70 Pro Tips For Next Level Creative Business & Workflow
It is insane that the last post of this short series was published exactly one year ago on my 29th birthday, and so many things happened ever since… my relationship status changed, I moved countries twice, I booked record numbers of clients in the history of my business while I had to press a hard reset on EVERYTHING. And this is the main reason why you needed to wait for this last, but one of the most exciting episodes of this series.
Thank you for being patient, I promise, after reading this post, you will take great advice with you today!
As a creative soul, you possibly have the secret dream of running your own business one day or maybe you are already building your own success. The start can be confusing and the complexity of being the one and only person who is responsible for the growth of the entire business definitely sounds overwhelming.
When we have are under the colourful and protective umbrella of a hobby, we only see the joy of creation, the progress, the newly added skills, the positive feedback from others, the recognition of our idols and of course we admire others’ who book clients, write books, launch their own educational course and we feel like: how amazing it would be if we would be on a similar level of business management already, jump over a few chapters and land the jobs straight from our dreams and be famous overnight. Have you ever wondered if there is a PDF, article, or newsletter freebie somewhere on the internet that answers you all the HOWs?
Did you ever have any of these feelings?
What if I would ask successful creatives to highlight the most important factors and tools that had the biggest impact on their creative business and workflow?
Today is your lucky day! I’ve teamed up with the creators you admire the most, to ask them about these things and I will also share my perspective on this topic.
If you missed the first two episodes of this superb post series, I highly recommend you to check them out, you can learn a lot from my professional friends! We are giving you 70+ tips about Food Photography and Food Styling.
Today I celebrate my 30th Birthday and instead of this cake, and I am currently having a nice midsummer-inspired cocktail in my hand by the sea, so let me raise the glass to my contributor friends…
I would like to say thank you to or all creator friends who participated in this series, it is definitely a record amongst collaborations in the industry with more than 70 participants. I really appreciate knowing you, learning from you continuously, getting inspired by your amazing work and exceptional ideas and creative solutions. THANK YOU ALL LOVELIES!
And now back to the super exciting topic of this post! Let’s see the answers of many talented creatives about the most important things that had the biggest impact on their creative businesses!
Learning to protect my time and my energy has made me feel more in control of my business, my life and it has boosted my creativity. We all know that time and energy are the most valuable resources we have, but how often do we actually pay close attention to what we exchange them for? And if the exchange is even worth it? I have been guilty myself for filling my calendar to the rims with important tasks and exciting projects, hoping that my time will magically stretch one day. It wasn’t until I started writing my photography book that I realised that I will never have enough time and energy for ALL the tasks on my to do list. There is only time for what’s THE MOST IMPORTANT, and I always need to be super clear and honest what that is to me. It means saying no to things that I don’t care much about – that’s easy. But it also means learning to say NO to things that I want to do, only because something else is MORE IMPORTANT at that time. 24 hours – that’s how much time each of us has every day, and it’s entirely up to us how we spent it. David Allen famously said that ‘We can do anything, but not everything’, and living in the world of choice, opportunities, information and constant distractions means we have to be very mindful not to spent so much time on the less important stuff that there is not enough time left for what’s the most meaningful in our life and in our business. I am still on a learning path in this field, but I found that having my highest priorities written down and visible makes me feel more mindful about what I say yes to. Every Sunday I also spend an hour reflecting on the week that has just passed, and I note what I spent most of my time on, where I wasted time and what I can improve. This helps me plan a week ahead and gives me more control over my days. Having clear boundaries and scheduling rest and days only for creativity means I am more focused and I have better ideas and that’s something very special that I can give to my clients. At the end of the day they pay me for my creativity, so I’ve got to make sure I have plenty of it! We live in a ‘noisy’ world and I think it’s never been more important than right now to ask yourself ‘What are my biggest priorities. Does my calendar reflect that? Does this thing I fill most of my days with bring me joy? Does it help me and my business grow?’ If it’s a no, it’s ‘too expensive’.
It’s low cost and a simple answer, but I just love the Snippets feature and the scheduling feature in gmail! I also find there’s nothing like a good list to get me unstuck – whether by pen and paper or on Trello. Oh. Actually – I should probably say canva.com. That has been revolutionary for me, because I can release graphics and long form pdfs of food photography tips and tricks that look gorgeous in no time at all.
