Hi there, I'm Manali! A wedding & portrait photographer & educator serving Charlottesville VA & DC. Click through for all my favorites from recent sessions, adventures and travels, as well as tips & tricks for clients! Grab a cup of coffee, relax, and feel free to connect with me elsewhere as well! Cheers to you!

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Must-Have Tools to Run Your Photography Business

July 14, 2020

I have a question for you today and one that really changed how I ran my business when I first heard it.

Would you be able to serve 25 or 50 clients the same way you serve 5?

I started thinking through this question the first year that I started taking on weddings. My first year of shooting weddings on my own after second shooting over 15, I only had THREE that I was capturing myself for one year. But through thinking about this question, I took the extra time that I had with starting out with only three weddings to really think through the entire process and how I could serve my three couples REALLY really well. And at the same time, I started thinking through how I could put systems in place to be able to serve the 20-25 weddings in one year that I really wanted, the same way that I served those three really well making sure each couple was well cared for!

Taking time that year to put backend systems in place to make for an amazing front end client experience for both portraits and weddings was the thing that allowed my business to flourish while I was still working it as a side hustle! When you have clients that are raving about their photography experience with you and telling their friends when people are looking for a photographer, that’s amazing!! I find that even to this day, word of mouth referrals are always the best source of inquiries and serving my clients well helps market my business in a way that’s impossible to replicate through any other online means.

Now if you’re ready to start putting systems in place (maybe even before you feel like you might need to), then I applaud you for thinking about your business strategically and from a longterm standpoint. Instead of wasting hours, trying to remember all the little tasks floating around your head, and being scared that something’s going to slip through the cracks, you’re ready to let systems do the heavy-lifting for you after a little bit of upfront setup! You’re on your way to running your business smoothly & confidently, serving your clients wholeheartedly, knowing exactly when to get everything done and housing all the details and info in one easy to search place!

To help you get started, here are my top FOUR tools & systems that I use in my business.

As a note these are affiliate links but I have been using these all for YEARS now and I swear by them!

1. HoneyBook

I could go on and on about how HoneyBook helped me grow my business! And I actually walked through HoneyBook’s tools & how I use it in last week’s blog post! Tools that I use within HoneyBook to really enhance the client experience are the contact form embedded within my website that gets all of their details in their project space at one time without going back and forth on email, email templates to make sure that I answer their questions before they even come to mind for them, client questionnaires to get to know them better to form a more personal relationship with them, and workflows to make sure I stay proactive in my communication with them throughout the entire process. On the backend of things, HoneyBook also allows me to communicate with vendors and my second shooter within the same project space keeping all the details I need for one wedding in one easy to access place, the Reports are so helpful in terms of understanding my numbers, the time tracking tool is SO helpful when starting to figure out where outsourcing could be a huge blessing to you and your business! You can click here to try it out and get 50% off your first year – I’m convinced you’ll stick with it past that time, it’s THAT good.

2. Quickbooks

Obviously not the type of tool that everyone is going to LOVE talking about but I really do believe that having a clear picture of your finances will allow you to make really key investments to help your business grow! Quickbooks allows me to easily track how much money I’m making, what I’ve spent, mileage and makes tax time a breeze! It helps me estimate my quarterly taxes too! That paired with my Financial Tracking Spreadsheet gives me a super clear picture of what money is coming in, what money is going out and helps me determine my pricing and how many shoots or weddings I need to take to hit my income goal. No more “just trying to book MORE” of every type of shoot, I know exactly what numbers I need to hit which takes a lot of the stress out of it! I use the Self Employed version and you can click here to get 50% off your first year! Here’s my blog post that goes more in-depth on keeping track of finances for my photography business and includes the Financial Tracking Spreadsheet.

3. PhotoMechanic & Lightroom

Cheating a little here because these are TWO programs but these two together help me get through editing images from a shoot SO quickly which in turn helps provide an amazing client experience! Imagine you’re super excited to get a package in the mail and the estimated delivery is a week out. But say on day 5 after carefully watching your tracking info (and hitting refresh too many times) that you see it’s being delivered TODAY!! I don’t know about you guys but whenever this happens to me, I get so so excited!! It’s just that one part of your experience with a product or company that helps you become a loyal customer or fan!

PhotoMechanic helps me cull through images super quickly and allows me to choose the best ones to import into Lightroom to edit. Editing in Lightroom is SO quick since it allows you to sync your edits across multiple images at one time AND it can apply your base preset to EVERY. SINGLE. IMAGE on import, automatically without you having to click anything!! Think about if you’re adjusting your exposure, contrast, saturation, vibrance, tonal C curve, split toning highlights & shadows and enabling profile corrections. That probably takes you 3-5 seconds. Now multiply that by 300 images from a shoot. That’s 25 minutes right there! In twenty-five minutes you could have responded to emails and interacted with your vendors & clients on Instagram!

If you want a walkthrough of more editing & post-processing hacks to see me do this in real-time, check out this blog post!

4. Planoly

If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent HOURS trying to get your grid justttt right for Instagram, mulled over captions, written some and then re-written some and tried to figure out the ultimate emoji placement for your little square. And then when it came time to post to your Instagram feed…….well you just second guessed everything anddddd perhaps even didn’t end up posting at all! Instagram can be so critical to growing your photography business by demonstrating your beautiful work, speaking your clients’ praises & showing people that your business is in-demand! But boy oh boy does it take some time to stay consistent on the app! Enter Planoly: the tool that lets you plan out what your grid will look like allowing you to drag & drop pictures around, schedule them easily on a calendar, automatically apply hashtags in the comments to help you get discovered, and even schedule your post to go out on your behalf. Plus it allows you to post to Facebook at the same time, tag people & locations in the app itself and write out a caption. ALL on your desktop!! I don’t know about you but I type about 10x faster on my laptop keyboard than I do on my phone. Planoly saves me SO much time, allows multiple users in one account if you have a VA and will auto-post for you! It makes planning out my Instagram grid for a month at a time a breeze! And batching creating all my Instagram posts at one time saves me hours of time every single week allowing me to work on serving my clients well! It’s a win win situation! If you haven’t looked into Planoly and you’re looking to uplevel your Insta game, I highly recommend checking it out! If you’re ready to try Planoly out, click here to get started!

Now to start putting some systems in place!

If you’re ready to start putting systems in place to help you save time each week without the headache and you’re excited to use these tools but stuck on exactly WHAT tasks you need to include in your workflow, check out the Workflow & Systems Bundle. The bundle covers my exact workflow for portraits & weddings, my batch schedule & daily/weekly/monthly/quarterly/annual routines to keep my business running smoothly!


If you enjoyed this post, binge-read through the MP Edcuation Series!

Part I: Why You Should Invest in Photography Education

Part II: 3 Lessons I’ve Learned in 3 Years as a Wedding Photographer

Part III: Website Essentials & Tips for Wedding & Portrait Photographers

Part IV: Wedding Photography Preparation Workflow

Part V: Creating a Marketing Strategy & Workflow for Your Business

Part VI: 5 Tips for Crafting a Stellar Client Experience

Part VII: Why Creatives Should Consider a Quarterly Planning System

Part VIII: Weekly Batch Schedule for Photographers

Part IX: Crafting a Productive Weekly Schedule

Part X: Keeping Track of your Finances as a Photographer

Part XI: Setting White Balance Manually to Save Hours While Editing

Part XII: TUTORIAL – My Post-Processing & Editing Workflow Explained

Part XIII: Must-Have Tools to Run Your Photography Business

Part XIV: Introducing One-On-One Mentoring Sessions 


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