When I first started in the portrait business we had a great system called Portrait One Manager. It was made by Phase One (awesome camera backs and capture software) and was relatively easy to use and had a ton of options attached to it. Unfortunately it looks like it wasn’t a very successful piece of software because Phase One doesn’t offer it anymore. What was really great about the software was the fact that you could pull any bit of information out of it that you wanted. The only catch was that the person scheduling the appointment had to put in all the information. Another awesome aspect was that it linked directly with Capture One (Phase One’s premiere digital tethered capture software) and it was integrated with sales and accounting software as well, with an export option to QuickBooks. I really liked this software and appreciate it more now than when I was actually using it. You see when I first started, I was just a dumb 22 year old in college without any real experience, so when a problem came up I just naturally blamed the software instead of my own inexperience.
Besides the point that I wish I could still use Portrait One Manager, that software is now defunct and from what I have seen online, so are most of the studio management software out there. Here are a few that I have seen recently.
There are several different pieces of software out there, but there are a couple of things to look for when purchasing. Here are some things that I would find to be a great asset in software.
-Attaching sessions with Clients: It’s really nice to look back and see what you have done for a client has done in the past and be able to keep that all in one simple file, instead of multiple mini files. Maybe it’s just me, but I hate it when I go to look up a client’s pictures and there are 19 different contacts that match the same name, and I have to go look up each and every one of them just to find the right photo session (that explanation might not have been to clear, but if you need some clarification, just comment)
-Generate Lists. Invaluable for marketing. Say for example I want to send out a postcard to all my clients whose anniversary is in the month of June. This feature allows me to set the parameters, and generate an easy list that can be turned into a mail merge for easily printable address labels.
-Invoicing. If you are going to do photography and make money at it, then somewhere down the line, you need to have financial records, whether it is for tax purposes, or if you want to get a loan, etc. Financial records are very important to a healthy business, and it’s nice to have some software to keep track of it for you. It’s also nice if this software can export all the data to QuickBooks as well.
-Calendar. Do you really need me to explain a Calendar?
-Workflow tracking. At some point you will need to access where an order of photos has gone. If you are doing one shoot a week/month/year then this is probably not a big priority. But if you are trying to manager 60 shoots a week, and then this can be nice. This feature is basically a checks and balances system to make sure everything goes as planned. As a photo goes through each part of the workflow, that part get’s checked off, and so on. It ends with archiving the image with a way to access it in the future (simply erasing it off your hard drive is not archiving).
-Back ups. Whether it is via the cloud or to a USB jump drive, you NEED to back up this type of a system. If your studio becomes very successful and you start to thrive off of this system, then when that system goes down, you’re dead in the water. Did you see how people panicked when Wikipedia went down for a day (out of protest)? Imagine you are a college student who has been using Wikipedia to write all of your papers and then suddenly it’s gone the night before the paper is due, and you haven’t even started on it. Yeah, that’s a little bit of panic. Point of the matter is, back up your data.
-Create appointments while mobile. It’s really nice to just pull out the smartphone, make the appointment, and then have it sync up with your software at home.
There are some other bells and whistles that really make life easier, but the list above is pretty much the essentials. Now technically, with a little bit of organization, you could probably handle all of this using Microsoft Outlook, and it would probably work great, except for the fact that it is not written specifically for the photography industry. But do with it, as you will. Below are a few samples of studio software that you might like to try.
1. Studiocloud Basic Version is Free, updates are pretty cheap (Studiocloud.com)
2. Studioplus Basic version is Free, after that you can pay monthly. (studioplussoftware.com)
There used to be a lot more, but most of the ones that I had used before were picked up by studio plus. I like Studio Cloud because it does a cloud back up (the non-free version).
Good Luck Folks.