Photo Business Tips: How to Harness Efficiency and Stay Organized

by Jason Groupp

August 12, 2014

This month’s issue of Rangefinder focuses on portraits, and as we think about some of the iconic ones of our time, many questions come to mind. Did the photographer know the subject? Did he or she interfere in the making of this photo? How did the photographer get this shot in a way that makes the subject look so unaware—natural light, strobe light, mixed light? Retouched or not? 

Obviously I could go on; you get the idea. Unfortunately, taking a great portrait is usually not enough to make a living in our occupation. This economy and our changing industry aren’t to blame—the age-old problem of how to be a great artist goes back centuries. Many of us just stink at making money. I’ve asked a few of my friends to give me some tips on how they efficiently run a business to ensure the Benjamins keep rolling in.

Bambi Cantrell, for instance, gives clients a detailed questionnaire because, she says, “it helps us determine their family dynamics, likes, dislikes, so I can give each family a unique experience.”
Bambi also outsources her business in areas: an operations person handles day-to-day business, and a skilled salesperson uses ProSelect selling software to reach potential clients.

David Hakamaki also offered a peek into his busy lifestyle. As far as systems for booking jobs and follow-ups, one thing that gives David sanity is, he says, “syncing all my calendars between my iPhone, desktop computer and laptops (using Mac calendar). It lets me work efficiently, avoid overbooking, and allows for remote entry of new jobs because all info is immediately accessible from any source. It programs reminders into the calendar, too!”

Courtesy of David Hakamaki

For email management, David uses separate folders for home and business, and more folders for emails that need a response, general info and products. This helps to avoid email clutter and to stay organized. For more efficient processing, David shoots RAW for all important works and JPEGs for standard work. 

“For client viewing, I process images into JPEGs with Lightroom in-house using quick and basic presets (Portraiture, skin, B&W, Kubota actions, etc.),” he says. “Don’t over-edit and try to make a turd look good—throw it out! Good folder management of client images keeps me super efficient. I keep separate hard drives (plus a global RAID backup) for Weddings, Portraits & Sports, General Photos and Administrative.”

Matthew Kemmetmueller also relies on a great workflow system using studio management software to make sure he doesn’t stand up his clients. “We use StudioPlus, but Táve Studio Manager, StudioCloud and ShootQ all work,” Matthew says. “Having a good piece of software in place that manages your calendar, client list and invoices is critical for success!”

Alison Carlino has seven things she and her business can’t live without: “Lightroom, Simply Studio, creative time off to recharge, continuing education, the 70-200mm f/2.8 II lens, off-camera lighting and air conditioning (this Texas heat and humidity is oppressive, and it’s not even August yet).”

The common thread among all of these portrait studios is a hyper-focus on organization. They also mainly rely on zoom lenses (70-200mm in particular), all preferred available light shooting, but are not afraid to lean on the OCF systems. Thanks to Bambi, Alison, David and Mr. Body Kemmetmueller for their help with this!

An image from Jason Groupp's last wedding shoot, and his #mypicrfwppi Instagram entry for June. Photo © Jason Groupp

Speaking of help, I had the privilege of shooting a few weddings this month with partners in crime Karen Seifert and Tim Co. Above is #mypicrfwppi as promised. It was great to air out my camera for an entire day. (I’ll admit, I got a few eye rolls from Karen teasing me on how rusty I was.)

I also want to thank those of you who participated in last month’s competition, and congrats to the winners: Eric Nshimiye, Neri Ridges and Sarah Dawson. Join us next month by following us on Instagram @rfwppi, sharing your favorite photo by the 15th of the month and hash tagging #mypicrfwppi. Each month, we’ll choose three winners who will win a free Full Conference Pass to WPPI 2015!

Related Links:

How to Evolve Your Brand: IHNY's Smart Business Model

Take Control of Your Business: 10 Studio Management Software Programs

Setting the Price: How to Charge for Photography Services

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