Workflow: When you speak to photographers of the word, a process comes to mind. Often, we speak about editing down the pile and cutting photos that show little potential. Other times, we speak of the software, or the tools or saved procedures and so on. What we rarely discuss is the plan: When do you make such photos available to the public? As photographers, we need to seriously consider this question as we work towards building a name for ourselves.
Each photographer’s situation and purpose is going to affect when and how I release such photos. Of course there are other factors for contracted photographers, the largest of which is your client. But let’s put that aspect aside for the purpose of this discussion. What I’d like to focus on is the work we do for our own personal benefit.
If you have no interest in being compensated for your works, your release schedule could be open-ended. A lopsided release schedule – with large influxes of photos and periods of photo drought – may have little or no impact on your followers. These days, your photo sharing community of choice will make it easier for your fans to find your works even if you are dormant for months on end. That doesn’t mean you can be entirely relaxed…you still want to remain slightly active, but you also want to keep things fresh. Flooding your stream with 20 portraits and then 40 photos from Italy makes your photo flow seem segmented or compartmentalized. Spread them out and mix them together, and you’ll keep things interesting.
When compensation is a factor (licensing and sales), fine tuning your release schedule is much more important. There is a marketing strategy to your release schedule. You’ll want to keep things fresh and current. But then you’ll want to find ways to reintroduce your older works to new fans (who may also be your clients). Common themes in your work are also important. This is branding, which will ultimately get you recognized. Of course, if you find that your work comes in waves – the product of planned trips or excursions – you’ll need to spread that work out so that it always seems like you’re producing new stuff. You may even find that you’ll want to withhold certain photos from one community that you might prefer to share with another (we all share with multiple communities).
Regardless of your situation, you should consider conducting your workflow with a release schedule in mind. What changes is the specifics behind your schedule. Figuring out exactly what works for you is going to be a matter of trial and error.
Workflow For Planning Purposes
Working towards a release schedule requires a bit of reservation. It is a process that needs to be thought of in stages. By principal, you cannot avoid having some sort of file organization. Finished files should be kept well separate of your incoming or unreleased files (those that haven’t yet been seen by the public). As such photos are released to the public, you can move photos from the incoming folder to the finished folders. Some of you with Obsessive Compulsive Disorders may wish to further organize and subdivide these directories to your heart’s desire. But this establishes a basic organization that won’t confuse you months down the line when you return to these unreleased files.
As you acquire new photos, the process is not unlike any other workflow process you’ve read about. You’ll eliminate any photos that don’t make the grade. You’ll continue to do some basic edits up front – levels, color balances, and so on to get a pre-processed contact sheet. You’ll pick your favorites (it’s unavoidable), probably pick which photos will get released first (not always your favorites) and then…you need to part ways with the balance of your photos.
Do not finalize all of your works immediately. Your style will evolve over time. Sometimes, your style changes subtly over the course of just a few weeks. You’ll want your new releases to be consistent with your current style so that your photo flow looks uniform. Evolution should always be a factor. You’ve already done some basic pre-processing, so your works are going to be safe in a period of stasis for a time. They’ll be okay weeks or months down the line when you go to finalize them. If it helps, many workflow based programs (Adobe Bridge, Lightroom, Photo Mechanic) have ways of classifying and tagging photos. You can use these tools to categorize or set priorities for your yet-to-be-released photos. You could even tag the photos with the date you intend to release them.
Final Thoughts: Releasing Your Photos
All that’s left, really, is to release your photos according to your overall plan. The most difficult aspect of the whole process is really restraining yourself. It’s very tempting for us to share our latest works with the world as soon as it is available. We crave that instant satisfaction. A release schedule, however, will help you to temper your audience. You will establish yourself as a consistent and established photographer. This is marketing and branding at its simplest form. It will earn you respect and it will earn you a following. And if you stand to earn something from your work, this can’t be a bad thing.