This one is for my fellow photographers out there. Not the most exciting topic for clients, so you may want to skip right on past this one and get back to drooling over the beautiful images over there on my blog!
Why I Dumped My Studio Management Software, And How I Got More Organized in the Process
A couple of weeks ago I had an epiphany. For months I have been battling with my studio management software, trying to make it be what I needed and do what I wanted. And then one day I realized, I was trying to make it do the part of my job that is most important to me, building relationships with my clients. I was taking the personal service that I pride myself on, and handing it over to a website which, quite frankly, was not doing the best job. I was trying to automate everything to the point that I was not taking the time to interact with my clients prior to their sessions and I felt like I was arriving more unprepared than in the past. Little details that I should have asked about or picked up on during the onboarding process were missing, and as a result I was not giving my clients the best experience possible. #fail
I was also falling into the trap of trying to funnel everyone into one place to contact me and get information, by filing out a form. No Facebook messages, no emails, no phone calls, please. But when I really thought about it, as a potential client, maybe I don’t want to fill out a form just to ask a question. Maybe I want to pick up the phone and *gasp* TALK to my potential photographer, get to know about them and decide if they are a good fit for my family, and not just a price for a service. And this is really what I want my clients to do! I want to them to hire me for ME, not because I am the lowest price (I am not) or because I came up first in a Google search ( don’t I WISH!)
So I started doing some digging. Hours of reading through blogs, and Facebook groups and examining different organizational products. I brought my onboarding process to a screeching halt and went back to… wait for it… phone calls and written notes. Like on paper. By hand! I made lists and sticky notes and dove headfirst down the rabbit hole of examining what exactly I wanted my process to look like, and how best to achieve it, while still actually communicating with potential clients. After getting back to the basics, I developed a list of what I really needed to help me stay organized, and what I really didn’t need.
Things I determined I didn’t need included the studio management software that had been driving me batty for months. I have used some version of it (ShootQ, Pixifi, and most recently Dubsado) for several years. There is such a push to automate, streamline, and automate some more. Auto emails, workflows, auto contracts, auto invoices, and none of really working right 100% of the time. Sometimes it even made me look DISorganized, rather than like I had it all together. I also came to the realization that the very process of inputting client information into a planner or spreadsheet or Google contacts MYSELF, was part of the process of preparing for their session and getting to know them. When a client simply fills out a form and the software sends them back a contract and they send the contract back, I am not INVOLVED enough. I am not getting personally invested in their session.
After spending some time looking at how I wanted to serve my clients and how to give them the best experience while still keeping some semblance of organization (I do love a good spreadsheet!) I removed the auto messages on Facebook and my website instructing potential clients to fill out a form or go here or there and instead welcomed contact any way that was convenient for them. I whittled everything down to the basics. I needed a way for clients to schedule and pay for their session. I needed a way to organize my clients’ contact information and session details, and I needed a way to track the progress of tasks and due dates so nothing slipped through the cracks. And so, my new process includes Google contacts for, duh, contacts (free!), Asana for task management (also free!), and Acuity for scheduling and booking (not free, but super affordable). Here’s why I chose what I did…
Acuity Acuity is the bomb for busy photographers! With Acuity you can set a regular schedule, a special one-off availability, open up based on appointment type, and more. I have dates open for regular client sessions, dates for mini-session events, and the ability to add any custom date and event I want as needed. It syncs with my Google Calendar, utilizes Square for secure payments (Square is the BEST payment processor I have ever used!!), and then zaps the session info over to Asana, my Google Calendar, AND sends their session info to Google contacts, to the contact I have already created for them.
Asana is best described as a digital sticky note board. In Asana, I store a “task” for each session I book, and then within that task I have subtasks for things like follow-up, reminders, payments due, editing due dates, and more. I have a column for Interested, Booked, In Editing and Complete and I drag my little stickies right across the screen to the next status as I finish them. I can also pull up a task view by due date, color code my sessions by category, and so much more! I don’t know how I lived without Asana, I am such a visual person and this lays it all out for me to see.
