5 Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing Your Studio Management Software

I need to confess something… I’m a bit obsessed with studio management systems. I “affectionately” call them CRMs (Customer Relationship Managers), but a good one will do so much more than just manage your relationships with your customers.

There are a plethora of systems out there, each vying for your attention and asking you to “pick me” over the others. There’s also a whole lot of personal anecdotes out there, with everyone being convinced their CRM is the best choice for everyone.

So, to clear the confusion and dispel all the chaos, I thought I’d spend some time analysing the top 7 CRMs for photographers, and put together a bit of a guide. Better still, I did it in quiz form, so it’s fun to find out which system will best suit your needs.

So by all means, do the quiz (the link is below), but also ask yourself these key questions to ensure you get the most out of your time and effort in setting up the best CRM for you…

  1. How quickly do I learn new platforms?

    I get it, not everyone spent their summer holidays learning more efficient ways to reformat their computers (just me, then?). Most people get into photography because they want to take photos, not set up admin systems.

    Some CRMs are super simple to set up, and others take some getting used to. If you’re a quick learner of new software platforms, go for a deep dive into the most adaptable systems. But if you’re not so system-savvy, it might be a good idea to stick to a CRM that is good to go pretty much out of the box.

  2. How detailed do I need my system to be?

    If you’re a fan of old British TV shows, you might know Yes Minister. There’s an episode where the public hospital has been closed to patients, but the staff are still super busy with all their admin work. They couldn’t possibly open the hospital up to patients, because the staff don’t have the time to tend to them.

    This is the danger of a detailed system - you can spend weeks or months setting up the perfect system, but not leave yourself any time to actually deal with your clients. So, be realistic and be sure not to get caught up in the red tape of your admin system - your CRM should make less work for you, not more.

  3. What’s my budget?

    Six of the seven systems I have profiled sport a subscription method, meaning there are monthly fees. This is great when it comes to platforms that are regularly updating, because you get all the updated features automatically included within your subscription.

    A well-set-up CRM will save you countless hours each month in wasted admin time, so I see the cost of a good system being an investment in your business and in your sanity! Personally, I prefer a subscription basis for my CRM because I love the adaptability and cash flow, but it’s not for everyone’s business model, so keep it in mind if budget is an issue.

    While we‘re on the topic of money, keep in mind that most CRMs are based overseas, so their fees are likely to be in foreign currencies. Travel on over to a currency converter to check out the current rate so you can compare the real costs across the different platforms.

  4. Do I have access to my website’s back end?

    Any good CRM will capture your enquiries straight from your website, but you’ll need to do some work on the back-end to integrate it. If you’re using Wordpress, Wix or Squarespace, this will be incredibly simple to do, but before you get yourself into gear to set up your new system, you’ll want to make sure you have the ability and knowledge of how to go into your website and alter your contact form.

  5. Do I have all my business info and templates?

    This will be your first step in setting up a new CRM, so you’ll want your business information handy, including logos, branding colours, ABN and contact info.

    If you have used email, contact or questionnaire templates before, now is the time to round them up in preparation of your CRM taking on those duties for you. You can insert them into the system in the setup phase so they are ready to go from the moment you connect the system to your website.

  6. Bonus question - How do I get a discount?

    I included this question because the good folk at Studio Ninja have given me a discount code that entitles users to half price for their first year! Simply enter code “MACSTUDIO” when you sign up and they’ll whack 50% off your bill. We all love discounts, right?

    By the way, they don’t pay me to say that, but Studio Ninja is the platform I personally use for my businesses and I really do think it’s great, so if you’re heading down that path, why not take the discount?!

Now that you’re mentally prepared and have had a think about some of the aspects of your CRM, click the button below to start the quiz on finding the perfect CRM for you…

Join the (Calendar) Block Party

Where Did The Day Go?

I used to work for someone who had a bit of an anthem at the end of every day… at 4:50pm every. damn. day. he’d sigh and say, “Where did the day go, Mel?”. I was always tempted to answer, “You spent most of the day on Facebook, ahem, “marketing”,” but with great restraint, held my tongue. I probably deserve an award for that display of self control, honestly. I admit, I’m not always so tactful.

Since that time, I have been super conscious of ending the day surprised by how quickly it has flown by. I never want to hear myself utter those words, “Where did the day go?”.

The last few weeks (well, months) have been hectic for me, and I have struggled to keep on top of everything that needs to be done. Not just in running a business (which can be overwhelming at the best of times), but in keeping the dogs fed, the garden watered, the car washed (that just hasn’t happened, if I’m honest), and the wine cabinet stocked. It’s exhausting most of the time, and it’s easy to find myself at the end of the day, nearly asking that dreaded question, “Where did the day go?”.

The Calendar

So, before we get into my calendar, what does yours look like?

Do you prefer a pen and paper, or do you have a digital calendar synced up to all your devices?

What does your average day look like, according to your calendar? Is it sparsely populated with birthdays and not much else, or chockers with kids’ activities, to-do lists and reminders?

If you have a system that is working for you - no need to change a thing, you’re already a legend. But if you’re not known for your organisational or time-management abilities, perhaps you could consider blocking your time.

This is an approach I use when I’m extra busy, or to avoid finding myself leaning towards wondering “Where did the day go?”.

I block the time in my calendar. It will seem like overkill to get into such minute detail, but I promise, it really works!

Before the day begins (usually the night before), I create a block of time in my calendar for every single little thing I need to do that day. Meetings, obviously, but also replying to emails posting and browsing on social media, tasks to complete - everything. Even breaks are strictly scheduled.

Why Block Your Time?

Blocking your time does two things:

  1. It enables you to make a plan for the countless things you need to do as a business owner

  2. It allows you to see just how long your more thoughtless tasks really take

Here is an example of my day today:

My calendar, neatly blocked for today. This technique keeps me on track and hitting my goals!

