When editing photographs, it’s common to spend more time going through them than it actually took to capture them. This is a problem for all professional photographers, especially those who are working on a regular basis or at high volume. You need to save time in order to carry on working on the next shoot, and you can end up with a backlog of editing work that leaves you days or weeks behind schedule.
Many people opt to outsource their retouching work to a company or freelancer, but this costs money and also removes creative control from your hands. If you want to make sure that you can edit every single finished photograph yourself, but still manage your workload well, then you need to speed up your editing process.
How long does it take you to do this now? Time yourself editing ten photos from out-of-camera through to the final, finished image. If it takes you more than five minutes, and you are not doing high-end retouching work such as for an advertising campaign, you are wasting time. You can retouch any photograph in five minutes – and if your work in-camera is strong, you may even be able to do it in one minute per photograph. Here’s how to set up your workflow to let that happen.
Hone Your Craft
The first thing that you need to do is to make sure that you are shooting well in the first place. It seems obvious and perhaps even insulting, but if your work is not good when you shoot, you will need to spend more time fixing it in post. There are certain things to look out for in particular – such as getting your exposure right. If your image is underexposed or overexposed by a large degree, that’s something that you will need to fix. If your image is blurry, you may have to spend time sharpening it to try and get the balance right. If you have unnecessary things in the frame – such as a cable or wire hanging loose, someone standing in the background, or an unsightly object that has no place being there – then you will need to edit them out later. It’s much better to crop and frame your image while you are shooting, paying attention to what is going on in the background as well as your subject. You can also make sure that your white balance is set up correctly for the situation.
The better a photographer you are, the easier it will be to do post-production work. It’s also better if you have a certain style you are known for. You might always have a high contrast in your images, or make all of the bright colors pop. You might be known for your work in black and white, or for adding a fade to your portraits. Whatever it is that you do, knowing your style will help to increase the speed of your retouching.
It’s also worth noting here that working with models can require some forethought. Having a professional make-up artist to smooth out skin and cover blemishes helps hugely, and you should also make a direct effort to not include anything in the frame that you would want to edit out later. This includes things like bra straps sticking out of dresses or tags from new clothes.
Set Up Your Workspace
The key thing to using Photoshop is having everything where you want it. You will likely want to make some adjustments such as curves, levels, or brightness/contrast, so make sure that these tools are easily accessible in your toolbar. If you have certain things that you need to do over and over again, like adding your copyright information or merging the visible layers, you can make these into an action so that it is done in one click. Keep everything easy to find in a collapsible folder – perhaps mark it “daily” or “regular” so that you can use it to store only the actions that you use often.
You can also gather actions that will reduce time and make certain processes easier. For example, if you need to retouch portraits often, then you can use the Glamourana Makeup and Hair Essentials collection to do everything quickly and easily. This eliminates huge amounts of time spent seeking out the tools you need and setting them up, rather than just pressing a button and selecting a brief couple of options. You can even replace skies quickly or add stunning lighting effects in a matter of seconds with our other actions.
The important thing is to reduce time everywhere. If something needs to be done in three clicks, set up an action so you can do it in just one.
When you are thinking about which images you are going to edit, be more selective with your process. Let’s say that you have taken 300 images and would normally edit around 20. You will look through them all and find the images where your client looks best, right? But in those 300 you will most likely get a lot of repeats – similar facial expressions or poses. When choosing, you might just go for the first good hands on hip pose and then get rid of the rest because you already have one of those. But choose more carefully and you could save time. Is there something going on in the background of the first one? Does it need cropping? Is the lighting better in one of the others? Choose not just the photographs that are the best, but also the ones that need the least work done to them.
Run Batch Processes
How long does it take to press three actions on each image? Not long, but you do have to sit there and press the button three times for each one. You can take actions to another level by using batch processing. This is when you take an action and tell Photoshop to apply it to every file in a certain group – those that are open in the program, or those that are in a certain folder.
Doing this can help you to save a huge amount of time – just go to batch processing, select the action, choose the photographs, and the outcome (save, close, or just nothing). Press play. Once that set has completed, open the same menu, and this time you only have to change the action before getting it started. This can save you a huge amount of time – and if you want to check your work, you can still go through and save each file manually so that you can glance over it first. Doing it this way, you might be able to edit those 20 photographs in as little as ten minutes. Even if you need to do some skin retouching afterwards which brings the time up, that’s still an incredible pace!
What tricks do you use to work faster? Share your strategies in the comments!