I have the habit to set the scene with everything I need before going to the kitchen to prepare the food. This helps me to organize the composition avoiding any possible unpleasant surprise looking for props while the food is already ready to be photographed.
Working with a CPA. When I first started I did my taxes on my own which was a ton of work and there’s a lot about tax code that I don’t know so I was missing out on deductions. A good CPA saves time and will save you money in deductions.
The skill that had the biggest positive impact on my workflow was being able to shoot tethered. It helped me take better photos, edit them on Lightroom directly while still shooting and it saved me loads of time transferring the file from the camera to the laptop.
Shooting tethered has had the most significant impact on my workflow. It has saved me from reshooting many times because I can immediately see small issues that I would never notice on my camera’s LCD screen, for example, the food being out of focus or problems with the composition.
I am a strong believer in automation. My business completely changed when I started implementing a systematized client workflow with pre-written emails and professionally designed templates. Not only does it attract more clients, but by offering an exceptional client experience I am able to charge more. It also saves me a considerable amount of time every week. Finally, it has allowed me to delegate some of the tasks to my Virtual assistant very easily since all my processes are documented.
Fanette Rickert, food photographer and stylist, educator @frenchlyphotography www.french.ly/blog
Making it a habit to post at least once a week on Instagram gets me into a good rhythm as well as allowing me time to shoot without pressuring me into having to shoot and upload constantly. Uploading at least once a week keeps me consistent in a realistic way, especially since this is not my job and have other commitments throughout the week. It also gives time for me to shoot what I like, which is, in other words, time for experimentation. I think it’s important to my workflow to have something to keep me consistent, whilst also giving me room to breathe.
I use Lightroom to edit my photos, and I used to experiment a lot with it. I guess that it was part of the learning process. Now I only make three adjustments: temperature, clarity and the split toning.
Learning hour. Every day I make sure to set aside an hour where I read books, watch online courses, listen to podcasts or watch youtube videos to learn more about food photography and it’s business. This led me to a rapid improvements and new ideas.
I hired a VA and I can honestly say I couldn’t live without her. Christina is not only become a trusted friend, but also allows me to focus on the work that I’m best at and thereby enables The Little Plantation to keep growing as a creative business. I’m not big on apps or technology beyond the bare bone basics that I need. I feel that The Little Plantation is about personal connection, heart and communication, no app could ever replace that and hence my staff is where it’s at for me :).
I love post-production which allows me to enhance aspects such as color and light. I’m not a Photoshop enthusiast. Lightroom is undoubtedly the tool I appreciate most. because it allows me with a few simple adjustments to give a particular appeal to my photos.
Upgrading to Phase One cameras and Capture One massively changed my workflow. Using Phase One cameras made me really think about each image I shoot. I shoot so much less on them than I did on DSLR cameras. Then putting the RAW files through Capture One gave me a lot more post-production creativity. I almost always shoot tethered now and Capture One allows me to immediately set filters to see almost exactly what I want in the image. It has made my Photoshop time a lot less.
Building a routine has been a key factor in my life not only business; routines are built with practice and are quite helpful on creating structure and organization. Also exercise, I was an athlete my entire life and even though I no longer race I still exercise and it helps to refresh ones mind every day, be that yoga, pilates, running or kickboxing every body and brain are different we just need to discover what works for each one of us.
I just recently started using Adobe Bridge to preselect my images before bringing them into Lightroom and editing them there. This extra little step has not only optimized the speed of my Lightroom libraries but also has saved me lots of time in terms of editing pictures that would not make it to my final selection.
It’s so boring, but…scheduling. I work from home in my home studio and it can be very easy to put things off or to think that you’ve got lots of time to deliver projects, only to be in a mad rush at the end of the month. I sit down at the beginning of each month and go through the requirements of each client, and then ruthlessly schedule out each day. Failing an emergency, I stick to my schedule religiously which allows me to only work four days a week. By scheduling out my month, I am in control and can be much more in the moment.
Always: Persistence is important.. And the best thing is to reinvent yourself again and again. Stagnancy is boring. But I am also grateful for: Photoshop, Lightroom, Unfold, WordSwag, Videolap, Quickshot and all the great programs and tools that still exist.