Notice I only have 1.5 hours of email time scheduled - and that should be all I need to read everything, sort it, and reply to those that need replying to. That might seem like a lot of time for you, but for me, emails are the never-ending trap I often find myself falling into. Your trap might be social media, or long lunches, or unfocused meetings that run way overtime. Whatever it is, it can eat into your day and leave you feeling underwhelmed as the sun dips below the horizon.

How to get started?

If you’re not as nerdy as me you might make a million excuses not to do this. Yes, it’s pedantic. Yes, it takes a little time to set up. But it will make you more productive and will help you better achieve your goals.

What’s the saying? Failure to plan is planning to fail. Yup. Except I’d like to amend it to, “Failure to block your time is planning to end the day without achieving much of anything'“. Catchy, huh?

I recommend first tracking your time for a week so you know where your time goes. There’s no judgement here and no one else needs to know that you spend embarrassing amounts of time reading Buzzfeed articles - it is just so that you know how you are spending your time. Knowledge is power, right? Knowing where the minutes are spent within your average day enables you to better utilise those minutes to squeeze the most juice out of them.

Toggl is one tool that help you track your time for various tasks. Simply download the app (Mac and PC), create a free account, and enter the tasks you usually do throughout the day. Here’s a starting point:

  • emails

  • social media

  • marketing & strategy

  • meeting

  • phone call

  • kids activities

  • editing

  • blogging

  • break

Whenever you start a new task, simply tell Toggl you have done it. It literally takes a second to switch tasks and at the end of the week, you will be able to see a report of where your time goes so you can start planning how to block your time.

What’s even better is that you will find opportunities to create time out of thin air! Crazy, right?

When you block your time, you don’t fall down the rabbit hole of social media, get sucked into email chains (are they still a thing in 2019?) or end up browsing for shoes for 3.5 hours before you realise it’s getting dark (true story, I’m ashamed to admit).

What To Avoid

Don’t get caught up in spending hours blocking your time - that would be completely counter-productive. Simply work out how much time you generally need to allocate on each task, then schedule that task for the day ahead. There’s no right and wrong - this blocking is just a guide to get you through your day without getting lost in the abyss. So if things don’t go to plan - that’s okay! Reschedule any incomplete blocks for the following day.

But most of all, do this like clockwork. Every day. And adjust the time in your calendar as needed.

Frankly, this technique does work best with a computerised calendar - it makes it easier to adjust when things don’t go according to the plan, and to copy and paste your blocks from one day to the next. But you can definitely use the same technique with a pen and paper diary, and I have done this myself so can vouch that it works. It’s a little more time-consuming, but if it works for you, it’s worth it.

You may be able to let your time blocking slip when you aren’t so busy, but when you find yourself wondering “Where did the day go?”, this little trick will get you back to being motivated and hitting your goals - I guarantee it!

An Apology. Plus Gratitude.

Hi there, remember me? I’m the person who had been actively engaging with their own website, social media and clients until recently, when I fell off the face of the Earth. You see, I have been balls-to-the-wall with work. Congratulations, you say? No, this is not a humble brag - it’s an apology and a too-late cry for help. But all is not lost…

Do you have a go-to business cliche? Mine is “work on your business, not just in your business”. This little snippet is something I reference constantly - it accepts the reality that you need to do the work that makes the cogs turn, but also highlights the importance of developing your business so that when the busywork is done, there is still more work ahead. And lately I have failed miserably at that little mantra.

I had been sticking to marketing plans… but stopped.

I had been posting regularly on social media… but stopped.

I had been gearing up to blog more regularly…. but stopped.

I had even developed a super exciting Facebook group for time management that was going gangbusters… but stopped. And yes, I see the hypocrisy.

I have no excuses - I just got busy with work. Way too much work. When it was ahead on the horizon, I thought I could manage it, but it nearly broke me. We’ve all been there, right? You don’t want to turn work away when it appears, because when you’re running a small business, you need to take it when you can get it. But working like a mule isn’t sustainable for long, and other things - those critical important but not urgent things - suffer in the meantime.

My wonderful community of friends, readers and lurkers have been patiently sitting back, not hearing from me. Emails have gone unanswered, voicemail messages un-returned, Instagram comments un-emojid. Really bad for a business owner… arguably far worse than pulling back on the busywork when it appeared.

You see, I am weirdly, confusingly, awkwardly, can’t-even-understand-it-myself in love with what I do. I get to nerd out all through my day, planning, organising and streamlining, and this is my drug. So I have felt oddly displaced the past month or so when I have been so sapped of time and energy that I have not been doing any of my usual marketing, social media, planning, picture-taking, writing and organising.

You know that time just before Christmas when you’re trying to get all the orders out because clients want their prints for gifts, and you’re having to call your suppliers to beg them to make an exception past their deadlines just for you? That anxiety that fills you up from your toes to your eyelashes? That has been me the past few weeks and it has been awful.

I have been absent from my business, my passion, and I feel like it just might divorce me unless I inject some serious romance back into it. So, I’m glad to say I’m wooing it back with bubbly and chocolates and rose petals (which in reality, looks like me sitting on my couch, with two puppy dogs at my side, writing this).

So, I spent some time re-evaluating my priorities. Did I want to be busy, or did I want to be fulfilled?

The answer very clearly came to me at the recent AIPP Epson Queensland Professional Photography Awards. I have been involved with these awards for over 13 years now, and love, love, love them! Not only is it a chance to look at some beautiful photographs, but it’s also a chance to catch up with many of my photographer friends, who make this industry such a joy to work/live in. This year, I was honoured to be asked to judge, which is a rare treat for me. I’m always involved, but am usually occupied in a different role. I thought I’d put it out there into the universe (ahem, or the person in charge of these things), and asked if I could have a judging stint this year. Ask, and ye shall receive! And I tell ya, it was the most fulfilling thing I have done in a long while! Having the opportunity to sit with some esteemed peers and review the current work being submitted as the pinnacle of professional photography in our state is pretty special - and I am incredibly grateful for being given that chance.


Thank you to the AIPP Queensland Council for putting these awards together.

Thank you to the countless volunteers who have kept the AIPP running and able to host these awards.

