This is a bit of an unusual post for me as I don’t tend to do reviews.
In every business there are tools and workflows designed to make your life easier which in turn makes you more efficient. This can result in a faster turnaround, less time on the mundane and more time either working on your business (rather than in it), or just more free time to spend with your family and friends.
In the world of photography there are the usual names banded around – Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture and so-on. Each one is a phenomenal tool in it’s own way and can easily be used to speed up your workflow so you can be out finding and making more work to edit
Lightroom and Aperture are amazing at batch editing images for proofing, exporting galleries and slideshows.
Photoshop has actions to speed up your fine-tune editing and droplets for batch processing.
They’re great for managing the workflow once you’ve made the images, but what about pre-production?
You could use spreadsheets, an email calendar and a wallchart to do your bookings, but it’s time consuming to keep it all up to date, keep everyone’s details easily to hand, track conversations, move dates and so on.
And that’s only when you’re in front of your computer. What happens if you’re mid-shoot and someone calls to bump their session forward a few days and you forget by the time you get back to your desk? Doesn’t look good when they turn up and you’re unprepared or they call asking where you are.
And then there’s tracking queries, estimates, invoices, expenses and income.
It’s a spreadsheet nightmare and a job in itself.
The only option you have, if you don’t have an assistant or manager to do all that for you, is to purchase some software to manage it all for you as efficiently as possible so that you spend the minimum time required to manage your schedule, bookings and accounts.
I’ve tried a few applications in the past such as QuickBooks and Blinkbid, before I was recommended LightBlueSoftware by my friend Helen Jones.
QuickBooks is an awesome and complete accounting system, but it doesn’t do anything other than that.
Blinkbid was a good studio quotation and licensing tool, but again it didn’t do much other than that.
Then there’s LightBlueSoftware (now just called LightBlue)
It does it all – and then some. And it does it really really well
It manages your contacts and calendar (+synced to your phone), all the details of the shoot from query to final bill, estimates, expenses, VAT, mass mailing, online galleries for image purchasing from your own website … It does pretty much everything except take the photos for you (I think it would given half the chance ;))
LBS also have a service (new in V3) where they will securely host your data file for you… online … 24/7
If you’re out on that shoot and the client calls to bump your session forward, you use their iPhone app to make the change there and then. Your computer accesses the same online data file so your schedules are automatically in sync.
For social photographers, one of the great things about the app is that it’s a complete management system. As it holds all your contacts details in the software, you can filter and search for clients with upcoming birthdays or anniversaries and use LBS to mass mail exclusive promo offers.
If you are a busy studio with more than one photographer or/and a staff, then there’s is a multi-seat version so you can all be accessing, entering, updating the data at the same time and everyone’s work schedule can be assigned and managed separately within the software.
There’s no 2 ways about it – the software is immense.
Not in size, but it’s fast becoming to studio management what Photoshop is to Post Production. One of the best things is that you raise a support question or a feature request, and the guys that run the company email you back, usually within a day or so.
Their focus is on listening to and giving their clients what the clients want.
I can’t imagine Shantanu Narayen (CEO of Adobe inc.) pinging you an email back on a feature request for Lightroom to say "Yea, we’ll look at that for the next release" or "That wont work because …"
Quite a few of my suggestions were put into new updates and as a result I was asked to be one of the Beta testers for V3. I got the chance to try to break it before the final V3.0 was released back in Jan/Feb.
And that’s about it really.
I recomment LBS to everyone and I’ve been meaning to scribe a review of LBS for a while, but never really got round to it. They pinged me an email this morning saying they were offering a short term 10% discount for existing users to pass on (now expired), so I figured it was karma.
You can try it free for 30 days before you’re required to purchase a license, so you can have a good dig around to see if it’s as good as I said. It only took me about an hour to decide