thank you very much! I did get your message, and I am sorry I did nor respond sooner. I I was busy trying to make my desktop looking so smart as yours. Love the ideas with edited folders… Thank you once again!

  • Mara Vaughan says:

    I loved this article even though I’m not in business. I think it is going to help me with my personal workflow. I love your desktop, especially – awesome idea to keep everything so visual!

  • Emily says:

    I love your boxes in the bottom collage! Where did you find them?

  • judy says:

    It’s always fun to see how others organize! Thank you so much….very helpful :)

  • Carole says:

    Wow! What great information for someone like me-just starting out. I will feel so much more confident in my business practice with this type of organizational workflow.
    Thanks so much!

  • Camille says:

    Hi Winnie! Great post. See you on April 1st!

  • Jodi Arego says:

    Your workspace is so pretty! Thanks for sharing how you handle your workflow with us, Winnie!

  • These are great tips, thank you!

  • Kelly R says:

    Wow – great post! I feel like reorganizing myself now! :) Love love love.

  • Maryrose S says:

    I really enjoyed this article! I’m in the process of fine tuning my own workflow and you provided some helpful tips. I LOVE how your computer desktop is organized! Did you just upload a photo as your wallpaper to provide the different boxes? (At least, I think that was the desktop screen shot)

    • Winnie Bruce says:

      Hi Maryrose,

      yes, that’s what I did. I just made a template in Photoshop, and uploaded it as my wallpaper =)

  • Stephanie says:

    Winnie – this rules! Thanks so much for sharing. Which printer do you use for your photos?

  • This was so helpful. I have been struggling to figure out where to store everything. I will definitely give your system a try! Thank you so much.

  • Mireia says:

    Thank you for sharing your workflow!! You say you convert to jpg in Bridge, what about the sharpening?? Yo do it in yoir psd files or when you convert to jpg? You adapt this sharpening to web and then modify it to print????

    • Winnie Bruce says:

      I don’t overly sharpen my PSDs. The ones I use for web, I sharpen first for web, then save them as jpeg. The ones I use for print, I again use my PSD files, then sharpen for print, and save them separately. I do this so that I don’t overly sharpen my master edits.

  • Carla says:

    I love this and will be using some of you tips!! I am some unorganized and it has always hurt me in the end.

  • Emily says:

    This is super helpful and informative…..lots of great tips that I never would have thought of! Thank you!!

  • Marybeth says:

    Wow what great tips! Definitely will keep these in mind when I start my business!

  • Agnes Plonka says:

    great tips!! I really like the way you organized everything!! I need to try to do the same :)

  • Catherine says:

    Wow, you are so organized! This is definitely my weakness!

  • Lisa says:

    Wow, you are so organized Winnie! Definitely something to aspire to!!

  • Jenny Lens says:

    Winnie: you are such an inspiration!!! Some ppl don’t handle the prints but let labs you choose from Photoshelter or Smugmug do the fulfillment. I don’t know if Zenfolio has that option. Depends upon you: seeing the clients again with the product could lead to future sales.

    One question/suggestion: Adobe Lightroom vs Bridge …. I absolutely love LR! In addition to being able to organize files (rename, rate by stars or color), you can open and process Raw files.

    Plus there’s tons of free and inexpensive presets. I’m not a huge fan of presets for every photo, but presets are very popular for weddings and portraiture. Plus LR is great for batch processing … you can readily resize/rename and output files as jpgs, include yr watermark, and more, into its own folder.

    I only use Photoshop when I want to retouch or use layers. Otherwise, LR has revolutionized my work flow. I’ve been using (and in the 1990s, teaching) Photoshop since version 1, before layers.

    I always wanted a program like Lightroom, just to view, organize, rename and rate photos. But it’s a full-fledged processing program too. If you want additional tools/control, you can send an image to Photoshop, edit it, and then reopen it again in Lightroom.

    Finally, Lightroom is EASY to learn! Plus there’s tons online to help whenever stuck.

    Now to be as organized as you! Wow.