Thank you to the judges I was privileged to serve alongside. Thank you especially to those who listened thoughtfully to my comments and arguments.

Thank you to the sponsors (especially Epson) who support these awards.

Thank you to the Chairman of Jurors, Gary Cranitch, who gave me the opportunity to judge when the schedule was so difficult to juggle.

Thank you to my friends, clients and colleagues who trusted me to ask for critique on their photographs before entering.

Thank you to the entrants for putting your hearts on the line and trusting my fellow judges and me with your precious prints.

I am so grateful for those few days, filling up my whole self with something that can only be described as pure joy! A week-and-a-bit later, I’m still feeling it!

So with this, I am publicly making the commitment not to be too busy to create this kind of self-joy again. At least, not for that long. I’m really looking forward to launching back into it with more content for you than ever, starting with subscribers to my newsletter, where you will get fortnightly emails (short & sweet and jam-packed with useful stuff, to make the best use of your precious time). If you’d like to see what’s going on, subscribe here. You can also join my infant Facebook group, All The Time In The World, which is dedicated to time management and efficiency techniques for photographers and other creatives.

Being busy just doesn’t hold a candle to the opportunities that make you feel like you are oozing happy - and I choose to ooze sparkly, joyful stuff.

Here’s hoping you’re making the time to do the things that make you sparkle, too.


January Workflow Cure: Update Your Social Media Pages

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Is it just me, or does everyone else put off updating their social media banners because they are confused about what size and shape to make them? Facebook, in particular, has so many different dimensions for cover photos, profile photos, image posts, linked images, event covers… argh!

Well, today we are going to sit down and make. it. happen. Pop up a new banner on your business page advertising a promo for February (which starts this week - eep!), update your profile photos with something summery, create an ad… give your social media world a refresh. It will keep your name front of mind when followers are notified you have done something new, and your regular lurkers will enjoy the new eye candy.

Now, I know there’s a good reason you have procrastinated on this - it’s confusing! And if you want to include text in an image, just give up now, because it’s too hard! Something unintended is always being cropped off on mobile, or your profile pic is in the way… no amount of wine can ease the frustration!

Personally, I’d had enough of having to look up the dimensions every time I wanted to change my business’ cover photo, so I created some templates. They might be useful to you, too, so check them out in my online store and let me know how you go with them. I’ve included a tutorial video to make it super easy, and all you need to do is drag and drop your image into the layout and reposition it until it looks as impressive as intended. The templates include guidelines for what will be visible on both mobile and desktop, and also show what will be hidden behind your profile pic.

Normally, these templates are just for Facebook. But, I was on a roll when making these, so for a limited time, I’ve just included bonus templates for LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter. ‘Coz freebies are always welcome, right?

PLUS, they’re on sale for HALF PRICE for a little while… so nab them now if you’re keen.

When you’ve updated your social media pages, I wanna see them! Send me a link in the comments below or in a private message.

January Workflow Cure: Calibrate Your Camera

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Did you know that you can create a custom profile specifically for your camera?

A custom profile will compare the colours your camera records against the colours it should be recording, and will make adjustments to bring them into alignment. The key to this process is having an accurate colour target. Personally, I use the Xrite ColorChecker Passport, which is a series of three cards in a hard shell, small enough to keep in my camera bag for when it’s needed as a grey card (one of the cards is neutral grey) to create a custom white balance, and as a reference point for difficult lighting conditions.

But the real trick of this tool is the ability to photograph these specially-printed patches and load them into the included software to create a customised colour profile. The profile can then be applied to all your photos upon import in Lightroom automatically, so you don’t have to remember to do it each time.

Here is a before and after of the calibration for my Nikon D750…


You’ll notice that the yellow-green is more pronounced, the blues are better defined, the gold is warmer, and the greys are more neutral. The skin tone has warmed up in the custom profile, which is where I expect to see the most difference.

I’m not aware of any cheat’s method of doing this without a proper colour target, so you’ll have to get hold of a ColorChecker Passport or similar to be able to do this trick, but it isn’t expensive and is well worth it when you see the difference.

You can also calibrate your lenses quite easily. You can purchase a Datacolor Spyder Lenscal, which is a super advanced focus-calibration tool, or you can do the cheat’s version and just use a ruler.

  1. Place the ruler on a surface or clamp it to a stand at an angle (as per my photo above)

  2. Set up your camera on a tripod, level with the ruler

  3. If you are using a zoom lens, zoom to your most-often used focal length

  4. Set your aperture to the smallest possible on your lens (the biggest f/ number)

  5. Use your camera’s live view mode to zoom right into the ruler’s increments, and autofocus on the one nearest the centre of the frame

  6. Set the camera on self-timer or use a remote release to capture the image

  7. Review the focus of the image

  8. You can adjust the focal plane in most cameras (in mine, it is under Menu -> Setup -> AF Fine Tune)

  9. Repeat the process until your focus is aligned with your focal point, and repeat again for individual lenses

I’m pretty impressed that my lenses didn’t need any adjustment at all, but you might find that yours need a little nudge.

If your lens focus is really causing your grief, it may need a professional calibration, so send it off to your local authorised repairer.

The above tricks aren’t difficult, and can make your photos more accurately reflect your intentions when you press the shutter. Enjoy!

January Workflow Cure: Review Your Online Galleries

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My dear friend, doing his part for the arts in the series started by Gary Cranitch and ripped off by dozens since, entitled “Where’s Tony”.

My dear friend, doing his part for the arts in the series started by Gary Cranitch and ripped off by dozens since, entitled “Where’s Tony”.

Welcome to Monday and the last week of the January Workflow Cure! If you have missed any posts or want to review them, you can always check back on my blog to jog your memory.

Today we are reviewing and tidying up our online galleries.

