As most of you know, I did not go to school to become a photographer or a business woman so I’m learning every chance I get. When people used to ask me what I do for a living, I would smile and say, “Oh I’m a nurse.” They would proceed to nod and acknowledge what a lovely career choice that is and the conversation would move onto the next thing. Now they ask, I super smile and say, “I’m a professional wedding photographer.” Most of the time they look at my strangely and ask many bizarre questions: “Instead of nursing?! What are you thinking? What do you do all day?! Do you make anything doing that? Do you just edit all the time and that’s it? Gosh that sounds like nothin’!”
Well friends. It’s SOMETHING alright. Shooting and editing is just a baby portion of what wedding photographers do! There is so much behind the scenes business going on and that was overwhelming when I jumped into this industry as a full time photographer. I wanted processes, programs, and best practices for streamlining this or that but knew nothing. I just wanted someone to sit down and tell me what works, what doesnt, and give me some pointers to get on the right track!
So for anyone out there who wants any type of direction on how to become more efficient or helpful programs to keep you organized and save time..this post is for you! These are the ten programs I couldn’t live without!
1. Photomechanic | It makes culling a wedding or a session ten times faster. It can render RAW files so quickly and allows me to cull a wedding in an hour. I could not live without it!
2. Honeybook | This program digitally handles all of my proposals, contracts, invoicing, auto payment reminders, auto receipts for payment, sends auto questionnaires, and a few other things! I looked at many other software programs similar to this but some of them just did too much while I was not impressed with customer support of others. I can hop on the phone & talk to a Honeybook team member, a real live human being, in one minute. They are so prompt with emails & very receptive to their user’s requests concerning upgrades & program changes. It’s very simple to use and it’s very aesthetically pleasing to send to a client. Pretty is always good :)
3. Quickbooks | I track, record, and sort every financial transaction with this program. I love the online addition so my accountant can easily have access to my financial status as well. I love the report breakdown it gives you to show your profit, expenses, and much more.
4. Google Sheets | I work from two computers. I have my iMac in my office & my Macbook for traveling and working on the go. I have spreadsheets for various things (sales tax, client information, wedding bookings, school loans, personal budget, the list goes on). I was getting frustrated having two version of spreadsheets on each workstation & always having to update in both places and then they would never match. My Type A personality was stressing over the discrepancy. Cue Google Sheets! It is tied to your gmail account so you can log in from anywhere to see your spreadsheets living in the cloud! There is also an app so it makes it easy to access important info quickly!
5. Boomerang for Gmail | Talk about client boundaries & business hours. This GMAIL app allows you to create emails & time them to be sent at a later date/time! When I will get home from a session and sit at my computer to import & backup images, I want to make use of my time at my desk. BUT. I also do not want to email a client a 9 PM for multiple reasons. So I can simply answer it & time it for opening business hours for the next day. I adore this app.
6. Awesome Calendar | This is an iphone app. I have always been a pen & paper girl. I love color coding, tangible things, being able to be on the phone with the doctor and not having to say “Um can you hold on a second, my calendar is on my phone so I have to put you on speaker.” Plus, that horrid dot on the google calendar to signify you have something planned for the day…that was just not cutting it for me. Enter Awesome Calendar. It’s a 6.99 app. There are about 20 colors to color code things, you can add notes for the day, store types of info for appointments, the app badge shows you how many “things” are on the calendar that day, and it backs up to your gmail calendar. I always have it with me, it fits in little purses, and as a wedding professional I always have access to the calendar over a year in advance. Not to mention, it’s so aesthetically pleasing, clean, and non-cluttered to look at. The images supplied in the app store look overwhelming. You just need to try it for yourself!
7. Teux Deux | Since I switched out of carrying a paper planner, I was searching to streamline my to do listing. I make lists all the time. Lists for my lists, sub lists, long term goal lists, today’s goal lists, personal goals, summer to do lists, it’s ridiculous. Then I’m constantly re-writing them if they get too ugly or the paper gets too worn. And my desk is cluttered. And I don’t do clutter. Teux Deux is an online program that makes to-do listing wonderful. There are daily dated lists & static long term lists. You can create recurring to-dos as well. For example, I do quickbooks every monday. So it auto-populates “do quickbooks” to every single monday. I also have multiple static lists on the bottom portion of Teux Deux : blogging ideas, winter business to-dos, my editing list, personal long term goals, so many things! Since I am working from a computer all the time, I just always have it open & when something pops into my head it goes on the list!
8. Dropbox | Gosh I use this for a ton of things. Getting images from my computer to use on my phone for social media, receiving images from second shooters, passing files between myself + my graphic designer, storing business docs/images I want to have accessible at any moment from anywhere (pricing guide, headshots, backup version of contracts, timelines), sharing lightroom catalogs to edit on both workstations or to send to my outsourcing editor. It’s priceless.
9. Zenfolio | There are SO many beautiful programs for storing & selling image galleries. I adore the look of PASS & Pixieset, however it’s not cost effective to pay $30/gallery for any gallery over 100 images when you are shooting 25+ weddings per year + engagements + seniors. I ADORE the aesthetic of Pixieset but do not love the limit of storage space. With Zenfolio, my galleries live in the cloud forever with unlimited space. I have my first wedding in there still! It’s so easy to re-open galleries for any reason, to download any image from any gallery at anytime, and it serves as another backup storage system for my images. You have the option to personalize Zenfolio to get it looking very similar to PASS or Pixieset, too. I have the Pro Plan which used to be $150/year but it just jumped to $240/yr sadly. I would pay 3-4x this per yr for PASS galleries and double for Pixieset.
10. Canned Responses for Gmail | I was answering a lot of the same questions via email. I was also typing out a lot of the same information regarding engagement sessions prep or senior session prep. I was spending SO much time emailing! All of you small business owners know, emailing sucks a lot of your work day. But it doesn’t have to! Canned responses are a life saver! It’s basically a pre-written email response that you can easily access & insert into any email. Does this mean I send robotic, de-personalize email responses everyday? Absolutely not! However, it provides the meat & framework for a lot of email topics to educate & inform my clients. Some examples of my canned responses include engagement session prep info, senior session prep info, pricing information, delivering image galleries with download instructions, sending wedding vendor galleries, the list goes on! I love canned responses.
Honorary #11 Mile IQ (it’s my favorite number friends) | It’s an app for your tellie that tracks your drives & makes mileage reports so easy to produce. My accountant loves it. It’s super easy to use & you track your drives right on your phone!
If any of these help any of you then GREAT! I was so overwhelmed at figuring out how to be efficient when I first started. I’ve also been talking to some other photographers about some of these things I love recently so I figured sharing them would be a good idea.
SOMETHING I WANT A SUGGESTION FOR: receipts. I keep all of my receipts in the event of an audit. I have a hard copy, even of my online receipts, stored in a file box with categorized folders. I have researched some digital options & I know there are scanners but haven’t found the right fit yet! So if anyone has any system they love, I would love to hear about it!
Photocredit: Tyler Trippett Photography, my husband, Landon Wise Photography.