As a photographer, you’re selling a whole lot more than photos.

That’s because if you’re merely in the business of taking pictures, then you become a commodity that runs the risk of becoming obsolete.

On the other hand, if you’re in the business of creating and delivering awesome experiences, then you can bet what you have to offer is a whole lot more indispensable. Not to mention, more fun.

But the root of all awesome experiences is time.

If you don’t have time to cultivate the kind of experience that will create a lasting impression, you don’t have much of a business.

In fact, time is the most valuable asset you’ll ever have, so protect it with your life.

Think about it this way: What could saving an hour a day do for you?

Assuming that you like to keep your job within the confines of a “standard work week,” freeing up one hour per day will bring you 260 more hours of free time this year.

To put that in perspective, if you charge approximately $100/hour for your time (or make $100/hour for your time given the number of hours you spend per session, and how much you charge for a session), that’s $26,000 more per year assuming you can fill that time — that’ll buy you a whole lot of new equipment, more time for creative projects, and a killer vacation with your family with plenty to spare.

If you’re reading this and thinking, “That all sounds great, but it doesn’t feel like I have enough time in the day as it is, yet you expect me to be able to free up an additional hour?”

Yes, I do. Because it’s a lot easier than you might think. Here are four simple things you can start doing today to be more productive and start working toward that awesome vacation.

1. Shoot Less

This one is pretty simple, but it can be tough for photographers to execute — especially those new to the business — because it involves having more trust and confidence in your shooting skills.

Every time you hit the shutter, you’re creating more work for yourself downstream. More editing, more reviewing, and more decisions need to be made with every shot.

That’s probably why pros like Matthew “The Body” Kemmetmueller have honed their skills to where they’re only shooting 20-30 images in a portrait setting.

Imagine the difference between culling 30 images versus 2,000 in post-production.

Rather than bear the time-sucking weight of hundreds of shots for each session, practice taking fewer photos.

Become super intimate with your camera, its settings, and the lighting that works best for you. This will help you become increasingly confident in your in-camera shooting capabilities and minimize post-production work.

2. Outsource Editing

A lot of photographers raise their eyebrows at the mention of outsourcing because they didn’t get into this business to hand-off the craft they’ve worked so hard to cultivate to someone else.

But the amount and artistic degree to which you outsource is totally up to you.

For example, you can outsource the stuff that’s a lot more time consuming than it is artistic, like basic color correcting. Then, when it comes time to present final images, you can be the one to put your artistic stamp on ‘em and add the final touches.

Speaking of final images, one quick note about them: Only fully edit the images clients purchase.

If you’re going through every image with a fine-toothed comb and your client only buys 1 out of every 10 images or 1 out of every 100 images, then you’re wasting a ton of time.

Clean up the images you show clients with basic (outsourced) edits, then only spend more editing time on the images they actually purchase.

3. Automating Online Booking and Scheduling

Automating online booking and scheduling is a total game-changer if you want to be more productive.

Think about all the time you spend going back and forth with clients trying to schedule meetings. There’s a pre-session consult to schedule, sales and reveal sessions, and a never-ending range of other meetings that need to happen to keep your business running.

That time spent going back and forth simply to make those meetings happen adds up. And it adds up quickly.

Automation can totally free you from that burden.

That said, a lot of folks who’ve yet to jump on the automation train are hesitant for two reasons:

They worry they won’t get the right type of clients without speaking to clients before they book, and they’re not comfortable showing the extent of their availability to the public.

I totally get it. Both are perfectly valid concerns. But both are also entirely surmountable problems.

With respect to booking the right type of clients, you don’t need to let people book a session with you before they talk to you. You can still schedule a free consultation session. But think of the time you can save if you give them access to your calendar to setup that pre-session consult.

And you’ll actually get more people signing up for pre-session consults by removing yourself as a bottleneck and making it easier for them to setup time to talk with you.

Moreover, it’s easy to integrate a short qualifying survey into your system that potential clients can fill out prior to booking. You can use it to make sure they understand your pricing, the products you offer, your style, location, and anything else you want to be sure you’re on the same page about.

As far as posting your schedule is concerned, by no means do you have to post your entire availability. Just block off some specific times.

For instance, rather than putting your portrait session schedule online, you can instead list limited availability for 15-minute phone consults while blocking out the time you don’t want to show or schedule.

Doing so protects your time and privacy. At the same time, it gives potential clients a meaningful way to enter your process without you having to take time out of your day to go back and forth with scheduling and availability.

4. Canned Responses in Gmail

Do you find yourself writing slightly different versions of the same email multiple times per day? You’re not alone. That’s exactly why Gmail created a feature that makes it incredibly easy to stop doing that.

All you have to do is take note of those types of emails and input commands into Gmail that’ll in turn send automated, personalized replies to clients without you having to lift a finger. Here’s a step-by-step process to help you get started.

Skill and talent are important to your business, of course, but efficiency is the difference between a photographer who manages 40 clients and one who can only work with 10. So take these steps to ensure you’re maximizing your time, and your business, to the fullest.