The Best Software for Managing Your Studio & Photography Business
OCTOBER 09, 2012
By Henry Anderson
The dream of becoming a professional photographer is one filled with ideas of exciting clients, creative freedom and endless artistic possibilities. Rarely does that dream include laborious paperwork tasks, diligent contract negotiations with a client, tax filings or invoicing, yet that’s what a lot of photographers end up spending a majority of their time doing.
StudioPlus Stratus makes the most sense for small studios as it allows for scheduling, event tracking, invoicing and online image storing without need of a client application—but the company has yet to make it live. The pricing for Stratus is the least comprehensive of the bunch, with a $30-per-month fee for a single user and $5 per month for additional users, without mention of additional branding or storage. The company’s Web site indicates that StudioPlus Stratus will be available “in 2012” so we expect additional pricing configurations when it officially launches.
Available now is StudioPlus Spectra (formerly just called StudioPlus), which is a stand-alone tool for managing the daily activities of a studio on one dedicated computer. The company offers five versions of Spectra, each one adding features to the package’s set.
Spectra Express is a free application designed for new photo studios. It allows client management, project tracking, scheduling, ordering and image presentations.
Spectra Standard adds mobile syncing, and invoicing and marketing tools so it’s really the first level of the software that’s fully featured enough for a studio. Standard, for example, allows for bulk e-mailing and includes a form-letter designer for customized communications.
Spectra Professional is primarily for event, wedding and portrait shooters, and allows you to track the details for multi-person, multi-requirement shoots. This level also adds financial tracking (see who has paid you and who has not), marketing tools and more workflow features. This version of the software is really designed for the active studio, and it performs many tasks that online tools can’t even touch.
For example, users of Spectra Professional can integrate with cash drawers for the on-location studio that processes transactions at the moment of capture. There’s also integration with Photoshop for image retouching on the fly and for connections to other SQL server databases, so companies integrated into larger corporate environments or large retail chains can use the program to create a turnkey system that connects to existing databases.
Spectra Enterprise takes this idea a step further and adds features for large corporate offices, offering tools for remote-location shooters to transmit images directly back to the home office. This is great for real-estate chains, food-service franchises, newsgathering organizations and any other place where it’s necessary to coordinate the activities of multiple offices that report to a central creative department.
Each of these tools is available for either a monthly fee or for a lump-sum total, but users can upgrade at any point to the next version. That makes Spectra a powerful tool for the growing studio or corporation. Prices range from $84 a month for Spectra Standard single-user to a flat-fee of $5,095 for a ten-user setup of Spectra Enterprise, so it’s best to look at the pricing options on the company’s site to make purchasing decisions.
One caveat for the Mac-using studio: StudioPlus is a native Windows application, so it needs to run on a PC or a Mac using Windows-emulating tools like Parallels or VMware Fusion.
Prices: Stratus, plans start at $30 per month; Spectra Express, plans start at free; Spectra Standard, plans start at $83 per month; Spectra Professional, plans start at $142 per month; Spectra Enterprise, plans start at $3,695
Light Blue v3
That’s not to say it’s not powerful; it offers all the same features of the majority of tools but without that extra step. Light Blue, for example, can record payments but can’t process them like most of the other tools can.
Light Blue only offers a single-user version to customers in the U.S. and the program costs 295 British pounds (around $470) so be sure to try it out before making the leap.
Price: Approximately $470
The tool also allows a good degree of customization: It’s possible to set up a studio’s workflow to include a client phone call after presentation but before delivery, for example, or to specify how long each phase of a client job should last so that you can receive notifications when the job is running too long.
Táve 3.0 lacks (at least as of this “Early Access” state) many of the integration points with other systems that ShootQ provides, but an API (advanced programming interface) for developers allows third-party customizations of lead generation. That means that a studio’s Web developer could easily integrate Táve into existing systems.
Pricing starts at $25 a month for a Solo Plan with a single brand and 500 MB of storage, and goes up to $60 a month for a Corporate Plan with up to 12 users, five brands and 8 GB of storage.
Price: Plans start at $25 per month
Simply Studio System
One nice thing about Simply Studio is the attention to detail. The developers have clearly looked at the other tools and thought of little features that have a big impact. One such feature is the e-mail monitoring function, which can watch inbound e-mails and automatically notify a user when something comes in from a flagged potential client.
Another small-but-handy feature is the weather widget that’s integrated into a user’s dashboard. Since many studios do outside shoots, having a forecast tool inside a studio management application is a big time saver.
The company has also teamed up with a number of industry partners, including Nik Software, songfreedom and post-processing firms, in order to provide discounts and offers.
Pricing starts at $29 a month and goes to $79 a month depending on the number of users and features.
Price: Plans start at $29 per month
The single-user version of SuccessWare starts at $49 per month (to lease it) and it’s possible to add more users.Price: Plans start at $49 per month
One of ShootQ’s best features is its seamless integration with many popular business and social media tools. Send messages via a Twitter account and they show up in the task list. Allow clients to fill out a form on your studio’s Facebook page, liveBooks site, listing on The Knot or your blog, and the lead is automatically filled and tracked in ShootQ. The program also works with a number of payment systems and can export data in QuickBooks format, which will keep your accountant happy.
For iPhone users, there’s a companion app that supports push notifications to help you remember where you’re supposed to be, who you’re supposed to photograph and what you’re supposed to do when you’re done.
Plans begin at $39.95 a month for three users and a single studio branding, and go up to $79.95 a month for unlimited users and brands. The highest level of ShootQ service is free for Pictage Pro users.
Price: Plans start at $39.95 per month
Genbook starts at $19.95 a month for a single-user version and is $39.95 a month for the unlimited version.
Price: Plans start at $19.95 per month
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