I should probably also explain all of the Zapping that is happening. I also use a site called Zapier. With Zapier, you can set up Zaps to perform functions connecting various websites that you use. I have a Zap which brings session info from Acuity into Google contacts, a Zap which sends payment info from Acuity to Quickbooks, a Zap which brings session info over from Acuity to a new Asana task, and a Zap which takes the client info from Google Contacts and adds it to a Google Sheet for safekeeping. And the best part, Zapier is free. So Zap away, friends!
Now, of course there is no one right or wrong way to do all of this running a business stuff, so this wont necessarily work for you or fit your business model at all. But if you are looking for a way to connect with your clients, get back to basics, and feel more involved with your work and less like an IT guy with all of that tweaking your studio management software needs, feel free to follow my lead and dump yours too!
This post includes affiliate links to products that I use and LOVE. I would never recommend it unless I use it myself ❤️
The Farm at Agritopia Family Photos
I have a confession to make. When I first scout out a location for family photos in Gilbert, Chandler, or anywhere in the Phoenix metro area, it is not always love at first sight. Sometimes my creative eye is tired, or off duty, or just stuck. Sometimes I think a location is nothing special only to visit it again months later and realize how wrong I was. I visited the Farm at Agritopia a handful of times before I saw the magic and fell in love with it, and I am so glad that I did! This sweet family braved a crazy warm and humid sunrise session to be the first to try it out with me. And I have to tell you, 6:30am – this Mama had her kiddos on time and camera ready at 6:30am!
The Farm at Agritopia is a family owned community farm, wedding venue, restaurant, coffee shop, maker’s space, and more all rolled into one. It has beautiful archways built with grape vines, olive trees, palms, an orchard of fruit trees, vintage buildings, and more. So fun fun stuff here!! It is also a little exclusive, the farm asks photographers to make a contribution to the farm foundation in exchange for use of the space, so it tends to be less crowded than some of the other family photo hot spots.
You’ll notice as you scroll though these favorites from their session, that there are quite a few shots which are not posed smiles straight at the camera. My favorite shots from every session end up being the ones you were not ready for. The giggles, the hugs and kisses, the tickles when Mom is trying to get you to smile, the little sister tugging on her brother when he doesn’t want to hold hands, Mom and Dad sharing a laugh. These are my favorite because they tell your story. They show the connection between you, give a glimpse into your relationships, show your spunky little personality (or your phase of not wanting to take pictures!). THESE are memories. Portraits are amazing and beautiful and I hope that you put them on your wall and cherish them, but those memories are going to last you a lifetime. ❤️
Want to make some magic of your own at this amazing location? This session was sunrise, but sunset is equally amazing. Don’t procrastinate too long in booking those Fall family photos, there are only 150 days left until Christmas! Let’s Book It!
Fall mini sessions in Gilbert, Chandler, and Queen Creek are now live!
August is just a few days away, and that means Fall is right around the corner! Although it’s a little hot here in Phoenix to get too excited yet, Fall has always been one of my favorite times of year. The smell of pumpkin spice, the cozy feeling of warm sweaters, the changing colors, and the craft making!! I am so ready for this change by the end of Summer!
This year I am super excited to bring 3 brand new locations to my mini-session families. Each has a unique, fun and fresh look, and I cannot wait to see how amazing YOU are going to look there!
Sunday, August 12. The Art House Gilbert
Think black and gold glam, or bright colors that pop! This location has black, white, and brick walls, concrete floors, beautiful natural light, and AIR CONDITIONING!! You are welcome!
Book Your Spot
Sunday September 23. The Farm at Agritopia
This location is perfect for just about anything, be it Christmas dresses or jeans and t-shirts. This community farm location has green trees, white fences, and a beautiful archway of greenery. Classic, simple and beautiful, without a cactus in sight!