Even if I am in love with hand-written calendars, utilizing all features of Google Calendar to business management has been a gamechanger. Besides the basic stuff such as adding all events and photoshoots, I can block time, schedule tasks, never forget anything, and I can keep tracking what exactly I managed to do each day and of course, I can access it from all my devices.
Lightroom was a big step forward in my working process. The editing became much faster, my folders were organized and my style was more consistent. I don’t know why but I have learned Photoshop first and got stick to it. I only started to use Lightroom about 2 years ago. Since then I mostly edit my pictures there and correct them in PS if it’s necessary. Tethering was another tool that made the biggest positive impact on my work. I learned it from Joannie Simon. 🙂
It’s useful to have a ‘stand in’ hero while setting up the scene so you can spend as much time as you like moving things around, then when you’re happy with the setting, bring out the hero (or make it) so it looks as fresh and appetizing as possible.
I feel like having learnt to properly use Lightroom for editing has really helped me get 100% the result I picture in my head while I shoot and knowing how to get that final result definitely speeds up my workflow.
One habit that has made the biggest positive impact on my workflow practices is by taking frequent creative breaks from the camera and not feeling the pressure to overproduce content with regards to posting on Instagram. Now this is very individual, but I find that when I force myself to produce personal work for the sake of sharing content, my photos end up lacking creative flare and that je ne sais quoi. I produce my best work when I am feeling inspired and eager to pick up my camera.
It is a website & app called Studio Ninja. It’s a business tool that helps me a lot. I am not good at organising things and this is what the app does for me. I get the enquiries through this app, I have the contracts and questionnaires and T’s&C’s clients can accept and it keeps tracking my invoices, etc. A really handy tool that many of us would need. I spend significantly less time on admin stuff than I did before.
Comparing my work against my own work – literally and figuratively. Creating “Quick Collections” in LR, simple again, but it was a game-changer for me. It gave me the ability to view my work against my other work as a collection and gave me the ability to compare my photos side by side and look for consistency, themes or gaps in what I’m producing that I might want to fill. Also comparing my own works keeps me focused on my own work and not others!
To be open to learning something new and go beyond still photograph. Motion in photos is becoming more and more in demand be it cinemagraph, stop motion, gif and even food videos. Being able to do other facets of photography created some opportunities for my business.
The most useful tool that has helped me with my business has been social media. In particular, Instagram as it has provided me with the majority of my business. As for habit or skill, I find patience and hard work both come very handy when in the food styling business.
Without a doubt, the habit that has had the biggest positive impact on my workflow has been shooting tethered to my laptop with my camera on a tripod. This has allowed me to be much more intentional when I’m shooting. I can view my scenes on the screen of my laptop, making it much easier to see any little flaws or ways to improve the composition in real-time. Plus, I have it set up so my photos import directly into Lightroom as soon as I take the shot, which is a great time saver.
With a background in project and program management, workflows come naturally to me. One of the first things I did when I started off as a food blogger was to create a checklist of items that went with a post. This way, I could easily make sure all items were taken care of, prior to posting. Along with the checklist, I also created a large spreadsheet, that I updated with each recipe post. The spreadsheet provided the title, URL, tags, captions, descriptions, and loads of columns with different submission sites. This way, I could easily see where I submitted my images to different services, and could easily copy and paste the needed information. Additionally, I created a Pinterest Template in Photoshop, set to the size of pin that I needed. Then, as part of the checklist I mentioned above, for creating pins before I posted, I could easily embed the new images and update titles, using the same template over and over. This would make my brand recognizable, and saved time. As I moved more into photography, and away from food blogging, I retired the spreadsheets. However, now I have a different workflow for when I shoot. I photograph tethered and edit as I shoot. This way, I have a good idea of how images will turn out and can move more quickly through shooting and post-production. As far as services go, the major one I used to help with scheduling social media was Tailwind. I find it helpful and a time saver when you are constantly trying to update and put out new content. To get me started in understanding the food blogger, and online business owner space, I became a member of Food Blogger Pro, and I actively listen to the FBP podcasts, as well as podcasts from Pat Flynn. Finding a community, and educational information while you are learning can definitely keep you motivated, even on those days where you are exhausted.
