The Tour Photographer Workflow

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Table of Contents

Your first day on tour is nerve-wracking enough. Anytime I try to learn something, I feel like I have to wade through piles of 

In a job where time is especially scarce, and organization is vital, your tour photography workflow can make or break your sanity on the road.

I’ve spent 6 years as a touring photographer, traveling the world with bands and artists, constantly improving and refining my workflow to be as efficient as possible.

 

From my first moment hopping in a van to embark on my first tour until… well, this exact moment, I have always wondered “how does everyone else do it?” Tour photographers and videographers don’t have some formal documentation that can be followed. You learn from your mistakes, your time-wasting 

 

 

My core tenets of a good workflow are 1) quick and effective editing, 2) timely & responsible photo delivery, and 3) safe, well-organized backups.

With a reliable and systematic approach to your workflow in place, you should be able to spend 90% of your day shooting, sleeping, or slamming iced coffees — and only a few hours dedicated to editing and delivering photos.

If you’ve toured as a photographer or videographer before, you know that days on the road travel by at fucking light speed. When you blink and the day is over, it’s easy to put off showering, eating, and taking care of yourself. It’s infinitely easier to put off organizing your files and sticking to a predetermined workflow.

But once you slack off your workflow and file organization for a day, it’s dead easy to fall behind. I’ve developed a reliable daily process with the intent to spend the least amount of time on my computer every day.

Whether you’re a seasoned vet, or about to embark on your first tour, I hope you can pull some knowledge from my workflow, which I happily explain in painstaking detail ahead — from pre-tour prepwork, to post-tour archiving, and literally everything inbetween.

I’m about to pull back the curtain on the workflow that allows me to send off photos post-show every night, create a consistent body of work, deliver your files safely, and back-up your work securely on the road.

Matty Vogel — The Tour Photographer Workflow
The workflow must continue… even if there’s no dressing room. (Photo by Eric Maldin)

Pre-Production Workflow

Being prepared, organized, and timely is a choice you can make. You can be the worst photographer on earth, but if you’re “on top of your shit” I truly think you’d still get hired.

If you wanna show up on the first day of tour with just your camera and a little free space on your computer you’re in the wrong place.

Yes, being a tour photographer is a fun job but if you treat it like a hobby, it won’t stay your job for long.

One of the things that I’ve repeatedly heard from clients over my career is the following; “Matty, you’re on top of your shit.”

Thank you. I’m awful at accepting compliments, but this one I openly bask in. Thank you.

 

The second you get on tour, time will be scarce (this is going to be a reoccurring theme of this article so strap in). How do we maximize the amount of time you can be shooting, and not stuck on your computer?

I promise you if you fall behind on day one, you’ll never recover the rest of tour. 

Set aside a few hours, plug in your laptop, and let me walk you through the pre-production stage of my workflow.

Pre-Production: File Management

I cannot overstate the following — the foundation of all of this is your file management setup. The second you get lazy or disorganized with this (very) boring aspect of your workflow, you’re done for.

Setting up our folders in the pre-production stage will save us loads of time down the road.

Here’s my catch-all folder and file setup:

 

Let me break it down:

Working Folder — “2020_BILLIE_EILISH”

My working folder houses all of my RAW photos and my Lightroom Catalog. I’ll typically create one master working folder per artist, per year.