    • Winnie Bruce says:

      Thanks Jenny! I have tried lightroom 4 years ago, gave it a whack again this week, and my ACR edits just look different than my lightroom edits for some reason. I’m sort of a creature of habit too I guess hehe. The way I edit my images, I just can’t get the same look out of Light room, so I do edit a lot in Photoshop =). Thank you so much for the suggestion. I think Lightroom and I still have a lot of getting to know with each other. I haven’t quite given up on it just yet ;)

      • Winnie Bruce says:

        Also, I know that other companies light shootproof let you handle self-fulfillment. I just like handling the prints myself because I’m a bit weird with how the quality of the prints should come, specially when they’re enlargements. I just love meeting with the clients also and giving them their package! =)

      • Jenny Lens says:

        Hi Winnie,

        Thanks for the response. Final LR question: using LR 4? Cos version 4 yrs ago way dif than now. They’ve changed dials and upgraded how it processes images.

        LR: you can do lots of selective editing with adj brushes, there’s masks, spot removal for skin issues esp, all kinds of cool tools. Plus work thru more images more efficiently, faster. Also see and compare images WITHIN LR, compare them, so many are using for workflow issues.

        And frankly, what WE see as a dif bet ACR and LR is NOT what clients see. If it means we can work a bit more efficiently without compromising the image … we have such trained, critical eyes. But clients … if the dif is subtle, it doesn’t matter.

        I’m not saying to print crap images. But I’ve used TONS of labs and finally digital for my prints. There’s far more variation in labs, even digital color. The technology is finally improved, but sometimes issues WE see, others don’t see. I’ve been at this a long, long time. And I’m a control freak when it comes to my work!

        I ‘get’ you about handling yr prints … and seeing clients reactions when they get the prints is a great way to upsell or ask them to tell others. Esp if you ask them to bring their friends! When others see it and meet you, you’ll get more appts. Learned that from Sue Bryce, Australia’s top portrait photog.

        My clients are all over the world re my older punk pix, and w/ltd budgets. So having labs do fulfillment, esp frames, is great. BREAKS my heart that ppl spend more on frames than prints. So I wanna piece of that! Means unsigned, and that’s an issue.

        For signed prints, I’m gonna sell them via a major rock n roll online gallery who approached me. They market to higher end clients, which I simply cannot do. Ppl rather spend more money for a gallery than directly from the photographer … marketing, ya know!

        Gotta do what’s good for our clients and our wallets, so we can do what we love: take photos!

        LR: so many lifestyle photogs using it. Tons of free vids. One trend is disturbing: GREAT presets, weird names. I’ve got to rename them so they describe the preset. Same w/actions. Wassup w/weird names?

  • Jodi Williams says:

    So, so helpful. Thank you! I need to get organized…

  • Brandy says:

    This is amazingly helpful. Thank you so much for such a detailed share on something I’m sure people struggle for a long time with trying to figure out. I’m definitely going to implement the contract app you mentioned, this is the first I have heard of it!

  • Stephanie says:

    Winnie, you are simply amazing. Thank you so much for being such a giving, kind hearted person. You have quickly become someone that I look up to. Thank you!!!

  • Jesamin C. says:

    Philippinos unite!

  • Jessica Reischel says:

    Very inspiring -even though I am not in business. :-) Thank you!!

  • Traci Shane says:

    Hi Winne I was just reading your organization article and I still use paper contracts and want to get away from that. I was looking for your contract app in the app store and it is coming up without any matching results. What should I look under? Thanks so much Traci

  • Mamad M says:

    I so need to get organised. Thank you for this.

  • Valerie D says:

    Great blog! Thank you for your tips on organizing workflow. This is my greatest struggle as a photographer!

  • valerie says:

    Woah, love this!!! Thanks so much for sharing your tips!!

  • Thank you for putting all this info out there for me. I am reorganizing my business and this is extremely helpful. I’m wondering if that contract app works on PC’s too. I’ll look it up. Do you have any tips on client workflow, such as after the session, when do you meet and get the order, etc.? I am finding that this is slipping for me and I need to control that process more. Thanks!!

  • Kristen says:

    Hi Winnie. Thank you for posting this article. Great tips! I looked for the photography contract maker app you mentioned but was unable to find it. Does it go by some other name? Thanks!

  • Dana B. says:

    One question, I do love the workflow form you have. I have searched on Etsy, nothing compares. I could not find that vendor “spikeandpippa”. Do you by chance have a link to find that? Or know how I can find it?

    Thanks so much! Love the information. You are very helpful!

  • Sabrina says:

    Where did you get your background for your computer? i would like to have one just like that?

  • Maria says:

    Hi Winnie! I have searched everywhere for that workflow checklist, any chance you have a direct link? I can’t find spikeandpippa anywhere on etsy.

    Thanks!

  • Mindy Smith says:

    I’ve looked for that checklist too and I can’t find it anywhere! Thanks!!

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