Every photographer has their trusty camera bag that accompanies them on every shoot. But what about beyond that? There is a whole world of useful tools out there that could make your life easier – besides GotPhoto, of course.
We’ve compiled a useful list of both physical tools and software resources that could help improve and refine your school photography business, based on our expertise as well as recommendations from our photographers.
Tools on Wheels
First up is a lifesaver for those long photo days. A small stool with wheels has reportedly saved the knees of one of our photographers. One like this can let you sit down and move freely around the child, with an adjustable height to suit any angle. With time saved from getting up and down, and dignity saved from not having to shuffle around on the floor, it is a photographer must-have.
One added bonus from our photographer: his chair can also make a sound like a whoopee cushion, helping even the grumpiest of preschoolers crack a smile!
Another handy purchase that your bones will thank you for is a rolling trolley. With all the equipment a school photographer needs to carry, it’s important you don’t weigh yourself down with bags and boxes. If you haven’t already made the change to wheels, you might want to consider making the switch now.
For getting technical on the fly, having a set of white balance cards is always a must-have. This set has a neutral 18% grey card, but you can often find a set that matches your preference and style where necessary. You can also use more silvery ones as a portable reflector for macro photography, for example, if you’re getting some extreme detail shots at prom or during a senior shoot.
School photography can often be a hands-on job, moving around the child to get the best angle, and even using the other hand to entertain or engage them. If you don’t have room for a tripod during a session or prefer freedom of movement, a paracord could be your answer. Placing one end under your foot and attaching the other to the screw on the underside of your camera creates a makeshift stabiliser.
All of these smaller items might get lost in a big camera bag. To keep them all together, along with memory cards, batteries and other bits that are easily mislaid, a small tin can work wonders.
Extra tip: an elastic band makes sure it stays fully closed, and can then also be used on a shoot to attach something to your camera or flash, such as small toys or mini-reflectors.
Think Outside the Box
Anyone who works with kids knows they are not the most reliable of coworkers. Keeping a stash of tasty bribes to hand out is a great way to keep them on your side. You don’t need anything too fancy or time-consuming to eat, but something like small pieces of fruit or boiled candy can turn even the most resolute of frowns upside down. Remember: always make sure to double check with the school beforehand for approval!
If you’re out and about on the hunt for acquisitions, a portable projector is a great addition to your sales bag. Something like this is compatible with laptops and mobile devices without breaking the bank, but the more you spend, the higher the quality. With an on-the-go projector, you can throw your images up onto any blank wall or surface, regardless or what kind of technology the school you’re visiting might have. That way, you can show off your photography skills behind you while you talk business.
Not everything in a school photographer’s kit can fit in their camera bag. Of course, so much of our work is now carried out online. For photographers with a growing business and multiple photographers working on jobs, finding ways to coordinate various schedules can be tricky. That’s where an online employee scheduling tool can save the day. Here are a couple of different options some of our photographers use that could suit your company as well:
- Google Docs: a simple solution. Create a Google Sheet timetable for the month and put in all the upcoming jobs as they arrive. Employees can then go into the document and color it or mark it as taken in some other way. With changes being shared immediately to all users, it leaves little room for error with no software costs.
- Homebase: a more dedicated platform. Homebase is designed for this specific use, and allows you to allocate jobs according to week or month. You can also copy schedules across to replicate previous weeks. What is more, Homebase will track the number of hours individuals have worked accordingly, to make sure everyone is getting their fair share.
It’s not only your photographers that might need organising. If you offer private sessions or senior shoots, you might need to have a system for client scheduling. It might be the first time a client is coming into contact with your brand, so it’s vital to have a smooth and easy experience for them if you’re going to encourage them to invest their time and money further in your business.
- YouCanBookMe: You can connect this system with your already-established calendar, whether that’s Apple, Google or Microsoft. You then further specify your availability around those times and YouCanBookMe will offer free times to anyone wanting to book a slot with you. Appointments are automatically copied into your personal calendar for you to approve. With full automation, it is very straight-forward to get their system up and running. One downside is that there is little customisable payment integration, so you might need to send invoices to clients directly.
- SimplyBook: This software works in a very similar way, but has the added bonus of enabling payments within the system. Depending on how you take session bookings, this could work in your favour for collecting deposits. Clients can also make group bookings, and you can set up automated reminders for yourself, employees, or the clients themselves to make sure everything runs smoothly on the day.
- Calendly: For improved flexibility and the ability to hold group meetings for both employees and clients, Calendly doesn’t leave much at the wayside. You can also set limits for the number of meetings per day, so you don’t get snowed under with too many clients at once, and create buffers to give yourself a break between meetings or sessions.
There’s nothing worse than capturing dozens of special memories for families and friends, and then realising those images have suddenly vanished. That’s why an essential part of being a photographer is being ready for such circumstances. Some of our top picks for photo recovery are:
- PhotoRec: an open source service suited for the programmers amongst us, or those wanting to keep data to themselves.
- Exif Untrasher: the knight in shining armor for Mac users.
- Recuva: another alternative for those using Windows.
We’ve all had that sinking feeling where we open a memory card after a big photo day and some of the images have corrupted. Just as with photo recovery, school photographers should be prepared with a trusted photo repair service to come and save the day. File Repair is a free service that works on most operating systems for almost any file type. Whatever your need, it will likely be able to help.
For anyone who works outdoors and uses Apple products, The Photographer Ephemeris helps you make the most of natural light outdoors, and is a great addition to your digital wallet. With a mapped calculator of the sun, moon and the Milky Way, you can see in advance how the light will fall at specific times and locations. Never again will you forget a key light or umbrella to get the perfect angle. You can also save locations for future use, so you never have to waste time searching for the ideal angle again.
Do you have any personal favorites of your own? Have you used any of the tools listed above? Let us know in the comments by heading over to the Facebook post related to this article.