You might be using any number of galleries: Fotomerchant, Pixieset, Pic-Time, Zenfolio, ShootProof, or about a billion other platforms. The benefits of these galleries is not only displaying a secure, private gallery of images for your clients, but many of them have relationships with labs and manufacturers to complete direct fulfilment orders from your customers. That means that Nanna can place an order for a brag book and a wall print via the gallery, pay for it, and you don’t need to lift a finger for it to make its way to your lab to start production. And any opportunity to save you time on production is a win, right?

Most of these galleries are primarily geared towards photographers who either don’t offer in-person sales (IPS), or who want to extend the opportunity to purchase to a wider network of people. Some even offer backup options for your high res JPGs. They are perfect for school and formal photography, as well as event photography when you don’t necessarily have the contact information for all the individuals who might want to purchase a photo.

Most of the platforms will allow the clients to download or purchase a high resolution image, or purchase a print or album… the biggest decision for most of these is whether your lab or manufacturer is linked in with them. And, of course, how purdy the galleries look!

Me? I use Pic-Time. They’re linked to one of my preferred labs here in Australia, and their galleries are just lusciously modern! Even better, the back-end system is super simple to use, with a Lightroom plug-in to export straight from Lightroom to your Pic-Time gallery - no double-handling! They offer a full trial for 30 days, and if you create your account using this link, you’ll get a month for free when you sign up to a plan. Gotta love free stuff!

While we’re at it, for those of us with existing galleries, now is a good time to give them a good tidy up. Send your clients with active galleries an email with a coupon code to place an order within the next week or so, and make a bit of extra cash to start the year off. Then, take down any galleries that are just gathering dust.

January Workflow Cure: Test & Charge Your Batteries

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Here’s something most of us never think to do… check our batteries.

There’s nothing worse than getting to a shoot and finding your batteries are on their last legs… or worse - having a huge stash of batteries in your camera bag but not knowing which are charged and which are deadsies. So today, let’s just queue them all up to charge so we start afresh.

Newer cameras have an in-built battery health meter in their settings menu, so go hunting for that and check that your batteries are still in good nick.

Here are some tips to keep your camera’s lithium-ion battery in maximum health:

  • Store it at “room temperature”: Room temperature is an interesting term… in terms of your battery’s health, this means 20ºC - 25ºC… yeah, not quite room temperature in an Australian summer. Definitely don’t store them in your car for long periods, especially with a full charge. The extreme heat of a car left in the sun will curdle your battery’s innards, making it quite dangerous.

  • Don’t bother saving your battery for a rainy day: Most modern camera batteries deteriorate over time regardless of whether they are being used or not.

  • Don’t fully deplete your battery’s charge: Switch your camera battery out with a fresh one when the camera starts to warn that the battery is low. A fully depleted battery won’t charge as well as one that still has a little bit of charge left.

  • Ignore the point above every 30 charges: Do a full empty of your battery every 30 or so charges to avoid your battery developing a limitation on its maximum capacity and keep it on its toes.

  • Use a branded charger: Off-brand, el-cheapo chargers can pump your battery with spikes and troughs of power, which isn’t good for it. Stick with the charger that came with your camera.

So, let’s get to charging our batteries so we can start the week ahead with full gusto!

January Workflow Cure: Clean Your Virtual Desktop

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Okay, so who else feels they might have a panic attack over the image above? In researching today’s topic I have discovered that there is actually a National Clean Your Virtual Desktop Day and that made me feel that everything is right in the world. For those wanting to add it to your calendar, it’s the third Monday in October, and while it’s an American holiday, I don’t see any reason that we shouldn’t all take it on board to make our virtual lives a little bit better.

Did you know that having a chaotic desktop not only make it a nightmare to find that file you are looking for, but it also slows your computer down? For every item on your desktop, your computer’s graphics card needs to render the icon and the preview… and that uses up some of the grunt you might be wanting to spend on complex graphics apps like Photoshop and Lightroom.

Improved search functionality has made folders less relevant than ever, but the desktop is still not the best place to be storing all your stray files. Granted, I usually store four folders on my desktop, each containing my most regularly-used files, but having a cray-cray desktop is not the greatest path to file management enlightenment.

And while we’re at it, let’s talk about filenames. Are your filenames searchable? I once worked with a photographer who, no joke, named their multiple versions of the same file as follows, in chronological order:

_DSC1234 this one.psd
_DSC1234 redone.psd
_DSC1234 redone 2.psd

Um… huh? So which one is the latest version? How do you even search for the file you want? Lightroom’s virtual copies make multiple versions of files a bucketload easier, but even so, the above file naming system is just not great.

So, let’s get to cleaning our virtual desktops! I have to clean up the mess I’ve made on the one pictured above… sigh.

Oh, and happy ‘Straya Day!

I feel pretty fortunate to live in this gorgeous, left-the-oven-door-open-heated country, so today I’ll be indulging in sangria, pizza and chai-flavoured ice cream to celebrate how much I love our multicultural nation… and pizza. To celebrate pizza.

January Workflow Cure: Review Your Product Guide

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It can be called a range of different names, but your product guide/price list/package list/how-much-for-what needs a revision from time to time.

As your business grows, you are likely to introduce more costs to running things day-to-day. Whether it’s new software, equipment upgrades, hiring a bookkeeper… all these things increase your running costs, which have to be made up somewhere.

If you are concerned about raising your prices too quickly, a small increase won’t be noticed by your clients but will be useful to you!

Beyond pricing, suppliers are always producing new and exciting products that you can offer your clients, so it’s worth reviewing your product guide so you can remove obsolete or superseded products with the shiny new ones (and make sure you get samples, because it’s so much harder to sell what you can’t show).

I like to use pictures of wall art, albums, print boxes and everything else in my product guide. Wall art can be superimposed on stock images of beautiful homes, to both give clients an idea of how to display them, and to demonstrate their size (aside from photographers and carpenters, most people won’t know how a 30-inch print will look on their walls).

Even if you only sell digital files, showing examples of your images might be presented is still useful to show your client the value of professional photography.

Who’s introducing new products to their line-up this year?

January Workflow Cure: Set Business Goals

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Wowsers - I can’t believe there is only one week left of the January Workflow Cure!!!

