Your Photo Business Workflow for Success: 10 Steps to Get You There Today

Workflow is a buzzword in our industry, but we mostly use it to discuss our editing practices. In reality though, workflow encompasses everything you do in your business. To be truly successful, it’s necessary to implement habits and best practices that will make your workflow smoother and more efficient. Lucky for you, we’ve compiled ten elements of a successful photography workflow in one spot, so all you have to do is get to work.


There is nothing more important to the success of your business than organization. It takes time to get systems in place and to continually update your progress, but the reward's huge. Remember the old saying ‘a place for everything and everything in it’s place’? Following this will ensure you never misplace a client contract again. Here are three easy tasks you can do today to get organized: 1. create a file for each client and file all paperwork accordingly, 2. customize our Studio Workflow Assistant for your client workflow and 3. file your emails by client and archive all emails from jobs over six month old.

Defined roles

If you work with a business partner, an associate or an employee, it’s critical to have clearly defined roles. You can divvy up the tasks in whatever way makes sense for your business (by category, by client, etc), but it’s important that everyone knows who is responsible, and accountable, for what. We recommend playing to each team member’s strengths, so if you’re an editing powerhouse and your partner is great with client relations, take that and run with it.

Email wrangling

Like it or not, we live in an instant gratification world. Most people would much rather send an email (or text, yikes, read our thoughts on that here) than pick up the phone to call you, and they expect the response to be immediate. Since you’re supposed to be cruising through your workflow in the middle of the day, keeping your email program open is a bad idea… hello constant distraction! So be diligent about checking your email twice daily, at 9am and 4pm and you’ll be distraction-free and guilt-free throughout your most productive hours.  

If you’re ready to really get your email under control in 2016, you’ll want to look into Airmail and Sanebox. Airmail is the email client we’ve been dreaming of for years… it’s time to ditch MacMail once and for all and say yes to a clean, well-organized and easy-to-use email client that will save you time and frustration. Once you get Airmail set up, sign up for Sanebox (it’s just $59/year) to help you take control of your inbox. Sanebox automatically filters all incoming emails by priority (and it even learns what’s important based on your usage) to help you spend less time dealing with junk mail and unimportant emails. Our favorite feature: the SaneBlackHole… send an email there and you’ll never see another message from that sender EVER.

Inquiry follow up system

It can be easy to lose track of inquiries because they come in via email, phone calls, Facebook messages, Twitter direct messages and Instagram comments. If you don’t respond to an inquiry in a timely manner (or you forget to respond at all), your chances of booking the job go way down. We recommend using our Studio Workflow Assistant to keep track of inquiries and turn them into paying clients. P.S. Want to know our secret to converting inquiries to bookings as quickly as possible? Call everyone who inquires with you immediately, no matter how they contacted you. It’s so much easier to connect over the phone than email anyway, and we promise your success rate will go way up.

Efficiency at every step

If you’ve been in business for less than ten years, you’ve probably never used Adobe Bridge to cull images or laid out entire wedding albums using individual spreads in Photoshop. These aren’t cute metaphors… this is the way things were done years ago. (Hard to believe, right?!) Now we have actions and presets and amazing programs like Photo Mechanic and SmartAlbums that help us accomplish tasks so quickly. If you want to create a truly successful workflow for your photography business, you need to find ways to be more efficient at every task.


We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, (maybe you should listen this time) outsourcing can help your business run so much smoother and it can help save your sanity. And that’s a win-win. No matter how great you are at running a business, there will be tasks that you either won’t love doing or you won’t be very good at doing… maybe both. Figure out what those tasks are and pay someone else to do them. Trust us when we say you’ll be jumping for joy once you outsource your first task… especially if that task is bookkeeping.

Limited choices

We all know that having way too many choices is overwhelming. It’s exactly why you can spend three hours at Ikea and leave with six packages of Swedish meatballs but none of the items you actually came to purchase. If you limit your clients’ choices of products and packages, they will make decisions quicker. If you’re strategic in your limited choices (i.e. you only offer square albums), you can also save yourself time (and headaches) if your client changes their album size after you’ve designed the first draft. We also recommend limiting number of images presented. If you have 2 or more images that are very similar, choose the best one, so your clients don’t have to agonize, and can spend their time choosing products rather than poses.

Efficient editing workflow

This one might seem obvious, but it’s also one of the most important elements to a successful photography workflow. Culling, color correcting and retouching often take up the majority of our time as photographers… and there’s so much room for improvement. Check out our 3 Hour Wedding Workflow and 1 Hour Portrait Workflow and prepare yourself for all the extra time you’ll have on your hands to update your website, catch up on blogging and maybe even take an afternoon off. You deserve it.

Effective studio policies and practices

One of the worst parts of any workflow is when you get stuck, but having effective studio policies and practices in place ahead of time can help keep things moving along. Tired of waiting to get a list of favorite images from your clients? Make pre-designing albums part of your workflow. Having a hard time getting your client to pick a date for their ordering session? Schedule the ordering session and the portrait session at the same time. Identify all the areas of your workflow where clients get stuck and work to eliminate the obstacles.

A weekly schedule

We know how easy it is to get caught up in the day-to-day work of running a photography business. There’s so much work to be done and the list feels never ending. It’s hard to find time for the necessary, but less glamorous, parts of running a business like networking and gathering your tax documents. Start creating a schedule for each week and you’ll be surprised by sudden ability to finally get to the tasks that always lurk at the bottom of your to do list.

Want to Go Even Further?

Turn your ideas and goals into actionable accomplishments with our simple and effective system for getting things done: The Big Picture Planner.

Our expanded planner’s gorgeous aesthetic and practical approach will change your life. Other planners on the market just don’t take into account the specific needs of photographers and their businesses.

Let us set you up for success in workflow, planning, marketing and your unique “big picture” goals every single day! Use this planner in 2016, and set yourself up for success for many years to come.

The Big Picture Planner includes 40+ printable and fully customizable PDF page, a 16 page how-to tutorial, Setting Yourself Up for Success which guides you through our proven method of transforming your goals into achievements, and dozens of smart tips for living more productively. Eight brilliantly designed sections are tailored for today’s professional photographer: Daily & Weekly Planner, Monthly Planner, Contacts, Workflow, Marketing, Financial, Resources, Inspiration, and Notes. You also receive smart worksheets for strategic planning: plot your Big Picture goals, goal actions, annual marketing goals, current and future marketing campaigns, social media tracking, and website & blog analytics, section cover pages with quotes and images, blog & social trackers, 2016 and 2017 Year At A Glance, and so much more.

Make 2016 is your year to organize and achieve!

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