When I first started out as a photographer with my own business, I had no clue where to begin. I knew that I wanted to be organized, efficient, legal, professional, and high quality. But how in the world was I supposed to go from 0 -> 60 in no time? It was seriously overwhelming!
It took me a while to find the tools and resources that would help me establish myself as a reputable photographer and business person, and now I’ve found that there are some things I just couldn’t live without! Today, I’m going to share some of those with you, in hopes that maybe it will help another budding photographer or others getting started with their business. Whether it’s my favorite website tools or organization software, these are all things that make it all work! Sharing is caring, right? 🙂
There are tons of ways to design and do a website. I knew I wanted something easily customizable and I didn’t want a template-based solution for my main website. I’m just far too finicky and picky to choose a template and be stuck with it for years to come! Showit is a great tool for this because you can change your site any time and it doesn’t cost you a dime. And you don’t need to know how to code! It’s a simple drag and drop solution, so what you see is what you get. I love it! An added bonus is that other Showit users are incredibly friendly and helpful, and I’ve actually met several wonderful photographers because of it.
This blog you’re currently reading is designed using the ever popular ProPhoto Blog theme, which is hosted via WordPress, and I use the hosting provider Bluehost (they are phenomenal, by the way!). Having a blog is so essential for me, because it allows me to share recent sessions, stories, and tips for photographers. Plus, it’s a huge boost to website traffic, which is always a plus! The ProPhoto theme is easy to use and fairly customizable. The only possible downside is that it’s an incredibly popular theme for photographers, though this doesn’t bother me a whole lot. 🙂
Keeping 15+ weddings and 50+ senior shoots organized and moving along is enough to make your head spin in circles, even if you LOVE workflow and organization. I’ve tried a few different options (that shall remain nameless…) to help me keep on top of things and when I found Pixifi, it was as if someone had made exactly what I was looking for. It has completely revolutionized the way that I manage client files, invoices, payments, contracts, and my workflow. It’s truly AMAZING.
I now handle almost 100% of the emails and client workflow in Pixifi. When I am contacted by a bride or senior, their information shows up directly inside Pixifi, and I can then add their wedding or session on the calendar (which I can sync to my calendar on my phone), create their invoice, payments, contracts, and questionnaire, and have ALL of those sent to the client. And a good number of those emails are sent automatically, which is a HUGE timesaver for me. I’m notoriously NOT detail-oriented when it comes to remembering when to do what, so this has been essential for me. Otherwise, I’d have brides receiving questionnaires after their wedding, which wouldn’t be good! Let’s just say I <3 Pixifi. It’s wonderful.
While Pixifi has taken the lead for me in organizing my client workflow, I still find myself returning to one of my favorite apps called Things for daily tasks and projects. If you’ve ever read the book Getting Things Done, you’ll really appreciate Things. It’s a very simple app that is available for iPad, iPhone, and Macs that allows you to create your “inbox” of items, tasks, or things to remember. The idea is that you move through those inbox items based on different “tags” related to the item. So for instance, I would tag my trip to the grocery store, bank, and post office as “Errand” and then I can select that tag when I’m ready, and anything that is an errand will show up. I often use this for my design and blogging workflow, and it’s been enormously helpful and has made me much more efficient.
This definitely qualifies as more of a resource than a tool, though CM does offer a bunch of workshops and classes for learning that are quite good. Photographer forums are a dime a dozen, and it seems there are new ones every week. I’ve been involved in three different ones since I started my business, two which no longer exist. CM is an amazing community of photographers, some are professional and some are hobbyists. But what I love about it is that I’ve learned SO much from the huge variety of discussions, critiques, and tips from all of these wonderful ladies. They’ve helped me improve the caliber of my work and artistic vision, but have also had insightful business tips as well. I would highly recommend this as a place for new photographers or people just starting their business.
I <3 my iPhone. It was one of the best “business” purchases I made in 2011. It is so convenient to have everything at my fingertips when I am at a consultation or client shoot, I’m not sure what I’d do without it. My current favorite thing is to post Instagram photos from shoots on Facebook – people LOVE it! I also use apps like Quick Sale and Paypal for client orders and payments on the spot, and I can moderate comments on my blog or Facebook as well.
I bought a cheap-o card reader from Walmart. Big mistake. The thing broke within a week. Then my friend and fellow photographer Allison had this handy little card reader at a wedding, and I realized how fabulous it is. It’s super speedy, has a swivel USB connector, and also comes with a USB connector cord (which comes in handy for LOTS of other things). Used in combination with my high speed CF cards, this little gadget is a DREAM and makes downloading thousands of photos from a wedding painless.
7. Shootsac & ThinkTank Airport International
Carrying all of my photo gear around without these two bags would be nearly impossible. With 2 cameras, 5 lenses, 2 flashes, dozens upon dozens of batteries, a multitude of cables, and lots of other odds and ends, I would be a hot mess without these. I use the Shoot Sac while at weddings to carry my extra lenses and have them conveniently right on me during those fast paced moments when I’m switching lenses, and I will occasionally use it for senior shoots. I use the Airport roller bag to transport everything to and from location to location, and it houses all my gear in between shoots. The roller bag has also worked perfectly when I’ve flown for weddings or workshops. Definitely worth the investment.
Yes, Pixifi can handle all of my financial and invoicing needs. But like I said, I wanted to be professional and organized, and Quickbooks is pretty much the gold-standard for small business accounting. Quickbooks has a HUGE learning curve though, and there are likely some features that I’m not even aware of, but when it comes time to pay sales tax or my annual taxes, it’s 100% reliable. Plus, it gives you a complete picture of the health of your business through various reports, which is something I can’t do using Pixifi.
Absolutely every photo I take goes through Lightroom. It’s how I organize and cull images, plus sometimes I’ll do all of my image edits in Lightroom. I use Photoshop sparingly, mostly for skin retouching and black and white edits. Most of my blog images have at least some Photoshop editing work done on them prior to posting, though it’s really quite minimal. There’s no way I could deliver quality photos to my clients without either of these, they are absolutely essential to my business.
Really, most of us probably couldn’t live without Facebook. Well, unless you’re my husband! In all seriousness, though, Facebook has been great for connecting with clients, sharing photos, and spreading the word about my business. I can actually trace several clients of mine directly back to different interactions on Facebook, isn’t that crazy!?! Having a business page has been so much fun and I love how you can customize it and share information so easily with everyone. Now if only Facebook would stop changing things every other month!!!
There’s probably a lot of other things I could share about, but these are my top 10 absolute favorite things that make my business what it is, other than my camera gear and me 🙂 I hope you found this list helpful, and feel free to add in the comments any additional useful tips and resources, or comments about your own favorite things that make your business awesome!