Let’s jump into it today with goal-setting. When you run a small business, it can be so easy to get caught up in bookings, marketing, bookkeeping, shoots, production and everything else we have to contend with! So it’s no surprise that goal-setting is often left to the end of the list. But since we are in January, getting ourselves set for the year ahead, today is the perfect day to sit down with a pen and paper and set some goals for your business.

Your goals might be to complete a personal project, to reach a particular dollar value on a sale, or to buy a new lens. Whatever your goals are, you need a plan of how you are going to get there. We don’t live in the (admittedly, tempting) fairytale world of making a wish and having it magically come true, so we need to put firm steps in place to ensure we achieve our goals. You might want to buy a new car, but unless you put some money aside for that purpose, or a plan on how you are going to prove to your bank that you can repay the loan, you won’t be able to get the car.

And yes, sometimes we can have the goal all set, and be working on our steps to achieve it and it feels like we aren’t getting anywhere. I love this quote from my buddy, Confucius: “When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don't adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.”

So, for today, I am going to sit down with a yearly planner, write some goals, then break those goals down into manageable steps. I’ll also be setting a reminder to check in with my progress each month. Comment below if you’ll be joining me in doing the same!

By the way, the white candle in the picture above is musk stick scented, and it smells so delicious I just might have licked it to see if it tasted the same way… it didn’t.

January Workflow Cure: Create Email Templates

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Okay, let’s pull right back to day 1 of this January Workflow Cure, where we set ourselves up for Inbox 0. How’s that going for you? Are there still a mountain of emails piling up? I know, it can be really daunting when you have a billion messages in your inbox, but I promise that the feeling of not having your emails control your life is so liberating and worth the angst in setting it up. And I must admit, there are days I don’t clear my Inbox and it just about gives me hives, so don’t feel bad if you’ve let it go… you can always rein in back in again.

Today’s task ties in nicely with Inbox 0, with an aim to keep emails from overwhelming you - through templates.

No doubt, you send the same or similar emails time and time again. You know you should make them into templates, but you haven’t gotten around to it yet. Ta-da! Now’s the perfect day to get stuck into it!

Having your emails written up as templates will save you a ridiculous amount of time and stumbling through writer’s block, so today we are going to set up email templates for our businesses.

If you already use a CRM, you can set up templates to automatically send to your clients. Simply replace the clients’ names with variables and embed the emails into your workflows to automatically send when a client first books with you, or when their payment is due. If you don’t yet use a CRM, check out this post with a discount code for 50% off my favourite platform.

Since I know not everyone loves writing as much as I do, I have put together some email templates for portrait and wedding photographers, available here. They are on sale for 50% off (mostly because I’m really excited to see them out in the universe), but only for a limited time, so get in quick to nab these and set them up with your systems to save yourself a ridiculous amount of time and sanity. There are 15 emails in each package, covering everything from requesting a testimonial to encouraging a lagging client to place an order.

So, if you are a whizz with words, get to it and start writing and automating your email templates. And if you’re not so good with the writing, I hope my templates will help :)

January Workflow Cure: Write Your 2019 Marketing Planner

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We all know the old cliche, “Failing to plan is planning to fail”, right?

For those of us in business, marketing is a necessary part of staying in business! So, rather than finding ourselves a week out from Mother’s Day and scrambling to put a promo together last-minute, we all know we should be planning our marketing for the year.

Some choose to do this on a financial year, and others use a calendar year. Use whichever of these is best for your business, but be sure to do it!

Mark Rossetto is a business coach working with photographers to help them get their marketing all bright and shiny. Mark’s suggestion is to, “Create a marketing plan for the year to set yourself up for consistency and stability in 2019. Let’s stop the ups and down of clients throughout the year and plan for a great year ahead.”

Plan for major events like bridal fairs, Christmas and other portrait-based holidays, Black Friday, paid advertising in magazines and other media, and mini shoot days.

Don’t forget to also plan ongoing marketing like happy birthday/anniversary cards, submitting weddings to blogs, social media, and referral cards. There are tools in CRMs and some email programs (like Mailchimp) to help automate these so you don’t have to stop your momentum when you’re in the zone.

If you need an extra hand in getting your marketing plan all set for the year ahead, Mark has a glut of resources, videos and tools available for professional photographers in the Photography Business Coach Facebook group.

Comment below when you have completed your marketing plan.

January Workflow Cure: Write a Mission Statement

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If you run a photography business, you probably have a clear idea of why you do what you do. A love of photography, a love of people, a creative drive… But do your clients know why?

A mission statement is an important part of a business. It is a compass for the decisions you make - each time you face a decision, you can use your mission statement as a reference point, asking which solution would best serve your mission.

It is also a good marketing tool, and if you publish your mission statement on your website, it will tell your clients a lot about you and your business, giving them a whole lot of insight into whether they want to work with you - giving you a better chance of attracting your ideal client.

A mission statement should be uncomplicated and direct. Try not to get too bogged down in detail; use broad strokes but bring everything back to what drives you to do what you do.

If you need a further helping hand, I have just launched my online store (yay!) and one of my first downloadable products is the Mission Statement Workbook, which is on sale to celebrate its release!

I’d love to read your mission statement when you have written it - leave a comment below with a link to where you have published it or send me an email.

January Workflow Cure: Clean Your Lenses

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Earlier this month we sent our cameras away for a sensor clean. You did, right? Well, today’s task is in the same vein but one you can usually do yourself… clean your lenses.

This should be part of your regular routine, so if you’re like me and haven’t done it for a while, let’s make a point of doing so today. Keeping your lenses in good condition will ensure they last longer and create better pictures, so it’s a simple step worth doing.

First, let’s check just how bad they are.

