After many of you attend my classes you always want to know about my equipment, the services I use, the print labs I use, etc. I decided I would write up a post that you guys can reference. In my experience I’ve tried many different places, websites, and resources and these have been the top of the top for me and I love them. The links embedded here are also my referral links as I always appreciate any help I can get!
1. Contracts, Questionnaires, and studio management: Pixifi.com
Pixifi is an excellent service and is worth its weight in gold. A monthly subscription costs $25 per month approximately, but you can test out if you love it by using a free 30 day trial. I use this service to send digital contracts for clients to sign online (hello paperless) as well as invoices for easy deposit payments. Another important feature that I specifically use it for is questionnaires when I need to get a better idea of how someone’s wedding day will flow. The contracts, questionnaires (FAQs) that I sell here I just copy and paste right into Pixifi and I’m good to go. There are many other features that allow you to use it to track your business accounting, your client database and more, but I find these paperless features so easy to do and my clients love the simplicity of booking. Now they don’t need to sign and send back a contract and a check.
2. Sales Tax Calculator – for any Colorado Photographers
Sales taxes are super complicated and if you are a Colorado person then >this< calculator can help you figure out what sales taxes to charge. Please note each state may provide a different resource for this.
3. Online Photo Galleries & Print Purchasing: Shootproof.com
There are tons of services around that I have used in the past to host photo galleries for clients and allow them to purchase prints online. Shootproof has been the most simple and effective service for me. You chose a plan based on how many photos you want to host there. You can keep your pricing down by telling clients their photos will only be hosted for 90 days and then removing them to make room for your latest shoots. Shootproof is not connected to any print labs. You set up your pricing and how you want to get paid and when a client orders you’ll get an email confirming their payment to you (usually via paypal) and another email with the list of image numbers, sizes, prices, etc. that your client chose so you can make that order yourself through the lab of your choice. You can try out shootproof with a free 30 day trial too! I love having shootproof as a way to make those extra online orders from distant family and friends for my clients. I have yet to experience any errors with them and I love how customizable everything is.
I use these three labs. I’ve experienced customer service with many other labs and these 3 have always impressed me with their amazing customer service. I use Simply Color for all my basic prints as well as press products (like baby announcements), I use CGPro prints for all of my canvas wraps. If you want to check out my review of them and get a $10 off coupon click >here<. As a client gift I also like to surprise clients with a free 16×20 canvas. Because their prices are so incredibly reasonable gifting them a medium sized canvas has been a huge success! Mckenna pro is who I use for most of my album purchases. They are incredibly fast and high quality and have wowed my clients many times over.
5. Business cards, business letterhead, branded paper products and all that jazz: Pinholepro.com
At Pinholepro I have been able to purchase business cards that are both high quality and reasonably priced. $20 for 100! They also have a whole section of their products dedicated to marketing materials for photographers. I often order postcards through them to give out at bridal shows and expos. One of their best products that I love is their paperback $20, 20 page albums. I have always found it difficult with a growing portfolio to go purchase expensive leather bound albums to share my portfolio at big expos and events. With my portfolio always changing and the expenses of nice albums it’s so great to have a cheaper option that allows me to make more and they still look absolutely great. Now instead of one nice lay-flat leather-bound album for my latest portfolio I can purchase one small $20 paperback book and feature an entire wedding or session and order multiple. They also make letterhead and other great marketing press products at reasonable prices for good quality service.
6. My Website: Showitfast.com
Okay I’ve tried zenfolio, I’ve tried bludomain, smugmug, made my own, prophotoblogs…there are so many and I feel like I’ve been there and done that. Showit is definitely a bit more pricey at $40 per month, but I cannot tell you how worth it the service has been. My website hosting and design are all included in that price. Not only do I end up with a website though, I end up with a whole built in marketing service at no extra charge. That’s how I can justify having a more expensive website. For marketing Showit allows you to create entire websites just for your clients at your domain name. I realize this is difficult to imagine so check out http://libbyandmark.carrieswailsphotography.com I set up a website for my clients to share their photos with friends and family and it’s right there on my own website so I get tons of great referrals. It’s just such a professional and nice way to present your photos to everyone and I can put a link directly to my client’s shootproof gallery and make online print sales effortlessly!
7. What’s in my bag?
Canon! I’m neither a “Canon girl” or a “Nikon girl” Canon just fell into my hands and I feel both are pretty much equal to each other. I shoot with a 5D mark ii, and have the 5D mark i (classic) as my backup. Favorite lens is the 50mm 1.2L, but I also shoot with the 70-200mm 2.8L and the 100mm macro 2.8L. Coming soon to my bag is also the 35mm 1.4L. That’s the set that I feel really compliments and gives my work its unique style as far as a set of lenses goes. I also have the Lensbaby Composer Pro with the Sweet35, Edge80 (tilt shift), and Fisheye optics. I do not own a flash. I have a set of dimmable (and some non-dimmable) video lights that we use to light wedding receptions. In the studio I have softbox lighting for newborns and I also have a macro ring light for photographing wedding rings.
8. Camera Bags, Storage, and Camera Straps
I’ve been through the designer camera bag phase and I’m over it. My equipment is too much to carry around in even the largest designer camera bags and have my shoulders not ache painfully. Designer bags aren’t for me, but I really wish they were. Instead now I use a Pelican Case (the 1510) as a rolling indestructable, lockable, and safe suitcase to haul my gear in and I have a small black Lowepro passport sling to put one or two lenses in for easy changing. The Pelican Case is great for traveling and hauling all that extra gear around without needing it to be on your back. It’s where my backup goes and the lenses I’m not using, the tripods, lighting equipment and more. The Lowepro sling bag is light with only one or two lenses and I love that I can sling it around to my back and feel virtually hans free. It’s also been very easy for me to access and change lenses and I’ve struggled with that using some of my designer fancy camera bags. I also have the Blackrapid cargo camera strap so I can store my memory cards right on my strap. It’s a cross body strap and has good padding so my shoulders don’t feel heavy and most importantly I’m not killing my neck!
9. Blog Templates: Prophotoblogs.com
Yep, they’re almost cliche in the industry. I see everybody using them, but that’s okay with me. Hey you’re reading off one right now. They’re simple, easy to understand, and highly customizable. The price can be a bit much upfront, but once you’re past that it’s easy. They work well with a wordpress.com blog and if you can’t afford a fancy template you can check out themeforest.net for something more affordable and also great or you can get a free blog from wordpress.com.
10. Where to purchase cameras and other photography equipment? BHPhotovideo.com
Am I missing any other resources or workflow sources you want to know about? Let me know and I’ll add them to my post!