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Question for Colie – Which photographer tools do you find most useful?

My job is awesome because I get to film and photograph my clients as they have the biggest and smallest moments as a family.  Giving birth, celebrating their first year of Parenthood, and all the beauty and chaos in an ordinary day are just a few of the events I am hired to document.  But to be honest, actually clicking the shutter is a very small part of my job. So I am constantly on the lookout for tools that make the behind-the-scenes tasks easier.  Less time on the computer means more time for MY family and less strain on my eyes.  This is not inclusive but I will start with my top 5 and edit this as needed.  This post does contain affiliate links.

Dubsado – I am starting with my CRM (client-relationship manager) because if I ever forced to choose ONE tool this would be it.  This tool helps me communicate with both potential and current clients.  It serves as my address book, calendar, and invoicing all-in-one solution.  It’s just an added bonus it keeps everything on-brand with their design customization and whitelisting.  Any link I send comes as clients.coliejamesphotography.com and NOT dubsado.com.  And I embed my videos EVERYWHERE.  In my booking process my clients fill out no less than 3 forms and make at least 2 payments on their invoice using this system.  So much of this process is automated I can do anything I need in less than 5 minutes from a computer or my phone.  Use COLIEJAMES for 20% off your first payment (month or year).  I am on their previously sold FOREVER plan, so believe I will be a client for life!

Pro.Photo
My website is my most prized business possession, second only to my actual cameras.  While I started with a Blogger blog years ago, I quickly realized that wasn’t where I needed to be with the online gateway to my business.  I have been using a ProPhoto WordPress template for years, starting with version 4 and now recently upgraded to 7.  I love it so much I wrote a blog post about the ProPhoto 6 upgrade and everything in that post is still true PLUS 7 shows you the edits as you are making them.  Save $10 on your purchase with code CJAM9499

 

PhotoMechanic + Monogram (formerly Palette)

Lightroom is SO SLOW to load and cull images, even on my not-too-shabby computers and that is where PhotoMechanic comes in.  The load time for images WHILE them import from the cards is insane.  I know a ton of photographers who cull the images on the car and only import the keepers, but I start the import and cull while they are transferring.  What improved this workflow for me, even more, was the introduction of Palette buttons.  I have an Expert Kit, but for culling I only use four arcade-style buttons.  Left-Right-Zoom-Tag.  I use other sliders and dials while I edit in Lightroom, but I am not at the point where that is faster than just using a mouse to be honest.  They just rebranded as a company to Monogram and have redesigned their modules. Speaking of editing…

ImageSalon
This is technically not a tool, but an outsourcing company, but I seriously cannot say enough good things about them. So after I book the client, take amazing images (and video), and sit at the computer to cull; I export to a Lightroom catalog and send them over to Molly my editor for her to work her magic.  I do want to address some common questions about this one because I think outsourcing your edits is WAY easier than you think.

So how do they know how you edit?  Great question, thanks for asking.  You start your relationship off by doing two things: sending them a sample of YOUR edits and scheduling an onboarding call.  Prior to this call, you will provide them with 10-15 RAW images for them to edit on the computer TOGETHER.  You give them realtime feedback so they can make notes about your preferences in your file.  Now does this mean your first order will be perfect?  Likely not, but I tell you I only had a handful of feedback after my first catalog came back.  Spoiler alert: if you have ever wanted to know my secret sauce for edits it’s Mastin Kodak Everyday presets.  YES, Molly uses my tweaked version to edit all my images 😉

EACH time you send in a session there is a spot to add specific notes about the session, tell them any changes in your editing style, request editing samples BEFORE they finish the catalog, or and you can schedule another call if needed. Don’t be afraid to give feedback, it is all a learning process and the more feedback you give initially the less you have to give.

So what happens if a session comes back and it is not a good representation of your work?  You send them feedback and your re-edits get top priority, often done within 24 hours.  Just in case you were curious, I have had to request this twice.  One time my editor was out and another person edited my session with Mastin Gold instead of Ektar.  She got me the corrected catalog in 4 hours.  The second time, the culling wasn’t the correct amount of images so Molly culled another 42 and sent me those edited images the next morning.

Pic-Time
This is a relatively new one for me I will admit.  The one thing that has held me back for YEARS from using an image proofing tool is the lack of the ability to deliver my films along with my images.  This is STILL a problem, but since there doesn’t seem to be a solution I have decided to go ahead and use one anyway.  What I love about Pic-Time, over others I have tried, is the way it displays products with each client’s images.

 

Narrative
This is my tool to get my images blogged after delivery.  You can publish your blog posts to WordPress directly from the desktop app and any changes you make can be automatically updated on your blog post.  There are a lot of great features (that I don’t use).  You can add in your SEO terms + alt text, crop images, add text, or swap images out easily. I honestly mostly use the system to create my collages and it saves me a TON of time over my previous workflow doing it in Photoshop.  See this finished blog post here.