  1. Ensure you have had your sensor cleaned recently… otherwise you might be looking for dust on your lens when it’s inside your camera body

  2. Turn autofocus off

  3. Manually set your lens’ focus to infinity

  4. Set your aperture to the smallest possible (that’s the biggest number, like or f/16 or f/22)

  5. Photograph a plain light-coloured surface, like a sheet of white card or a stack of paper (make sure it is really opaque, so you aren’t seeing through a single sheet of paper to whatever it is resting on)

  6. Take another photo of a plain dark surface

  7. Download your photos and inspect them for signs of dust and marks

Inspect the back element of your lens for signs of mould or fungus. If there is, you have some extra work ahead of you… I’ll leave that explanation to this article.

Hopefully you don’t have this problem, and can move onto general cleaning. Use a manual air blower to remove as much dust as possible from the front and back elements (don’t use canned air, as the pressure is too great and you may damage the sensitive elements of your lens). You can also use a soft-bristled brush to remove stubborn dust. Use a lens cleaning cloth on any fingerprints or smudges.

Repeat the process above to check for dust now that you’ve done a good clean.

Do this regularly to keep your lens in good shape. Keep front and back lens caps on it when it’s not in use, keep a UV filter on the front of each of your lenses (which, I can vouch from personal experience, also helps protect your lens if you drop it!). Store them in your camera bag, where they are safely packed and away from more dust.

January Workflow Cure: Delete Your Unused Apps

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2019 has well and truly gotten up and running this week! It has been a hectic week for me, so I expect you guys are dealing with much the same… some of you with kids whose school year can’t start soon enough.

Today’s task is nice and simple, and will leave you with a cleansed phone, computer and tablet.

Spend some time on each of your devices, going through your apps and programs, and deleting any you no longer need. Deleting or uninstalling unused apps will free up space on your device, and may speed it up. Plus, it will make you feel refreshed and cleansed, with room for new, useful apps to take their place.

In doing this task myself, I found 12 data recovery apps to rescue a defunct SD card… only one of which worked. Bye bye, 11 useless apps!

I’d love to hear about the weirdest app you’ve found through this exercise…

January Workflow Cure: Plan Your Awards Timeline

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Are you a seasoned award junkie? I entered my first professional photography awards in 2006. I was studying photography at the time, and was doing pretty well in my course, though now I look back I cringe at the images I submitted to the awards! But I walked away with a love for the process of having my work peer reviewed, and immersed myself into the system as much as possible.

I have been a judge for about 10 years, and became a panel chair shortly thereafter (a panel chair does a lot of the admin stuff required to wrangle the judges, which gives tremendous insight into the technical aspects of the awards). I spent some time on the AIPP’s Awards Team as the Domestic Chairman of Jurors, introducing the AIPP’s latest judge development program. I really loved that opportunity, so it was hard to tear myself away a couple of years ago, but I’ve never been far away from the awards and they hold a special place in my heart.

Lastminuteitis is a known affliction of photographers everywhere, and flare-ups seem to emerge just prior to awards time. So today, I’m suggesting we each plan for when we will enter the next twelve months worth of professional print awards.

WPPI entries are just about ready to close next week, so get in quick smart if you want to be in it this year. If you’re not yet ready for this year’s comp, plan to enter next year. It’s a world-wide competition, and Australians tend to do really well on a world stage (yay us!). The judging is tied to the WPPI expo in Las Vegas, and it’s a great place to catch a workshop from one of your favourite photographers or check out some new gear on a global stage.

AIPP runs both state awards and the nationals, known as APPA, each year. If you’re new to their system, you will need to enter the state awards first, and if your images qualify, you’ll get the good news that you are eligible to enter APPA. State awards are open to photography students and professional photographers all over Australia, so you don’t need to be a member to enter. Members, non-members, lookie-loos are all welcome to attend the judging at both state awards and APPA, and this is an eye-opening experience, so come along and have a peek at what goes on at the judging. The state awards kick off with South Australia’s entries opening in March, so start moving!

APPA is back in Sydney for the first time since 2014, so the NSW crew should be very excited to work behind the scenes, come along to the judging, and definitely rub shoulders with the judges at the legendary afterparties. The trade show is a great one, too, and all are welcome to attend.

NZIPP run their Iris Awards - the only professional photography competition in NZ - and tie their judging into their Exposure Pro conference in June, this year in Wellington. The guys across the ditch do an amazing job and have a great group of people, so it’s worth checking out in person.

SWPP is happening right now over in the UK, so if you haven’t already entered this year, you have missed the boat. But you can always plan for next year! Their awards tend to be in January, so you’ll want to start looking into entries in November/December.

Print awards aren’t for everyone, I realise that. If you’re new to the game and wanna play in our sandpit, you are more than welcome! Here are some techniques to help keep the crazy at bay:

  • Just because your mum/best bud/Uncle Bob with a nice camera/your client loves your image doesn’t mean the judges will. Yes, photography is subjective, but even more than that, the judges have seen hundreds or thousands of images before sitting on the panel, so to give you an award, they want to be impressed with something they’ve never seen before.

  • Most importantly for newbies, have your images critiqued by experienced peers BEFORE entering awards. This will save you money on entries that don’t suit the competition, and will help soften the blow if the judges don’t love a shot as much as you do. AIPP runs print critiques in each state leading up to the state awards and APPA. If you’re near a print critique, come along in person, and if not, you can often live stream the critiques online if you submit images of your own. The knowledge you gain from listening to the judges discuss other prints is invaluable.

  • As above, attend as much live judging as you can. In person is best, because you can pull the judges aside afterwards and chat to them, but many awards are live streamed online.

  • Judging is almost always anonymous. So don’t be shy, put your best work forward… no one will know if you don’t tell them!

  • If you’re local to one of these print awards, volunteer to help them out. Being a print handler is an incredible experience, and you will see the prints up close and personal, which you can’t do when in the audience. I believe this is the very best way to learn, and many past megawinners began as print handlers.

  • Turn your prints upside down, squint at them (not necessarily at the same time, but whatever floats your boat). What part of the image stands out to you? Is that part the main focus of the image or do you need to alter it so it doesn’t dominate? The brightest part of the image is usually the focal point. This tip courtesy of one Mr Ian Poole, who taught me to judge and was a never-ending source of judging knowledge.

