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Behind the Scenes: A Photographer’s Turnaround Time

October 8, 2019

Filed in: For the Clients

Imagine this typical scenario: you’ve just put in a ton of effort into getting your family camera ready. You found everyone the perfect outfits, the session went smoothly, and now you’re SO excited to see the finished product! When you inquire about turnaround times and the photographer mentions that it’ll be a few weeks until you receive your images back, you can’t help but feel disappointment. You might be wondering, why does it take so long? Does it actually take a photographer several weeks to edit my gallery?

Let’s take a peek behind the scenes and dive into what goes into a photographer’s turnaround time. Full disclosure: this applies only to me and my business, but I do tie in the practices of others to give you a sense of why everyone has different turnaround times. You will find that just like any business, all photographers choose to run their businesses differently.

What the heck happens after a session? Once your session is completed, I come home and eject the memory card from my camera. I then upload your images onto my hard drive to make sure they’re saved in multiple locations.

What is my editing process? Once I’ve imported all of the photos from our session, it’s time for me to go through them and make sure that I’m choosing the best ones to edit for you. This is where some photographers differ, too. Some just use a program called ACR or Lightroom, while others use Photoshop and make more major changes. I personally use both. I flag the photos that I want to use and begin planning how I’m going to edit each individual image. For example, I do a lot of head swaps, removing things from the background, and so on. To me, being lifestyle oriented doesn’t mean that I leave the distracting imperfections in the frame. If we took a photo and there was an obnoxious sign or power line in the background, I’m going to take it out. This is just who I am and how I choose to edit my galleries.

Once I’ve flagged the photos, my true editing process begins. I edit each photo in several rounds, first applying a base preset that I have created. I then go through each individual photo and spend a few minutes tweaking that image to make sure the right tones are there, the right things are highlighted, etc. Once my Lightroom edits are complete, I import the photos into Photoshop to apply my finishing touches and to make any of the major changes that I mentioned above.

It’s important to note that every photographer has a different editing process, so every photographer’s turnaround time will therefore be different. Sometimes photographers outsource their editing, which allows them to give faster turnaround times. Other times, they don’t use two programs. Many don’t use Photoshop at all, and this cuts down on the editing time. Just to give you a sense of my workflow, a full hour long family session takes me about 4-6 hours to edit. Sometimes this is broken up into a couple days of editing, depending on my schedule, while other times it’s finished in one evening. It all depends on what I have going on during that time frame.

So, why a few weeks? Excellent question. All photographers have editing queues, which is the list of sessions that we need to edit. Your photographer’s turnaround time is also going to differ based on how busy he or she is, how many sessions he or she takes on a week, and also what time of year it is. Fall is peak season for us for both families and weddings. Each of my weeks in the fall looks pretty different. Sometimes I’ll have a day or two of mini sessions, as well as sessions on each day before and after. Some day I have sunrise and sunset sessions. I’m also really invested in providing the extra styling service, so I am interacting more with my clients. I have an ongoing list of clients in my editing queue, and I edit in the order of the session.

Here’s an example.

Let’s say your name is Sally, and you and your family had a session with me on Saturday September 1st. When you leave the session, you’re thinking that it won’t take too long to edit yours — in a way, you’re right! Before our session is even finished, though, my queue already looked something like this:

  • Rose + Family
  • Lucy 1st Year Milestone
  • Jane + Family
  • Josh + Sutton Engagement
  • Kristen + Family
  • Kelly Newborn Session
  • Michelle + Family
  • Rachel Newborn Session
  • Alyssa Fruit Bath Milestone Session

 

Therefore, when I add you to my queue after our session, it now looks like this:

  • Rose + Family
  • Lucy 1st Year Milestone
  • Jane + Family
  • Josh + Sutton Engagement
  • Kristen + Family
  • Kelly Newborn Session
  • Michelle + Family
  • Rachel Newborn Session
  • Alyssa Fruit Bath Milestone Session
  • Sally + Family (there you are!)

 

I typically edit one session per day about five days per week. There are so many other hats I wear as a business owner (responding to clients, sending out questionnaires, invoices, wardrobe options, etc) and as a mom of three, so this is what I can handle right now. Therefore, even though our session was on September 1st, my turnaround time is three weeks because I have nine sessions ahead of yours on my queue that I need to edit first. Sometimes I am a rock star and can get it done in two weeks – sometimes, I have a sick kid, get sick myself, or have a tough week where my kids need more of me. Therefore, three weeks is my personal turnaround time because it works for me and my family.

Everyone runs their business differently. Some people don’t edit very heavily and can therefore turnaround a gallery pretty quickly, or they aren’t as busy and can edit your session faster since they might not have as many clients. Others outsource editing altogether. A photographer’s turnaround time can also be even longer because that’s what works for his or her business.

Is peak season faster? No, quite the opposite. I’m one of the few photographers who doesn’t extend their turnaround time during peak season. Going by the logic above, more sessions per week would mean a longer editing queue. Therefore, I’m working doubly hard to get you your session in my current turnaround time. I know how important it is to have those holiday cards, so I do strive to get your images to you faster! But, I’m also just a single person with a family of my own. I ask for patience and grace.

Is there a way to get your session faster? Yes! I do offer a 72 hour rush fee for $100. You would get bumped to the top of my queue and have your session within 72 hours time from when you pay the rush fee.

Every photographer has a different process when it comes to running his or her business, and this includes turnaround times. They are very personal to each photographer’s workload, family life, and editing style. Just remember at the end of the day, we are all human beings just doing the best we can to get you your images quickly, while also ensuring top quality. I have very high standards when it comes to the images I give my clients, and I wouldn’t want to edit faster to cut quality or rush through my workflow, thus delivering a less than ideal finished product.

 

 

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