My Photography Workflow – From Shot to Sale

My Photography Workflow

I started doing a vlog post about this and then I realized that it probably made sense to chuck out a blog post that also outlined my photography workflow as well. It might be easier to follow along. So, here it is.

This is the process, and these are the steps I take in my photography workflow and selling my photos. If you prefer following along in video, there’s my vlog about this below.

And, to add a little colour to this text-heavy article, I’ll include my photos from yesterday’s shoot at Phra Singh Temple here in Chiang Mai.

Step 1 : Take the Pictures

I know this seems like an obvious step. But, if you plan on selling your photos, you can’t just take them and sell them. They not only have to be well shot, but they should have been shot in RAW so that you can edit them a bit later.

Moreover, you have to think about who you might be selling the photo to.  What is their style preference. What things do you have avoid having in your photos? That’s especially true for micro-stock photography.

Jodie walking up the steps

Step 2: Computer and Hard Drive Transfer

It’s important to keep your RAW files in a couple different places so that you don’t lose them somehow. Personally, I keep them in 3 places:
1) I keep them on the memory card I shot them on.
2) I copy them directly onto my computer where they’ll stay temporarily.
3) I copy them onto a SSD where they’ll stay forever.

Would love to go back and shoot this spot again!

Step 3: Importing

I import the RAW files that are on my SSD into Lightroom.

Step 4: Editing

Editing, of course, is such an important process. But, there’s not much to explain from a workflow standpoint here. Since this isn’t my editing workflow, but my filing workflow. I’ll just say that I do the vast majority of my photo editing in Lightroom. I avoid Photoshop as much as I can. But, I do from time to time bring files over there to do work. The beauty of using Lightroom is that even if you decide a file needs to be adjusted in Photoshop, you can bring the file back and forth between the two. So, it’s actually really efficient.

The last thing to say about the editing step in the photography workflow is that you should edit from the place that you want your files to stay.  Lightroom creates a file which it catalogues to each image. So, if you want to go back and edit your raw file a bit, and don’t want to have to start from the beginning, editing from the image’s final resting point will mean that you’ll always have your edits saved.

Tuk Tuk and temples. So much Thailand.

Step 5: Removing/Culling “Bad” Photos (RAWs)

As I’m editing, the photos I don’t want to keep I flag as “rejected” by pressing “x” in Lightroom. When I’ve gone through all the files, I’ll hit “control+delete” and Lightroom will give me the option of deleting the photos or just remove them from the library. I delete them completely. I have no use for bad RAW files.

What I’ll be left with are all the edited photos.

Like this one!

Step 6: Keywording

Keywording your files is so important. Not only is this going to make your life easier in the future when you send files of to your agencies, but it will make it easier to search for files in your own library. My keywords start big with the country, continent, and region/city. Then, with each file I try to get more specific.

Be as thorough with your keywording as possible.  It might lengthen your workflow a bit now, but it’ll save you loads of time in the future.

Keywords for this image were:
“Architecture, Asia, Buddhism, Chiang Mai, city, jodie dewberry, Northern Thailand, Phra Singh Temple, South East Asia, temple, Thailand”

Step 7: Exporting JPEGs

The next step is to export your files as JPEGs. The files you see in Lightroom aren’t finished photos. Rather, they are previews of the files. You’ll need to export them into new JPEG files that you can then send off to clients and use on your websites and such.

Personally, I export at full sized with a 300 dpi.

Step 8: Storing RAWs and JPEGs

Once I have the JPEGs, I start the back-up process right away. I back the JPEGs up on two seperate external hard drives.  One of those hard drives is always attached to my laptop. The other, I usually store away in my suitcase.  As for the RAW files, I only put them in one place, an SSD.

A pano of the temple.

Step 9: Backing up on the Cloud

There are lots of options for backing up your photos. Personally, I use Amazon Drive. It comes included in an Amazon Prime membership, which I have already for all the shipping I do.  So, it works out well.  I think it usually costs about $15 a year and includes unlimited photo storage including Raw files.

The RAWs stay on the SSD they were edited from, and the JPEGs stay on the 2 Hard Drives. Once I complete step 9, I’ll delete them from my laptop.

Step 10: First Pick – Assignment and Retainer

When selling my photos, the first pick of images go to clients for whom I shot the images on assignment.  I might also have clients on retainers for images. If that’s the case, they’ll also get a first crack of the images.

Obviously, if you were shooting on your own time and without a retainer, you can skip this step.

Blue hour at the temple

Optional Step 11: Editorial Pitching

I don’t do a lot of pitching to editorial clients anymore. However, when I started my photography career this is what I did to make a living.  It’s hard work pitching your images out, but it can be a good source of income if the quality of your work is there.

Generally, I used to pitch my images alongside a story.  Most magazines or newspapers aren’t just going to buy images. They need a story behind it.  So, upload a set or sample of low resolution images to a website like Smugmug where they can see them, and pitch a story.

Step 12: Rights Managed

Once some of my photos have been sold to clients in the previous steps, I start sending them off to my right’s managed stock agency.  There, they’ll work on selling the rights to certain images to a wide variety of clients.  I am a part of Tandem Stock Stills+Motion, but there are dozens of agencies out there.

Step 13: Micro-stock

Once all my images have been picked through in the previous steps, I drop the “scraps” into the micro-stocks.  Even if websites like ShutterStock don’t really give you great value per sale, they will still likely get your images some value.

The end goal, then, is to have a little left of your images as possible to get the best value out of them.

Step 14: Get out and Shoot Some More

And that’s what I’m doing on upcoming posts. I’m not blogging all that much these days because the youtube channel has taken so much of my time. But, I am aiming for about 1 post a week.  Look for some more images from Thailand coming up next.




Author: Brendan van Son

Author: I am a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. Over my years as a travel photographer, I have visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than I have any desire to count. If you want to improve your skills, be sure to check out my travel photography channel on Youtube . Also, check out my profile on . to learn a little bit more about me and my work.

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2 Comments

  1. Hi, Brendan!
    You submit images to both rights managed and microstock agencies.
    My question: as a traveling photographer who submits location photos, how dissimilar do the images need to be when sending photos of the same location to both types of agencies? If you submit an image with Jody on a temple stairway to a rights managed agency, can you submit a similar stairway image without Jody on the stairs ? Or with Jody at the bottom of the stairs?
    Thanks,
    Natalie

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  2. Great article, thanks Brendan! Awesome to get a look into your work process. Video is excellent too. Really enjoy these “behind the scenes” insights.

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