how much time do you spend? (the results)

I was curious about how much time photographers spent in the digital darkroom, so I set up an informal survey. The results were pretty interesting…

After 53 responses (Thank you very much!!), here are the final numbers:

About 55% of the respondents consider themselves non-amateur.

The type of shooting done is spread fairly evenly, with the exception of “other” having a lot of responses (I’m going out on a limb and guessing that “other” probably includes stuff like fine art, landscape, stock, food, and travel).

For every hour shooting, it seems that most photographers spend their computer time as follows:
importing 19 minutes
captioning 9 minutes
rejecting 32 minutes
editing 81 minutes
packaging 40 minutes
archiving 25 minutes

Totaled up, that’s about 3.5 hours of computer time for every hour shooting!

For an amateur, that’s fine.

For a pro, of any stripe, that’s ton of time. The big question is, are you accounting for it in your pricing?
The next question is, what are you doing to streamline your workflow?

[Note: without paying for a pro surveymonkey account, I can’t get much more scientific than this 😉 ]

I’ll venture that some numbers are lower because amateurs are not going to have the same demands as non-amateurs, and that (possibly) some numbers are higher because amateurs do not necessarily have the same incentive to get some things done more quickly.

If I were to ‘guess’ at which responses were non-amateurs, I would guesstimate that a conservative total computer time would be about 2.6 hours for every hour shooting.

just a few comments

Importing. Yes, the is an automated process and of course the time spent is largely dependent on the number of images you import. All the same, you need to have a workflow that takes this time into consideration (call it ‘planned multi-tasking’).

Captioning. I guess this is a bit of a misnomer from the standpoint that not everyone captions their images as if the images were being submitted for editorial publication. However, everyone should be making sure all the relevant IPTC fields, especially the copyright fields, are filled in. I would encourage everyone to not only complete their copyright notice, but also to put copyright information in the ‘description’ field. Many online gallery systems (such as Facebook) will display this.

Rejecting. Again, don’t be thrown off by the word. It does take time to go through and weed out the rejects, to rate the keepers, and to select the ones you want to deliver. I use Lightroom and even though it makes the process very quick, it still takes time. I make a pass to separate my keeps from my kills, then make a pass to bump up the ones I’d put in a gallery, then make a pass to pick my best 10-15, and then finally a pass to pick my favorite. Sometimes it might not take full passes (such as when I immediately recognize the standout images), but most times it does take a few passes – especially if the images are from an event that produces 500 – 1500 images.

Editing. This is another place where Lightroom greatly enhances the process, especially with the use of presets. However, I still make as quick a pass as I can to eye-ball each image to make sure the basic toning is correct and to see if a custom-crop is needed. Not that big a deal for 20 images, but time-consuming for 200.

Packaging. Lightroom handles the heavy lifting here, as well, especially through presets. I have defined presets for making web-ready images, optimized animoto-sized images, PJ submissions, print-ready images, and more. Even though the process is automated, it does take a fair amount of resources – and that means I have to have something else to do while my workstation is tied up. While image production takes the bulk of the time, ‘packaging’ also includes not just burning a CD or DVD, but also creating and producing a label, preparing a shipping label, preparing a bill of goods, preparing an invoice, as well as anything else you need to put in the box or envelope.

Also, packaging includes the time it takes to create your online galleries, whether in a hosted sales system, a photo-blog entry, or both, as well as if you are transmitting images to a client via email or ftp.

Archiving. Of course this is automated, but it still takes time, and depending on your system and workflow, you may still have to put some time into it. I build catalogs on my laptop that also require archiving. My primary backup is a Netgear ReadyNAS. For me, this means that once I’m done working with the local files, I have to break the catalog links with the local files and redirect them to the networked files (this way I can copy the catalog to other workstations and still be able to access the files). Time-intensive, yes, but worth it in the long run (your mileage may vary).

With thought, planning, and practice, you can shave time off as well as make yourself more efficient by multi-tasking. However, if you don’t take these things into consideration (especially when it comes to setting your rates), you can easily be working yourself to death without much compensation to show for it.


Thanks again to everyone who participated!