There are a huge number of amazing tools out there to help make the day-to-day running of your photography business as pain-less and efficient as possible. This post is an up-to-date list of all the different little apps and tools we currently use - including a bunch that are free - that really help our business run in 2018. For each app, we have a brief description of what we use it for and why it’s awesome. We have even added promo-codes where we know of any to help you save if you decide to sign-up or purchase any of these services yourself. We hope you find this list helpful, whether you are just starting out, or a seasoned pro.
Note: all amounts are in US dollars unless stated otherwise.
Photo Editing & Design Tools
Adobe Lightroom (Classic CC) — $10/month
What we use it for: Processing and editing of hundreds of photos at a time.
Why it’s awesome: The huge number of controls over every aspect of a photo allows us to get the best out of each image. The ability to import and create presets for these controls allows us to create a unique look.
Photomechanic — $150
What we use it for: Curating/culling 1000’s of photos at a time.
Why it’s awesome: This app is faster than any other photoviewer we tried, and lets us narrow down a huge set of photos quickly to find the keepers.
Alienskin Exposure — $149
What we use it for: As a final tweak on our images to give them a more film-like grain
Why its awesome: The grain Alienskin applies feels more natural - varying with the exposure of an image - compared to what we can achieve in Lightroom by itself. It’s subtle and many of our couples might not notice, but it’s an extra part of trying to bring the best out of each image we can.
JPEGmini — NZD $53
What we use it for: Reducing file-size to making downloading and sharing images faster and easier.
Why its awesome: It reduces the file-size of images (sometimes massively) without any perceptual loss in quality.
Smugmug — from $4/month (the $6/month plan is the best for simple ‘pro’ online gallery hosting - use this link to save 20% on any plan)
What we use it for: Client online galleries
Why its awesome: It is the cheapest of all the online photo gallery systems with unlimited storage and the ability to use your own custom domain for $6/month (power plan)
Smartslides — from $8/month (you really want the $16/month plan)
What we use it for: Making slideshows
Why its awesome: It guides us through every step of the process so we can create a stunning slideshow in 5 mins when, in the past, it maybe have taken us an hour or more.
Smartalbums — $299
What we use it for: Designing and sharing Album layouts
Why its awesome: Pixellu Smartalbums is hands-down the best album design software out there. It is fully featured, has an amazing built in template library, it links with almost all the popular labs (even down here in the Antipodes) and is extremely stable and bug-free. But it is the workflow that really shines; the app guides you through the process allowing us to create beautiful, modern layouts quickly and easily. We also really love the way it syncs with their cloud proofing service (which you can pay for on a per-album basis!!), to make it easy for couple to leave feedback, that you can then see and tick off, right in Smartalbums.
Core Office Tools
Google Apps — free (or use a custom domain + other features from $5/month)
What we use it for: Email, calendar, shareable documents, notes, etc.
Why its awesome: Having everything online allows us to access our important work anywhere. These google tools are also able to be integrated with many other services and each other, making them more and more useful. e.g. we can link our website form submission to a google sheet which lets us track how our business is doing.
Squarespace — from $12/month (use GIMME10 to save 10% on any plan)
What we use it for: This website 😉
Why its awesome: Squarespace is the easiest to use website platform out there. Especially if you are non-technical, their layout system of blocks really lets you focus on the design instead of getting stuck and frustrated by the limitations of other systems.
Studio Ninja — $17.95/month (use coupon code: PATINA to save 50%)
What we use it for: Managing our photo shoots and staying on top of all the little tasks to do.
Why its awesome: It is built around the idea of a workflow, but even better you can automate parts of the workflow; e.g. send a welcome email right after booking; send a questionnaire 1 month before your session; automatic meeting and payment reminders - this app saves us so much time!
Dropbox — free (or paid plans from $8.25/month - use this link to get 500mb free space on any free or paid plan)
What we use it for: Backing up everything, all our business documents and even our current and past RAWs
Why its awesome: Everything is synced with the cloud and other computers. We now use the a plan with “smart sync” and unlimited storage, so that everything can live in the cloud, but is always accessible if we ever need it.
1Password — $3/month
What we use it for: Keeping all our passwords in one place
Why its awesome: The idea of 1Password is so simple and amazing: Instead of having to remember a different password for every website/service you sign up off - let the app remember all your passwords for you - you only have to remember 1 password to unlock your secure vault. Also it’s available everywhere, on Mac/Windows/Android/iPhone, it has plug-ins and extensions for every browser and system you can think of - so no matter what you use, you aren’t limited or restricted - and it keeps in sync with all your devices always so you can log into your favourite services from anywhere.
Later.com — free (use this link to get 10 extra posts each month)
What we use it for: Scheduling Instagram posts
Why its awesome: Let’s you upload and schedule your Instagram posts (we do a week at a time) from your computer, and then depending on your Instagram account, it can either post them for you, or send you everything need to you phone in a notification so you can post in just a couple of taps.
World Time Buddy — free
What we use it for: Scheduling meetings across time zones
Why its awesome: Trying to find a time that works with everyone across different time zones is really difficult sometimes, this little website (and phone app) lets you see visually what 6pm in your local timezone 2 weeks from now, would be in say, Hong Kong and visa versa.
Windy.com — free
What we use it for: Weather and forecast
Why its awesome: The mostly beautiful, accurate and information dense weather website out there. You actually track storms across the oceans and get an hour by hour view of how rain, clouds, wind, tides etc. will change.
Google Earth (desktop version) — free
What we use it for: Virtual location scouting including checking sun paths.
Why its awesome: Visit any place on earth and you can often see the area in high-resolution aerial photos with hills and mountain terrain. Use the sun button to see exactly where the sun will be at any date/time - amazing for figuring out when a photo shoot location will lose the light.
Toggl — free
What we use it for: Tracking our time
Why its awesome: If you haven’t discovered the benefits of timetracking, let me introduce you to this episode from the Cortex podcast. Toggl is simply the best app for timetracking, not only because you can do so much with the free tier, but because of how well it integrates with other services. e.g. every new couple who book with us, automatically get their own tag in toggl, allowing us to get a really good picture of how long the average wedding takes us to edit, and therefore how much our time is worth.
Scanbot (iPhone and Android) — free
What we use it for: Scanning receipts and other documents
Why its awesome: Super easy to use, its open right to the camera, automatically figures out what you want to snap and takes a photo, crops it and flattens it out, makes it high-contrast and easy to read, and saves it to your cloud storage… all without you even needing to tap a button.