Creating the Perfect Production Workflow with Michael Anthony
Let’s talk about a dirty secret in the photography industry. Photographers are bad at business. You probably already know that. Photographers spend much of their time learning how to take pretty photos, a little bit less time learning how to sell them, but almost no time learning how to snag the clients that the first two things bring them.
Building a proper infrastructure in your business is much more important than learning how to take pretty photos. I am not discounting the importance of being a good photographer by any means. I am saying that if you don’t have the processes in place to deliver an excellent overall client experience, eventually nobody will care about your pretty pictures.
That brings me to post-production and print delivery. This is the most important part of the client journey because it’s usually the last stage in the process. Without a good system in place, you will fail. Let’s break down our client journey, which starts the day after the wedding. As always, keep in mind that if you are not shooting weddings, the concepts still apply; adjust them as needed for your genre.
Communication is the most important thing you can do after the wedding day. This is your opportunity to set your clients’ expectations. Here are a few things you should be taking into consideration in the days following a wedding.
Give your clients an idea of how long it will take to get their images ready. If you bring them in for a preview of their pictures, which leverages the best possible client experience, send them dates and times or a link to your calendar to make it easier for them to schedule.
Review and Survey
Some people recommend waiting until the clients see their images to ask for reviews. You can do that, but if you know that they had an excellent experience, send them an email with a link to a survey if you are a multi-shooter studio, or just directly to a review site if you know they were happy. Automate this process with templates as much as you can. Surveying your clients reveals issues in the client experience that you can rectify in the future. Software like SurveyMonkey is free and easy to integrate into your website.
Your email communication should include a thank you, but there’s nothing like a handwritten note sent to your clients the day after the wedding. Use Bond.co to schedule letters to go out ahead of time. They are branded and handwritten.
If you have been following my journey for a while, you know that outsourcing our edits was one of the most important things we did to scale in the beginning. Many of you don’t do this, so I will walk you through an example of how we set up our post-production workflow.
To do all of this and to make sure that you are holding yourself accountable, it’s essential to use software to track your progress and set due dates. We use Asana, which was recommended by Sal and his team. Other collaboration software includes Monday, Teamwork and Trello. We have been using Asana for three months, and it has changed the way we run our business.
- Night of wedding or morning after: Download and cull wedding in Photo Mechanic
- Back up files off site
- Create file structure tree: Make sure this process is repeatable
- Rejected Raws
- Selected Raws
- LR catalog
- Edited JPEGs
- Print res
- Web res with watermark
- Album selections
- Album project file
- Album spreads
- Print order
- 20×30 canvas
- My amazing couple – 20×30 acrylic.jpg
- 20×30 canvas
- Import to Lightroom and render smart previews to edit
- Use a preset to ensure consistency
- Select creative edit images
- Tag vendor images
- Edit JPEGs in accordance with delivery deadline
- Export at night
- Upload to N-Vu, create galleries
- Send images to vendors (after clients see them)
You can see why we outsource this process. You can do it in house as long as you, the owner, aren’t doing it yourself. The full post-production process takes our studio 10 to 12 hours—before we even get to the client meeting. So, unless you have a full-time production assistant, hand off that process to someone else. As your business grows, evaluate your needs and decide which route works best for you.
So now your client comes in and they love what they bought from you. How does the next stage in the process work? Many photographers who are new to IPS struggle with fulfillment. They lack the organization to be able to fulfill client orders, which upsets clients.
Aside from making you more money, in-person sales makes for happier clients because you are making the entire process easy.
I am not afraid to tell you about my failures in business. There is no better way to teach you than to tell you how I have failed in endeavors that we have tried to excel at. We dropped the ball on fulfillment. Our process is based on years of trial and error.
A tracking system is crucial. Just as you need project management for post-production, project management for product production gets things done.
Don’t forget that whatever system you use, include due dates. That way, nothing slips through the cracks.
In a multi-team environment, we make sure projects get done in a timely fashion and split the work up using Asana.
During the sales session, get all the information you need to fulfill their order immediately. We used to send clients home to choose images in their package, but we changed that process when too many clients forgot to do it. We were also running into issues when they forgot what they bought.
By having them select images there and then, you can guide them to the best photos and ensure the product order is placed immediately after the sale.
Use a purchase contract. This helps cement client expectations, ensures they feel good about their purchase and protects your business. No transactions should ever take place without a contract.
The day your client makes a purchase, it’s crucial to outline all of the critical delivery dates and tasks they will need to complete. Ask them to choose album images if they didn’t have time to do it with you in the studio. Reiterate the timetables for your client. Include another thank you with this communication.
In an ever-growing social media–based business world, leveraging your client product purchases is essential. It sets the tone in our industry as more and more photographers move to full service, and allows us to show future clients how we take care of our current clients.
Building your production workflow doesn’t have to be hard. It takes time to set up, but with the right tools, you can take care of your clients by delivering beyond their expectations.