  • Read the competition rules. Thoroughly. Know what size your print and presentation should be, know what retouching you are allowed to do, know entry cut-off dates.

  • Print comps rely on really great printing. If you don’t have a great understanding of this art yourself, enlist a lab or friend who does.

  • Further to the point above, print on multiple different paper stocks. Sometimes you just can’t predict how an image will look on your favourite paper, and there may be a better option. Don’t just go for the standard RA4 lustre paper… don’t just go for metallic because you love it… don’t just choose the watercolour paper because you like it’s texture… it might not suit your image. Test your image(s) on multiple media.

  • When matting your image, 99% of the time, white or off-white is the best option. Actually, 99.9%.

  • Your image may look better printed as small as the rules permit. Just because you can make it full bleed doesn’t mean that is necessarily the best way to present your image.

  • Don’t take it personally. Sometimes the judges get it, sometimes they don’t. That’s okay, it’s all part of the process of visual communication. Sometimes you’ll be lucky with a judging panel… sometimes you won’t. Photography awards are not an exact science, but generally speaking, the judges have a helluva lot of experience and their collective opinion should be taken as valuable. Most judges volunteer their time for this work, and they work crazy long days, so even if a judge didn’t like your image, thank them and take their feedback on board. I promise you’ll grow as an entrant.

  • You can’t “lose”. There are winners, but no losers in photographic print competitions. By entering, you will learn, and that’s always a win.

I hope the above tips help you to feel more confident about entering the awards if you are still new to it, or have helped to get you in the zone if you are a seasoned entrant.

Myself? I’ll be entering this year and need to get my butt into gear to make it happen. Before lastminuteitis takes over.

Drop me a line if you have any questions about entering awards or if you’d like some critique on your images. I love any chance to look at beautiful photographs <3

January Workflow Cure: Update Your Lab Calibration

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Continuing on from yesterday’s task to calibrate your screen, today we are going to update our lab profiles.

Professional photographic labs calibrate their printers and will have different profiles for each paper they offer.

Why do you need a different profile for different papers on the same printer? For starters, white paper has a variety of base colours… there is no such thing as plain “white” in the world of paper. Some paper has a grey base, some is more yellow, and some is quite blue (usually those with optical brighteners are a blue-based white, and these are not archival, so consider another paper if you want your photographs to last). Often, metallic paper has a silvery overlay to create the metallic sheen, meaning that silver/grey tone will be present in some lighting conditions. A landscape printed on a neutral paper may take on a completely different look to the same image printed on a paper with a warm yellow base.

Different papers also react differently to ink. A rag or fine art paper will soak up the ink like a sponge, making some images look washed out, when the same image printed on a glossy paper may give great punchy tones. If you are going for a soft, painterly effect, then a rag paper might be better suited to you than a high gloss.

The third main aspect of a printer’s profile is gamut. Just as our eyes cannot see ultraviolet, there are colours that a printer is unable to replicate at all or on particular papers. Many of these are at the extreme ends of the colour spectrum, like super bright blues, greens and yellows. If you try to print a patch of pure green (0,255,0 in the RGB numbers), most photographic-quality printers will be unable to replicate this colour with quite as much oomph as your monitor can display it. Likewise, if you wanted to have an area of pure white on your print, but you choose a yellow-based paper, that pure white is only ever going to be the warm colour of the paper.

Paper choice can make or break an image, and come time for the photography awards, many photographers will test on 5 or more papers to find the right stock for their image.

Your lab will be able to provide you with an ICC profile for each of their papers which takes account of all the above factors. You can then use this profile to “soft proof” your images, which shows you how the image will look on that particular paper.

More about soft proofing another time…

January Workflow Cure: Set Up a CRM

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Make sure you read through to the end of this post for a pretty hefty discount on a really helpful tool 😁

What on Earth is a CRM, I hear you say? It’s a Client Relationship Manager, and it’s what helps keep you sane as a business owner!

A good CRM will not only keep your clients’ contact information and your calendar, but will also step you through the workflow of managing their job so you don’t miss a beat. The biggest benefit a good CRM has over a more manual system is that it automates everything… get a reminder when you need to send a contract, automatically send your clients invoices when their payments are due, and track your progress so you don’t forget to order their canvas package through your busy day.

Some CRMs can be daunting to get started with… there are so many options… so many templates to fill out… so many integrations to link together. But many of them will adapt well to your business’ setup, and make life infinitely easier for you to manage, allowing more headspace for things like client care and marketing, rather than the endless list of things you have to get done.

Currently, Studio Ninja ticks all my boxes, and is what I use as my secondary brain. It is super simple to set up, and the software steps you through the process to get your business in tip top organisational shape. There is a phone app, too, which makes life so much easier when handling jobs on the run - a necessity in my book.

A good CRM will monitor your incoming enquiries and can automatically respond to your prospective clients on your behalf, saving you time and impressing clients from their first contact. And anything that makes you look good to the people who pay you money is pretty perfect, right?!

I have used a huge range of CRMs, and part of this business of mine is actually setting them up for other photographers, so let me know if you’d like a hand getting yours off the ground - I get a bit overexcited over setting up a CRM for someone and love seeing it come together seamlessly!

So, whether you use Studio Ninja, Táve (pronounced tah-vay, for those who were wondering), Light Blue, ShootQ, Iris Works, 17 Hats or any of the other packages out there in the universe, spend some time today in setting it up and making it work for your business. Many platforms offer a free trial, so you can dip your toes in the water to check them out before you commit. And if you have any trouble getting rolling with your new CRM, I would be happy to help you get it all set up.

I personally use Studio Ninja and love that it’s Australian-owned and constantly growing to meet their customers’ needs. So, just to thank you for reading this far and making it to Day 17 of the January Workflow Cure, I have wrangled a super duper 50% discount for anyone wanting to sign up to Studio Ninja with a new account. Just use the code “MACSTUDIO” when you sign up to redeem this bargain!

