How I Planned the Shot: Busy-Season Workflow with Alissa Zimmerman
Summertime is prime time for on-location shooting at Salvatore Cincotta Photography. We’re based in the Midwest, which means unpredictable weather on a daily basis. We schedule senior shoots, engagements, families and headshots back to back and have come up with a seamless process to ensure everything runs as smoothly as possible. Having the right workflow in place from the beginning takes your studio to the next level, allowing you the time to focus on giving your clients the best possible experience instead of having to worry about the details on the back end, especially when things go wrong (and they always will).
With our crazy schedule, I like to choose two days per week to block off for shooting during busy season. We have set up a workflow that allows us to book five sessions per day; senior and engagement sessions last one and a half to two hours, and families and headshots last about an hour. It’s extremely important to allow enough time for travel and food, and for any unforeseen errors in the day (clients running late, traffic, etc.).
I start the booking session from the last time slot of the day and work forward as the bookings come in. This means we can use the first part of the day to get work done in the office and not throw a wrench in the schedule by booking a session mid-day. I also know Sal is not a morning person, so we make it so he doesn’t have to be anywhere first thing in the morning.
Our normal time slots for a shoot day are as follows:
9:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m. | Senior Session
11:00 a.m.–11:30 a.m. | Lunch
12:00 p.m.–2:00 p.m. | Senior Session
2:30 p.m.–4:30 p.m. | Senior or Engagement Session
5:00 p.m.–6:00 p.m. | Family Session or Headshot
6:30 p.m.–8:30 p.m. | Engagement Session
The back end.
17hats has been a game-changer for our studio. Having the ability to set up workflows for each type of shoot and customize each step of the process to send out auto reminders, follow-up emails and internal reminders to schedule previews is invaluable to our company. With this program, I feel confident knowing everything is getting done on the admin side of my job, and I can enjoy my time assisting on photo shoots and providing our clients the best experience possible.
I have set up specific workflows for each type of client who comes through our studio. It makes life so much easier when you take the time in the beginning to set up these workflows so you don’t have to waste time later tweaking them each time they go out. I have each workflow customized for senior sessions for boys, senior sessions for girls, engagement sessions in St. Louis, destination engagement sessions, etc. Having your workflows set up this specifically helps tremendously in the long run because the language is completely different in the emails going out and you don’t have to worry about setting everything up as auto-send.
During the shoot, you should be focused on getting the shots that matter, then get creative. For senior sessions, we know exactly what types of shots sell. Mom and Dad always buy the tight headshot as a 16×24 canvas of their son or daughter. Always. We know engagement session clients always buy the big signature edit type shots as a 20×30 acrylic and a 15×30 pano, so we choose scenes that lend to these types of shots.
Sal has a rhythm he works through, his progression, for each outfit and each scene. Tight, middle, wide. All of which are shot using a 70–200mm lens. Take it a step further and bust out an 11–24mm lens for a super wide shot—this shot makes for a great signature edit, your wow image from the session. Take it another step further, and put on an 85mm 1.2 lens for the tighter headshots to give you a stunning portrait with incredible depth of field.
Choosing the right locations for each outfit plays a huge part as well. We have specific parts of St. Louis we scout and try to stick within during each session. It makes no sense to waste time driving all around town when you can stay in one area and knock out all the scenes. All you have to do is change your perspective or the parts of each location you shoot in to give your portfolio some variety. We shoot in the same 20 to 25 locations in our area, and our work never looks the same.
Obstacles are inevitable. What can go wrong will go wrong, especially when you’re planning a day of back-to-back shoots. You just have to be able to adjust and make sure you’re not killing the experience for your clients.
Tell your clients your process for inclement weather from the get-go. This way they are not surprised or angry if bad weather is predicted and you have to reschedule your shoots. Here’s our initial booking email outlining our process:
Because our sessions are outdoors and our goal is to provide the best and most unique experience possible, we are limited in regards to the weather. In order to create the best images possible, we may reschedule your session due to heat, cold, wind, rain, etc. Be prepared if there is more than a 50% chance for inclement weather or if heat is expected in excess of 95 degrees; you will receive a call or email the night before to possibly reschedule. The shoot is not officially canceled until you have heard from us—hopefully we will have great weather!
Knowing what to say and what not to say to clients is the most beneficial knowledge you can have. As you run into obstacles along the way, document them. Work through the issue and evaluate what you did right and what you did wrong in handling the situation. Create a process to avoid the issue in the future.
Efficiency is key in planning full days of photo shoots. Being organized and detailed in your process takes time to set up in the beginning, but will make your life so much easier and stress-free in the long run.