I would like to mention 3 different things. I can take (good) photos only in a certain mood, when deep calmness and slowliving surrounding me, and I feel the pictures taken in this mood are the closest to myself. I have some good sense to aesthetics, so the ’skill’ part can be checked. I use two apps since the beginning: Snapseed and VSCO. And as useful services I would like to highlight the food photography videos YouTube, that are really worthy to mention, regarding they contain some really handy information.
For a long time, Instagram is the platform I like the most. I have an awesome, supportive online community around me, and in addition to this, I maintain some offline friendships too. On top of this, I did many collaborations through this app. I don’t use any software for posting, so it requires my real presence. This can be challenging sometimes, but it works for me and this way I feel I can maintain personal connections with my followers.
I’ve always worked in PS, and I insisted on CS5 + DPP on my computer. I processed the RAW images in DPP, and it is so wonderful how beautiful results can be achieved with it. However, saving the large images takes up to 3-4 minutes, regardless of how fast is your computer. So I had to accept the fact, that this does not fit into my schedule, because to only save 350 images takes 350 minutes. This means that I’m sitting in front of the computer and waiting for this saving time. I also accepted that clients do not notice the difference between DPP and Camera Raw, but I will still have time to process and care about every single image, so I’ve subscribed to PS CC + Camera Raw. This way my client still won’t receive automatized post-processing, but to save 100 images takes less than 20 minutes 🙂
Oh. So many. I create better when I’m stressed or miserable, I lose myself more and it’s a kind of art therapy. Not my preference in terms of mood but I think it shows me that no experience is ever wasted, however shitty it may seem at the time. Even idleness is a time to let your mind wander and be free. Then when you need to focus sharply and fast, you’ve got swathes of ideas and experiences to draw on!
I’m not the most organized person, I have to admit. So for me, it has been a super useful habit to use two hard drives to store and back up my images. Made the workflow from shooting to editing and to storing the images so much easier.
It’s hard to point out just one thing that had the biggest positive impact on my workflow but I’d say, boring as it sounds, it’s got to be keeping a reliable storage and backup system. If your drive fails, which can happen any time, this is the nightmare of every creative professional so having good backups is a must. I use the LaCie external hard drive as my daily backup, which I love. It’s very portable – useful when you’re travelling a lot. Additionally, I regularly back up all my files on the Drobo drive. Backing up regularly was something I almost had to force myself to do and I totally understand that as a photographer you want to spend as little time as possible thinking about this, but the better you can contain your storage use, the easier it will be.
Shooting tethered has been a game-changer for me. I can see straight away if the image looks the way I have imagined and is in line with my vision. It also saves me lots of time, as I do not have to faff around with transferring the photos. Using Lightroom as my editing software of choice had a huge impact as well, it is such a powerful software and it’s where all the magic happens!
I designed a number of paper planners specifically for food photography (which I am yet to release, they were meant to be released the week we went into Lockdown here in New Zealand!) and these have been instrumental especially when working on large client projects that include recipe development and multiple dishes. I am the type of creative that needs to draw, write and plan on paper, and I don’t do particularly well with digital planners. My project and photoshoot planners alongside my recipe planners help me to manage the whole project with both as an overview and broken down into manageable chunks. And it’s also useful to document the time taken for each part, which helps with future project planning and pricing out. Also, before I created the planners, I did something similar but just with blank paper – and I keep EVERY scribble and note I’ve ever written. So I have years of documents for me to look back on which is always very handy – to see how far you’ve come as well as look at what worked and what didn’t. I love revisiting!
The habit of planning my work has had the biggest impact on my daily workflow. Listing my goals for the week/month allows me to come up with immediate actionable tasks. Scheduling those tasks by allocating a day & time helps to break down the goals into smaller & less overwhelming steps. By planning out the tasks, I am able to gauge progress & work backwards for interrelated goals. This process has increased efficiency & made me more accountable to myself.
Definitely google calendar. It is my daily task list and my life line, and helps me keep everything I need to do, both personally and professionally, in order. I look at it every morning to see what tasks I need to get done that day. It’s really helped me set and achieve goals, and it’s also taught me what I can reasonably accomplish in a day, and helped me to stop overbooking myself like I did when I first started years ago. Having a scheduling system in place that you use regularly is SUCH an important part of running your own small business, I know I wouldn’t be where I am without it.
