Today’s #askVENTH question is one that many professional photographers out there can identify with: I’m sitting on a bunch of unprocessed photos. It takes ages to prioritise, do you have any tips for making it manageable?

Well, you’ve come to the right place, because as this is a very, very, very common occurrence with photographers, Brian has plenty of advice to offer on prioritising tasks that he’s learnt for himself along the way. As photographers, you’re going to want to get out there and take new shots constantly, but the more shots you take, the more you eventually have to edit, and sadly there’s only a limited amount of hours in a day to do so!

How do I pick the high priority tasks?

One of the best ways to view something as your highest priority, especially if you’ve got a large number of jobs to complete, is just to forget about the clients or collaborators that have been waiting the longest and are really mad at you for you now. If they’re already really mad at you, that pressure is only going to stress you out further and no amount of explaining that you’re super busy, or that you’ve just got a lot of work on and have fallen really far behind, is going to make them any less annoyed at you. Instead, go back through your images and find the jobs that you have the furthest back, where the clients have started to contact you to find out how the images are coming along and are on the borderline of becoming mad, but aren’t just yet. Check in with them to let them know that you haven’t forgotten about them and will be working through their images as soon as possible, and then go ahead and get those images out of the way and sent back to them – this will prevent them from being frustrated with you as well. Keep doing this as you move forward, so that you keep as many clients as possible away from the “I’m very angry with you” end of the spectrum, but all the while slip in a job from one of the angry clients that’s on your back to start whittling them down while progressing with your newer work.

But I can’t choose the best images from my sets!

If you’re having difficulty selecting the best images that you’ve taken for certain jobs, and you find that this is where most of your time is being taken up, something that will really help you with this process is getting yourself a second set of eyes to help you with it. Get a trusted friend to sit down with you during this process, they don’t even have to have an interest in photography, and ask for their opinion on which images to keep and which to get rid of. They’re going to be less concerned with how many images to choose, or which specific images to keep or lose – they’re going to pick out which images they think are your most striking, and it’s going to make the process a hell of a lot faster for you. Often just someone saying that they’re not sure about one of your image choices will force you to decide whether you like it enough to keep it – if you have to argue its case then it’s a keeper, and if you don’t care then just get rid of it straight away. Easy peasy.

You could even send a sheet of low-res copies of the images over to your client and ask them to choose the image for you if you’re really having trouble selecting. They’ll pick their favourites a lot quicker than you will, and they may even choose a set of images that you wouldn’t normally choose for yourself. But as long as you get rid of any beforehand that you aren’t happy to be shared, then it will really expedite this process for you.

Just get your butt into gear

Other than this, you really just need to keep in mind that the image selection process really isn’t as important as you think it is. Your work is awesome, it really doesn’t matter which images you choose, all that matters is that you start getting through your workload, so that you can start taking on new projects. Sit down, lock yourself away from all distractions and just power through all of your work, because this is going to happen to you over and over and over again, no matter how many times you clear your slate and have no backlog of images to edit, it will always pile up again as you take on new projects.

Something that Brian actually likes to do, which may blow many photographers’ minds, is on the first round of image selection, go through really, really quickly and give a one star selection to any image that is worth a second look. Once that’s done, he’ll go through a second time, filtering any image out that doesn’t have a star and deleting it forever. Gone. For good. It may seem harsh, but it helps him to go with his gut instinct and keeps him from second-guessing himself or double-checking and wasting time – making the whole process much, much quicker. And when there are only a set number of hours in the day – a time-saving technique is your best friend when it comes to editing, find one that works for you and stick with it, and you’ll find you’re clearing your backlog of work much more efficiently going forward.

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