When you are first starting out in photography as a hobby or even as a business it is incredibly easy to get overwhelmed with products/offerings/tools that everyone online is trying to sell you.
Once you buy ______ it will make everything about your life butterflies and rainbows! (Sound familiar?)
Weeding your way through the excitement of new offerings can be tough so I prepared a list of what I feel are the absolute best five tools that are worth investing in as a new photographer. All of them have a certain amount of hype surrounding them, but after tried and true experience with all of them for the past few years, I can vouch for every single one.
Lightroom is hands down the best tool for photographers out there. Its intuitive and easy to use. It incorporates organizational features as well as editing features and it basically just does what you need it to do as a photographer. While PS Elements and Photoshop can be used for photo editing, they are just not all that user friendly and the organization system is lacking. Lightroom makes it easy to categorize your photos, delete photos, zoom in, compare, make minor tweaks, make major tweaks, use filters, clone out objects and export photos multiple times at different settings. Its also non destructive so any changes you might make to a photo don't actually change the base RAW file. If you have any questions about investing at all in Lightroom, do not hesitate. Just do it. Since Adobe has a $9.99 subscription model for Creative Cloud (CC) it makes it even easier to sign up and start working in Lightroom today!
Blogstomp is one of those programs you hear about on FB forums a lot. People are constantly singing their praises and making bold claims like "Blogstomp will change your LIFE!", "I don't know how I ever survived without it" and so on and so forth. Well I am here to tell you, its all true!
The investment for Blogstomp is relatively low for the benefits you receive. If you blog your images at all in any way shape or form, Blogstomp will change things and you will wonder how you ever lived without it.
Instead of exporting out of Lightroom multiple times at different sizes, dpi or with or without watermark, you can do all of that in Blogstomp instead. Export the images once and then you never have to go back into Lightroom if you need something.
You can also easily watermark and change sizes of images in blogstomp so uploading to FB, your website, or Instagram is so much easier. Recently I have seen some people complaining about how images look after blogstomping them, but I have never had an issue. I keep my settings the same for each medium I need the photos for and it using this program has shaved hours and hours off of workflow times resizing, exporting and getting images into templates. Unless something major changes with the software, I will be a fan of this program for a very, very long time.
This one took me a while to buy into. I had heard many, many people sing the praises of Photomechanic for a very long time, but the initial investment is a little higher and what everyone was describing this program did can essentially also be done in Lightroom so I didn't really get the hype? Why pay $150 for a program that does something I can already do? Well, I wasn't realizing one really important factor: space on my hard drive.
Let me splain. (5 points if you get that movie reference)
With Photomechanic, you open up the images from your SD or CF card, (they load super quick, no rendering like in LR) then you can go through and "tag" images, rate them similarly to how you would in Lightroom and then you can select just the tagged images and then import ONLY those images on to your hard drive (or whatever storage or working device you are utilizing.) Let me say that again.
Only the images you want to copy over make the cut for your valuable hard drive space.
With Lightroom, you copy ALL the images over and then go through and select faves etc...Maybe you "reject" the closed eyes, blurry etc...images, but how often do you go back and make sure to delete those images out of LR or off your hard drive? Thats just an extra step that takes time. With Photomechanic this process is no longer necessary.
I found the process of having to go back and delete images out of LR and my hard drive to be cumbersome and honestly most of the time I would not bother with it. Now, I am bringing over so many less images to my hard drive and saving valuable space. The rendering time in Photomechanic is also blazing fast, so my initial cull time after every session has decreased from about an hour to maybe 10 minutes (MAYBE, usually less). That is HUGE! So much time that can be spent on other, more valuable, business growing activities.
Client management systems. Ugh. Even that sounds kind of boring and not fun right? I quickly realized I needed a way to manage my clients information online as soon as I started getting buried in paper contracts, invoices, workflows etc...I researched many different client management systems for a while and was always turned off by the price. I just figured I didn't make enough steady income to make it worth it to invest the money.
17hats was the perfect solution. Its kind of a funny name, but it makes sense when you think about it. As a small business owner you wear many different "hats" and this system takes care of that for you. The quote/contract/invoice feature is worth the price alone to me. It has made my system so much easier not only on my end, but for the clients. I get paid quicker, the interface looks nice and is easy to use and it does what you need it to do as a small, newer business.
17hats is a relatively new company and launched in late 2014. They may not have some of the same robust features that other client management systems might have but I have used them steadily since last October and am extremely happy with what they offer, the new features they have launched and what plans they have in the works. They usually offer pretty good specials as well for new signups so that is a bonus!
I don't think it's any secret how much I like my Squarespace site. It's been the only platform I have used since I went into business and I am extremely pleased with the look, function, and customer service. I've previously used Wordpress for personal blogs, but for my photography site I wanted something that was drag and drop, easy to customize and not have to purchase hosting elsewhere. I wanted an all in one solution. Squarespace delivered and continues on delivering.
Having a professional website greatly contributes to your legitimacy as a business owner. It is absolutely an investment that is necessary if your goal is to have a profitable, sustainable business!
I hope you have found this list useful and as always, feel free to comment below or email me with any questions you might have!
What other tools out there have you found to be invaluable as you grow your business?