Book Your Spot
Sunday October 14. Queen Creek Olive Mill
This rustic location makes me think of Tuscany with its beautiful olive trees. A variety of looks will work here but deep gorgeous jewel tones and light airy whites are where it’s at! As an added bonus you can grab some delicious bruschetta and a glass of wine before or after your session!
Book Your Spot
So What IS A Mini Session, Anyways?
A mini session is a miniature version of my full one hour portrait session. It’s short, sweet and to the point, and can work out perfectly for most families who like to update their photos often, but there are a few things to keep in mind.
First, I ask that you not plan any outfit changes during minis as it takes up a LOT of our precious shooting time. I also do not provide or use any props or sets with my mini-sessions, the focus is on your and your sweet family!
Understandably, with a mini session you will receive less images than a full session. I do not limit the number of images I provide, and you will get all of the most awesome shots, but less time than a standard session means less images (I average around 15-20 for a mini session, but occasionally we’ll get more!)
If you have a large family, this also means we will have less time for lots of different groupings or individual shots, end up with less shots, and you may miss some images you were hoping for. I have a max of 6 for most locations, 5 for some depending on location size. If you have a group larger than 5 or 6, you are really going to want more time for your session so we can do it right. I do offer a small discount if you do need to book 2 time slots for back to back sessions, or you can opt to book a full hour at a time and location of your choice.
Mini sessions are quick and often there is another client right ahead of or behind you, so running behind can be a big problem. If you are late to your session, it will cut into our time together and if you miss your slot I will likely not be able to make it up for you.
And lastly, if you have kiddos who HATE the camera, and photos have been difficult in the past, I would strongly suggest booking a full session instead. This gives me time to be silly and interact with your child while they warm up to me and give them breaks so they are not super stressed and end up hating photos even more!
Now go on and grab your spot before they are gone!
A couple of weeks ago, I met up with incredibly talented Lois Zozobrado for a quick shoot for an upcoming article in Chandler Lifestyle Magazine. I’ve now been in the East Valley for just over a year, but this is the first time I’ve had an opportunity to shoot in Downtown Chandler. I’m kind of in love! We decided to aim for just after sunrise so the temps were cooler, and the crowds lighter. The crowds were not only lighter, but they were completely non-existent, which was perfect! We pretty much had the run of downtown all to ourselves, and still didn’t even scratch the surface of all of the interesting and unique backdrops in the historic downtown district. I absolutely cannot wait to go back and explore more nooks and crannies. Downtown Chandler is an awesome backdrop for senior photo sessions, but also for smaller families. And the sunrise light, oh my, so beautiful! If the life sized CHANDLER sign on city hall is on your bucket list for Fall photos, sunrise is best time for perfect light.
Here is a little sneak peek of our session! Be sure to subscribe to Chandler Lifestyle’s digital subscription to see the full article in the August edition, and read all about this amazing local teen’s accomplishments.
Seal Beach Maternity Photos
Last week I packed up the kiddos and headed west to the beach and Grandma’s house for some cool ocean air and summer break shenanigans (read:Disneyland, duh!). While we were there, I got to meet up with these sweet parents – to – be, who also happen to be some of my very favorite wedding clients from the past, for a sunset maternity session on the beach! (If you haven’t seen their amazing Disneyland fireworks finale shot, go check that out here!!) I ordered up a gorgeous sunset with no icky marine layer just for them, and while I got what I wanted we also got gale force winds. Proof you really cannot have your cake and eat it too. I also maaaaay have stepped backwards right into a hole that had been dug in the sand… and fell. Hard. It was probably quite the sight, me hitting the ground, holding my camera straight overhead so it didn’t. PSA people, fill in your holes when you leave the beach!
I love that I can keep in touch with my awesome Orange County clients who I’ve worked with for so many years, and on vacation to boot. I’ll be back for a little more summer fun, Fall break, and then Christmas! My Orange County Fall minis have just a couple of spots open, and they are both at this same gorgeous location – the Seal Beach pier. If you can’t snag one, or want a longer session all to yourself, I do have limited dates open this Fall in August, October, and after Christmas in December.
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