Photographers often spend just as much time behind a keyboard, managing their business, as they do behind a lens. Studio management software and services can ease some of the grunt work by centralizing and automating tasks such as lead tracking, scheduling, invoicing and bookkeeping.
Among Tave’s useful features is the ability to send questionnaires to customers and to create automated payment reminders and contact forms to generate leads based on online inquiries. When it’s time for clients to sign on the dotted line, Tave supports e-signatures so you don’t need to mail paper contracts. The most recent update to the service enables you to schedule emails so you can send them at optimal times, so you’re not chained to your desk. Tave tracks whether your emails have been opened by the recipients. The software generates graphics and business reports so you can track your profits, and offers advanced tax reporting tools when the IRS comes knocking. Tave is subscription based, with plans that can support anywhere from two to ten or more users, multiple brands and online file storage for documents and business data (not images).
PRICE: $25/month (solo); $35/m (boutique); $50/m (studio)
Designed from the ground up as an iPad business workflow optimizer, Studio Genie covers a range of functions. What sets it apart is its ability to serve as a personalized portfolio where customers can rate, tag and comment on images. You can create orders, send invoices and accept payments directly on your iPad thanks to the app’s integration with PayAnywhere (you’ll need an optional credit card adapter to use this feature). An online portal lets you access the service from any web browser, so you’re not chained to an iPad. Basic and Pro editions of Studio Genie come with a Lightroom plugin so you can import customer proofing feedback and publish Studio Genie image categories (Portfolio, Idea and Proofing) from within Lightroom. All versions of the software except the free one include a complete backup of all the data—including portfolio images—you create using the app. You can shave $10 or more from the subscription price if you opt for an annual plan.
PRICE: Free (limited); $30/month (lite, web only); $40/m (basic); $50/m (pro)
Pixifi’s web-based app has extensive financial tracking capabilities. It keeps tabs on your payments and expenses, but also your mileage. It gives you the ability to create client-facing online portals (with unique log-ins) where your clients can make payments, view information about their upcoming event as well as view their contracts and invoices. One function that sets Pixifi apart from its competitors is the ability to organize photo workshops. You can set up online workshop registrations, accept payments, generate and verify QR-code-based tickets and more through the app (this requires a Studio Pro subscription). Pixifi has a generous two-month free trial version so you can really put it through its paces before you commit.
PRICE: $25/month (Essential); $35/m (Boutique); $50/m (Studio Pro)
LIGHT BLUE SOFTWARE
While many studio management apps run in the cloud and are accessed via a web browser, Light Blue is a download for either Macs or PCs. While you pay a one-time cost for the software license, you can also subscribe to ensure you get free major updates plus data-syncing between computers, free support, access to an iOS app and more. Light Blue can import emails from programs like Mac mail and Outlook and link those email exchanges to photo shoots. You can also tag contact names for easy retrieval. Using the Light Blue API, you can host online contracts and other forms on your website and have those contracts imported directly into the software. Customers can e-sign contracts and make booking fee payments via credit card or PayPal. The recently introduced v. 6 features a revamped interface to make navigating the program easier and some under-the-hood tweaks to improve performance. Also new is text messaging, which you can use to contact clients (individually or in groups) from within the software. Replies go right to your mobile.
PRICE: $470 plus subscriptions starting at $12.50/month for two devices
While not designed exclusively for photographers, 17hats has become a go-to tool for small or one-person photo businesses. It derives its name from the 17 business functions it tackles, which include forms, calendars, contacts, bookkeeping and invoicing. It’s one of the newer programs to hit the market so it sports one of the slicker web-based interfaces we’ve seen in the category. Recent integration with ShootProof enables users to create ShootProof galleries, track client orders and manage bookkeeping from within the browser-based 17hats app. You can import business form templates, tag and search leads, sync calendars and also link your bank or credit card to import transaction data on a daily basis. It uses a “smart categorization” algorithm to identify and categorize transactions for easier retrieval. You can accept credit card payments via 17hats as well, paying only the transaction fee to the processor.
PRICE: $29/month; $17/m with annual commitment; $13/m with two-year commitment
Photographers can leverage StudioCloud’s range of business tools to manage leads and vendors, schedule events, create custom invoices, create and automate targeted marketing campaigns and more. The service supports credit card payments, and international currency symbols, date and tax formats if you’re dealing with customers abroad. The base price includes access on an unlimited number of computers, access to the mobile app and free upgrades, as well as unlimited client management, scheduling and invoicing and more. Photographers will want to grab a few a la carte items at $10/month extra, including proofing, booking and forms. The EmployeeBoost tier delivers tools for managing employees with features like security roles to determine which user can access a given set of features or information.
PRICE: $35/month (PartnerBoost); $65/m (EmployeeBoost)
ShootQ organizes your business around a straightforward, tab-based interface. At a glance you can view a what’s next” task list, a “what’s new” hub of new enquiries and leads, and a “what’s happening” calendar that can be synced to external calendars from Apple, Google and other systems. You can organize and rank sales leads, plus filter and search through them to find the most promising. The service provides data analytics so you can quickly graph bookings, referrals, sales and other key business metrics to sniff out trends. You can generate online contracts with e-signature support and save your work history for future reference. Unique among studio apps, there’s a marketplace function inside the app that lets you buy email templates, workflows, contracts and questionnaires from other photographers to augment your business.
PRICE: $40/month (startup); $60/m (studio); $80/m (hub)
Shootzilla is a web-based studio management app that lets you create custom workflows based on the kind of shoot you’ve booked (one for weddings, one for portraits, etc.). Once created, these workflows provide task lists, email scheduling, client profiles and a comprehensive overview of the progress of your shoot so you can stay on top of multiple jobs. It includes a calendar that can be synced with Google or Apple calendars. All Shootzilla data is backed up on redundant servers. Shootzilla users can opt into a referral network so they can pick up work from other photographers using the service.
PRICE: $17/month (Starter Kit) $37/m (Pro Package)
Picr is the newest cloud-based photo service on the block and may not be available in your area yet—they launched in Oregon and will be activated in cities once each market has a critical mass of photographers signed up for the service. Picr consolidates marketing, proofing, scheduling, contracts, galleries, payments and booking on a single online platform. Using the platform, potential clients will be able to access photographer profiles that will include portfolios, pricing, availability, and transparent reviews. Picr is free for photographers to use, though Picr will vet applicants and collect 15 percent of any work booked through the site. Photographers are free to set their own price.
StudioPlus is available in two formats: myStratus is a cloud-based subscription service designed for users who need to work from multiple locations with access to mobile apps; Spectra is desktop-based software that comes in five editions with a perpetual license (i.e. no subscription but prices are broken out in a 12-month payment plan). Both iterations can tackle a wide range of photo business needs including scheduling, calendar syncing, creating estimates, processing payments, generating marketing emails and text messages, project management and more. All the data you generate in the software is backed up. The newest versions are linked with a new email marketing service, dubbed StudioPlus Mail, which lets you manage your email marketing with tools to track unsubscribers, measure campaign analytics, block lists and more. Also new is the ability to electronically deliver images and other documents for client download. Additionally, StudioPlus has added a Notification Center so users can communicate internally with other staff or keep clients aware of updates, product announcements, news and more.
PRICE: Starts at $30/month (myStratus); starts at $33/m (Spectra)