Eva Kosmas Flores, photographer + author + educator @evakosmasflores www.firstweeat.co
I have definitely benefited from making detailed plans for shoots I do for clients. Without a plan, the workflow will take over and after that, I’m not really able to stop myself! That’s fine if I’m creating for myself – the flow mindset is something I love. But unless the accumulating hours show in my compensation, I have to keep better control of myself and focus on capturing only what I’m set out to do. Otherwise, I end up with ten times the amount of frames than what was necessary and that happens at the cost of time spent with loved ones or just relaxing and unwinding. I have a time and energy-consuming day job and a tendency to work from morning to midnight unless someone stops me. Since nobody does, it’s something I’ve had to learn to do myself!
I’m a Canon gal and always have been so upgrading from Canon 6D Mark ii ( I use it as my back up camera) to my Canon 5D Mark iv. I love the way it feels in my hand solid but not heavy. It’s not complicated to use and you get a lot for your money. Moving forward I do have my eye on the new Canon Eos R5 due out later this year.
Probably learning how to use multiple editing tools in one session – for example, I edit my shots using Capture One but switch over to do the finer retouching in Photoshop before returning to Capture One to process the shot. Why use both? I am faster at some Photoshop techniques and honestly, I think Photoshop is better for retouching, but your overall processing of your RAW images should be firstly in Capture One, or as most people use, Lightroom.
I’m a big fan of Later for scheduling my Instagram posts and Preview for planning my grid. It’s nice to be able to schedule posts, hashtags, account tags, and captions in advance. Additionally, Later enables me to include a link for each of my Instagram posts, which has proven invaluable despite Instagram’s notoriously low click-through rate. Later’s grid planning functionality could be a bit better, though, which is why I use Preview to do import my pictures and make sure I like the way they look together before posting.
Habit: Scheduling my week between answering emails, preparing the sets and the meals to shoot, writing the blog posts and trying to work on Instagram feed and posts. Writing down every night my schedule for the following day is very important and helps me get organized day after day. Skill: Language: I think talking in three different languages (Arabic, French and English) push me further when finding and working with new clients. Language is no longer a barrier when discussing with new clients from all over the world. Application: Lightroom Application and presets: Even though I tend to retouch my photos every single time from scratch and not following only one preset but I find it helpful whenever I am running out of time to set a preset and retouch quickly my images. If you do not have the Lightroom’s Desktop version, you can also use the mobile application. (image “before / after)) Service: Tethered shooting on Capture one. The setups are way easier when shooting tethered, seeing directly the setup and the composition is way better than figuring it out on the small DSLR screen.
The best habit I have adopted in my business practices is to always put away 20% of all revenue into an account reserved for paying tax at the end of the financial year. I don’t allow myself to even be tempted to spend any of this. For me, my income doesn’t exceed the 20% tax bracket and often there are substantial costs from the financial year that can be claimed back as tax relief so by putting away 20% of all income as soon as it enters the bank account, it means I am never finding myself at the end of the year with a big tax bill and no way to pay it. Often it’s a nice bonus as I have put away more than I actually need once I have completed my tax return.
Instagram itself is a platform, that makes me be active and create. It gave me a community and feedbacks that is truly inspiring. I love to use the features of the Instagram Stories too. I publish fewer content to my feed, but in the Stories, I can be more experimental, I like to make the best out of each of its functions 😀 This platform brings me together with so many interesting people, this is why I also like it for.
The biggest positive impact has been Karl Taylor. He’s a professional commercial photographer founder of Karl Taylor Education. I learned a lot, about the photography business but especially controlling the lights which he is a master of.
One piece of gear that had a great impact is the Canon 24/70 lens. It is the perfect lens for both food photography and landscapes. I like to style my photographs using antique-looking backdrops and a lot of antique props. I feel antiques give dimensions to a photograph and make it more interesting and relatable.
The biggest positive impact on my workflow I think would be knowing and trusting myself when I get the shot that I want. I used to take a million shots of the same composition just to make sure I got the right angle and shot. Then I would end up wasting so much time editing, and it was basically the same photo! Now I make sure to reign myself in and I have learned to trust myself that I got the shot that I wanted and it’s time to move on!