January Workflow Cure: Calibrate Your Screen

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Ever wondered why an image looks great on your desktop computer but not quite right on your laptop? Or why your prints don’t come back from the lab looking how you had expected them? The simple answer is colour management, and that’s just about where “simple” ends.

Colour management is an umbrella term that encompasses things like calibration, soft proofing, colour spaces and profiles. It can be quite complex and daunting, but there are some tools that can help to streamline things and enable you to get better quality prints and to understand how colours are presented on different media.

The first step I am going to recommend in your journey to colour enlightenment is to calibrate your screen. And, if you have done this before, do it again today. Screens change over time (weeks to months, depending on the quality of the screen), so calibrating your screen should be a regular thing.

How do you calibrate? While some people think they can do it by eye, I’m here to tell you that you really can’t. I mean, I’ve done it by eye before when in a pinch, but the results really aren’t all that accurate so you could be creating even more trouble for yourself if you don’t do it properly. Instead, use something like the I1 Display or Spyder. These devices are placed on your monitor, and have special software that displays specific colours on the screen. The device then reads the colour being displayed on the monitor and compares that to what it expects to see. Finally, the software creates a kind of a filter where it adjusts what your screen natively wants to show, versus what it is actually showing. This filter is called your monitor profile, and it will load and run without you even realising it, each time you start your computer. It might make your reds less blue, your yellows less orange, or your magenta tones more pink. It should definitely make your greys more neutral. The process is super simple and you don’t even need to do much while the software does its thing.

Best practice is to calibrating in your normal working conditions - in the room you work in (with neutral walls - no red brick or calming blue paint), wearing black clothing (so it doesn’t reflect off the screen), at the same time of day, with the light turned off. You should be editing under these same conditions, so the glow of your “warm white” ceiling light doesn’t alter your editing.

Now, you may have heard people talking about a particular brand of monitor: Eizo. In my opinion, Eizo (pronounced “ay-zo”) screens are just the very best monitor to work with to get an accurate representation of colours and density on your screen. If you have an Eizo, you are already converted. And if you don’t have one yet, you probably think you don’t need one… and there’s a good chance you’re wrong about that. It is really tough to know how much impact it will have until you have one, but trust me… considering the number of hours you spend staring at your screen as a photographer, an Eizo screen isn’t a big expense, and it really is worth it. And the newer models of Eizo have a calibration device built in, so you don’t need an I1 or Spyder.

Keep in mind that calibrating your screen, while absolutely necessary for just about any photographer, is only part of the process of colour management. We will cover the others another time…

A word about iMacs

Now… you won’t find too many people as passionate about Apple products as I am. I have one of everything… literally. I’m the person who gets up at 3am several times a year to watch Tim Cook’s keynote presentations live. I go to shopping centres in the early hours of the morning on launch day for a new product so I can be at the start of the line. Yep, I’m that nerdy.

And yet, while I love my iMac, it is not, and will never be, a good monitor to correct photos on. Let me say that again, the iMac is not a graphics monitor, and is not great for editing photos.

This is because the iMac is built to look sexy, not accurate. The glass overlay, high contrast ratio and generally poor(ish) quality of the screen mean that this beautiful screen is just not what we photographers need, unless your photographs are only ever going to be viewed on an iMac.

I have heard people say that their iMacs were calibrated in the factory, so they don’t need further calibration. Not true. While everything that comes off the Apple factory floor is generally of a good standard, your iMac has not been colour calibrated to your room’s lighting conditions and cannot be relied upon to represent colours accurately until it has been properly calibrated… as much as it can be.

So, how do you make the most out of your iMac before you go out and buy a proper graphics monitor?

  1. Position the iMac in a room with neutral walls (ideally 18% grey, but a neutral white will also do the job).

  2. Wear black clothing when colour correcting and calibrating. The reflective screen means that any colour you wear will bounce onto your screen, throwing the whole thing out of whack.

  3. Reduce the brightness… a lot. There is no hard and fast rule to know how low to reduce your iMac’s brightness, as it will differ depending on the lighting conditions in your room, but mine is on three notches up from the minimum. The software that comes with your calibration device will guide you to finding the correct brightness… and it is likely to be far darker than you are used to.

  4. Calibrate using one of the devices listed above

When you do get a hold of a proper graphics monitor, like an Eizo, put it beside your iMac and throw the same photo up on both. After you pick yourself up off the floor because of the massive difference, remember that time you said to yourself that you don’t need an Eizo and that your iMac is great for editing photos.

If you’re stumped, I offer a service to take all the jargon out of colour management, and can set your system up so you are calibrated with your preferred lab or supplier and ready to make some beautiful prints! Shoot me an email if you are interested.

Have you just calibrated your screen for the first time? I’d love to hear how you found the process!

January Workflow Cure: Update Your Insurance

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Welcome to yet another thrill-a-minute topic that is sure to have you riveted - insurance! I thought the pic of me with an umbrella indoors might be a nice symbolic illustration for this topic. Yes/No?

For professionals and amateurs alike, it is important to have insurance as appropriate to your requirements.

Different types of insurance include, but are not limited to, equipment, public liability (useful if someone trips over your tripod and breaks their hip) and professional indemnity (to protect pros if they screw up).

The above is a super simplified version of the three types of insurance most photographers will need at some time or another, and I certainly don’t claim to be an expert, so it’s worthwhile speaking to someone who does this stuff for a living… I have worked with both AON and PPIB (aka Professional Photographers Insurance Broker), who both offer insurances tailored to photographers, and both have special deals for AIPP members. Win!

It’s a good idea to review your gear inventory, including your cameras, lenses, computers, hard drives, bags, tripods, and any and all accessories. Insurers will often offer incentives to either switch to them or remain with them, so taking the time to review your policy can save you a lot of money in your premiums and save your bacon when you need to use it.

I agonised over what to photograph to illustrate this topic… what do you think of selfie the umbrella? Made particularly difficult by the fact that I have loaned my tripod to another photographer, so my camera was balanced on a tower of books and boxes to capture this!

What else could I have done to illustrate insurance? I’m all ears!