So far 2010 has seen quite a few changes in both my workflow and the general day to day running of my Photography business; much needed changes if I’m honest and this has all been possible because of 5 Awesome Software Titles that I’m now using.
First off I just want to clarify that in no way, shape or form am I receiving any kind of gratuity, back-hander or whatever else it could be called in telling you about these software titles; it’s just that they have made such a massive impact on me that I feel it’s only right to share them with you.
Workflow: Photo Mechanic
Last November you’ll remember me telling you about the time I spent out in Atlanta with Zack Arias on his OneLight Workshop. Well, it was while I was out there that Zack talked about and demonstrated his workflow and kept raving about a piece of software I’d never actually heard of called PhotoMechanic. I’ll be honest and say I didn’t really give this software that much attention because I thought my workflow was good enough as it was; oh how wrong was I!!! Needless to say my curiosity got the better of me and I downloaded the free trial and have been completely hooked ever since.
PhotoMechanic, made by a company called Camera Bits does way more than I am using it for, but for importing and sorting through images from a shoot it is absolutely incredible; lightning fast. My old workflow would see me importing files directly into Lightroom using a Lexar Firewire 400 card reader, which for a 4Gb card would give me enough time to pop downstairs and put the kettle on, but not anymore. No sooner have I put the card into the reader, the files are there on screen, no visible rendering, nothing…just there. To say this has saved me masses of time would be an understatement so if you’re the kind of person looking to reduce the amount of time you spend on your workflow, I can’t recommend PhotoMechanic enough. You can download the free trial here: www.camerabits.com and to buy it will mean an investment of roughly £100.
Workflow: Lightroom 2
I’ve been a dedicated user of Lightroom ever since it was released as a Public Beta so to move away from it would take something very special indeed. Over time however I had noticed Lightroom was starting to run quite slow and not just when importing files from a card reader. I remembered some time back reading that a catalogue of around 10,000 photographs would start to affect Lightroom’s performance, so I checked to see how many files I had…over 37,000!!! Clearly not all those files were being used and there was going to be alot of files/photographs that had never and would never be edited and passed onto the client or used in my portfolio. I set aside some time to sort through the entire catalogue which resulted in me uncovering over 300Gb of unused/unwanted files; backed up the now clean catalogue, created a new one and now Lightroom is running like it’s on steroids!
Lightroom 3 is currently in public beta with the full version set to be released in the very near future. No pricing details as yet but going by previous versions it could be around the £150 – £200 mark.
Workflow: Photoshop CS4
Okay, don’t think I really need to say much about why I’ve been using Photoshop for a few years now, other than it simply being the Industry Standard and the BEST there is.
Photoshop CS4 comes in 2 formats: CS4 Standard at around £599 and CS4 Extended at around £800
Workflow: Nik Silver Efex Pro
This is one of those pieces of software that I held off from getting for quite some time; I mean…do we really need another way to convert images to black & white, greyscale, monochrome or whatever other term you want to use? Well, as I was in a ‘free trial’ frame of mind I thought I’d download it and again, see what all the fuss was about. Well, just as I was totally convinced with PhotoMechanic, I’m now totally convinced with Nik Silver Efex Pro. This is without doubt an amazing piece of software that creates the most beautiful black & white images.
Before now I would convert images to black & white in Lightroom or Photoshop using a variety of simple techniques; I would even on occasion use a Photoshop Plug-In by Alien Skin called Exposure, all of which I though would give me nice results. Nik Silver Efex Pro though just blows me away; the tones are so rich that the images almost jump out at you. I could go on and on about why I like it and why it’s so good, but don’t take my word for it, download the 14 day free trial and give it a go for yourself: www.niksoftware.com
You can buy Nik Silver Efex Pro from a variety of online outlets and you’ll pay anything from £125 – £200.
Business Management: LightBlue
Business Management and being organised is one area that I definitely needed help with and thankfully my prayers have been answered.
Wouldn’t it be great to have one piece of software that amongst many of it’s other talents can keep track of all your clients, shoots, expenses, inventory, purchases, send out group emails, newsletters, organise your image files and so it goes on? Basically, a piece of software that gets you and your business organised and in return gives you your life back. Well, this is exactly how I feel about LightBlue. No longer do I have files on my computer that hold copies of invoices, folders in mail to keep track of communication between clients, an iCal diary that’s just bursting at the seams and is consequently hard to follow and then there’s the dreaded end of year accounting to organise. LightBlue does it all for me and what’s real nice about it, is that it’s so easy to use too.
There’s something to be said about being organised; particularly when running a business, in fact I’d go so far to say that you’re on a downward slope if you’re not organised because somewhere along the line, you’re gonna miss something. Using LightBlue has completely turned my business around and I’ve only been using it for a couple of weeks at this point. Being more organised has meant I know exactly where I stand when it comes to what shoots I have coming up, the state of other shoots i.e whether clients have received images etc; I know exactly how I stand financially with regards to how much I’ve paid out, how much I’ve paid in, any monies owing and so on and all at the touch of a button. Having this kind of information available to me so easily has meant I can concentrate my efforts elsewhere and as a result be more productive.
If you’re looking to get organised or looking to improve how you manage your business I can’t recommend this software enough. You can download a trial of LightBlue here: www.lightbluesoftware.com and to buy prices start from £295 inc VAT for single user. Oh and one more thing…I’ve emailed the guys (Tom & Hamish) over at LightBlue a couple of times for a little bit of advice and each time have had a comprehensive reply within 2 hours and one of those was on a weekend, so they don’t just offer a great product, they offer great customer service too.
Now as I said the start, these are 5 pieces of software that I’m using in 2010 that are making a big difference to me in both Workflow and Business Management but there are many other titles out there to be used.
I’d be really interested to hear about what software titles or methods you’re using to move your business forward. Any thoughts or comments? Are you using the same pieces of software and if so, why? Please use the comments section below and share them with us all.
Bye for now.