I like to try and learn new things in the kitchen. New recipes, new methods … Thanks to these, I have a theme to shoot every day. I can say, this is the most important habit of mine. On the other hand, I don’t think taking photographs is something that can be learned by just attending a course or attending a workshop. Yes, we get to know our machine, we learn the technical information in this respect. But we can get our perspective, improve our eyes by taking lots of photos and reviewing photos. I can see my past photos and see how much I have improved. Photography is an adventure where learning never ends. And this adventure makes me very excited. The desire to discover is one of my important motivations.
The right frame of mind has the biggest positive impact on my workflow. I tend to overthink the creative process and approach shoots with the same mindset, usually an all singing all dancing type of shoot, more than enough lights, an assistant and a creative team. Sometimes I have to reign that in a touch, as it just isn’t required. With the current lockdown, I have been forced to re-evaluate this approach. I’m currently shooting small projects in my home and most of them have same work process and lighting techniques that could be used on commercial jobs just scaled-down as there’s less space to work in, but more creative freedom.
Before I start any shooting either private or for business I make first mood boards. They help me to organize everything needed before the shooting starts and I can focus just on recreating the mood I’ve already have in mind. Another helpful app is Planoly, there I organize and prepare in advance the posts for Instagram, I do also in paper format a schedule with dates for postings and ideas for the next shootings. The paper schedule helps me a lot to put grocery lists and new ideas …it’s less clean than the digital one, but I can better see the progress of ideas because you can’t delete anything from the list you just strike it and sometimes it helps a lot to see the striked idea to create a new one….
The habit of working on personal photography projects 3-5 times a week has had the most impact on developing my skills. I necessarily don’t even publish them as they sometimes don’t turn out as I wanted or are not related to my page but the discipline of practicing regularly has a huge impact on my work. Also, I have received all my paid clients so far through IG so this app is my main focus right now, although very saturated and competitive it is still producing results for me.
Being persistent, consistent and practicing a lot. These three key practices transformed into the habit I’ve introduced into my routine for awhile now, the habit that had the most positive impact on my workflow. I kind of imposed to myself to practice and shoot no matter if I have an idea to begin with or not. Giving up is not the answer. Not for me, anyway. So, even if, let’s say my creative flow decided to take another road that day and not reach me I would still prepare a setup from scratch just for the sake of practicing. If not capturing a certain subject at least learning a bit more about the camera, the light, composition or styling.
I have a background in graphic design and worked in the industry for over 15 years, so editing software like Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop was a skill that found a new purpose around a subject that I loved the most, food! Also, one of the best things I’ve ever done for my personal development was participating in food photography challenges. Being part of a creative community, being inspired, cheering each other on, and learning from one another is a major takeaway for one’s development and sense of community.
I’m very careful about what I consume in terms of visual, I make sure I limit my social media to the necessary and use my spare time to rest my creativity. I walk a lot in nature and spend time away from my desk, especially between clients’ big campaigns I need to decompress. This’s especially important for who like us has to keep the social media platform constantly up and running.
Adobe Lightroom has been amazing for editing and workflow. It’s so easy to use. I am beginning to look into learning more about photoshop too. The best habit that I have started is to pick up my camera often, and not always photographing the same things, that way it keeps my imagination going and I don’t get bored. I will often take my camera with me on a walk and take photos of nature. The light and subject is so different that it often sparks new ideas for me to use back at home with food.
My habit that made a positive impact on my workflow is creating boards on lightroom. Before knowing this technique I was always sending single low-resolution photos for my client in order to pick his favorites and then send him back the originals. Even if it’s a simple tip, this tip changes everything. I myself was using lightroom for 1 and a half year without knowing this. So actually when you’re done importing your pictures you can select the ones you want to send to the client for him to pick from. Go to print – printer – and save your board as pdf, the photos are numbered so all he has to do is pick his numbers and voilà!
Lightroom, photoshop and Instagram I think are a given. However, the age-old ‘practice, practice, practice’ is essential. Honing your craft by setting project goals, experimenting, and understanding what works and doesn’t work is key to improving your skills. If you want to be a better photographer, you have to work at it. There really isn’t a way around it. Sure, someone could have a ‘good eye’, but there’s a lot of technical skills and knowledge that goes into be a good photographer and even more to being a great photographer. I believe creativity is a muscle that needs to be flexed to get stronger and develop. Practice with intention. Make it a habit. I will purposely set out challenges and composition ideas I want to practice with. This is especially true when I start learning something new, like learning off-camera flash or creating GIFs.