Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Workflow - It's A Dull Word, But Important

Sloshing dev tanks, we'll be returning to more stories about them in a future post. Today's post is about the present day and our reliance in photography on bits and bytes. Yes, we're talking about digital cameras and computers.

The digital era has brought many advances to photography. Speed, convenience and quality have all been improved and along the way the digital era has made photography more accessible to people than ever before. Who doesn't have a camera on their phone now?

The cost of photography as a business, in the author's opinion, hasn't been reduced. Yes, the cost of constant purchasing of physical film and processing has gone, but this has been replaced with the cost of computer hardware and software, storage drives, and online website and gallery hosting.

There is one aspect of photography that existed in the days of film which has evolved to meet the demands of the digital era - workflow. If one's workflow is carefully considered, and constantly addressed, adjusted, and refined, it can have a huge positive impact on a working photographer's daily life and business.


Workflow is the process of taking the image from the camera to a finished product (a digital image or physical print). Any workflow will depend on time limits, cost limits, quality limits, technology limits, personal limits and financial reward.

Workflow is often an after thought for many photographers - it isn't exciting, glamorous and rarely requires shiny new gadgets. However, workflow should be considered before any new shoot.

Time limits
How soon after the image has been captured is the image required for its intended use? For example, a photograph of the winning goal in the World Cup would need to be available to news publishers around the world as soon as possible after capture. However, a wedding photographer would most likely have a period of a week or more before any images are shown to the married couple.

Cost limits
If you have the budget to spend you can reduce your time limit a lot. Extra staff to collect memory cards from photographers or a wired/wireless system taking images from the camera to computer, staff manning computers to edit and distribute the images, and fast computing hardware and software all cost money. A greater budget typically enables a photographer to automate their workflow to a greater degree.

Quality limits
Is the image intended for the cover of Vogue or as a memory of a family day at the funfair? A single image for Vogue may be worked on in Photoshop for several hours. An event photographer may need to print an image within a few seconds of it being captured. The workflow for Vogue would involve a lot of manual and bespoke steps, the event photography workflow would need to be heavily automated. Additionally the image for Vogue may be printed for a large billboard, so the capture resolution needs to be as high as possible. The event photographer's image may not need to be printed any larger than 8x6 inches (20x15cm), the image can hence be captured at a lower resolution. Smaller files can be transferred and processed more quickly.

Technology limits
How fast can images be transferred from the camera to computer and how quickly can a computer process them? As technology progresses, these limits change for any given cost. A greater budget typically buys faster, more sophisticated and reliable hardware and software. If you're a photographer who wishes to print their work, technology affects print quality, cost and speed.

Personal limits
What are your and your staff's level of ability? The level of ability will set the upper quality limit of the work produced. Skilled workers typically produce higher quality work quickly and efficiently but cost more to hire. Further more, one individual will have a different opinion to another individual as to what is acceptable in terms of time, cost and quality.

Financial reward
How much investment in all the factors above will you reward you financially. Spending hours editing a Vogue magazine cover which will be sold hundreds of thousands of times and viewed by millions makes good sense. A image of an eight year old boy competing in little league football will be printed once, sold for an affordable price and viewed by the boy's family. It makes sense to make the output of this image as quick and efficient as possible to maximise financial return.

What becomes clear is a good workflow is affected by many factors. A workflow which is suitable for a fashion photoshoot would most likely be unsuitable for a little league football photoshoot. It is important to be flexible and to consider any unique workflow requirements a photography shoot may have before you start shooting. Arriving to a photoshoot with the wrong workflow can wreak havoc on the day, leaving you with disgruntled clients, causing you untold stress and potentially affecting you financially too.

As a company Henwig works to solve workflow problems. Our current software product, Imaculum, aims to streamline the workflow aspects found between capture and printing. We wish to make selling prints on the day of capture easier and less stressful for photographers, and for photographer's customers to find, choose and purchase their favourite images with ease. Ultimately, we want our products to help photographers generate greater revenue and profits.

Note: Workflow refinement can also be attributed to many other aspects of a photography business: accounts, marketing, and customer relation management are three areas which spring to mind immediately.