Photography as a profession can be somewhat seasonal depending on your focus and client base, and downturns sometimes happen to the best of us. Clients may be in a slow period themselves, focused on different projects, challenges, even holiday vacations serve as distractors for decision makers. When the winter months roll around, or simply when life slows down, a few key steps can help you not only regroup but prepare for the next opportunity. So after binge watching Netflix get old, here’s a list of (mostly free) opportunities to set yourself up for success when things get busy again.
1. Organize your camera bag or case(s)
Clean it out! Does anything need to be fixed? This is your chance to add that thing you keep forgetting like Aleve, eye drops, hand warmers, bandaids, a hex key to tighten grub screws on a tripod. Those little additions can make an enormous difference as you create. Earlier this year I picked up a stainless steel rolling storage rack at Costco for organizing my equipment and it’s made preparing for off site jobs incredibly straight forward. It makes it easier to inventory and maintain gear, while making it harder to forget something needed for a job. Stay tuned for a follow up post on what my equipment organization looks like.
2. Untangle with cable management
Use velcro cable ties to better store your power & USB cables. Not only does it look more impressive, you’ll find what you need faster. Amazon sells these, I usually get them at Harbor Freight (check their ad for a 20% off coupon). This same principle apples to a clean setup at your workstation. In my days working at Apple, with a new store opening or plano setup, cables were managed down to the millimeter. Extreme, but Apple understands the impact that presentation and organize can have. Colored ties, or more cheaply, the closure tabs on store bought bread, work great for labeling which cable attaches to a peripheral.
3. Create document templates to save time later
This has long been a favorite of mine in Apple’s Pages, as well as Apple’s Numbers. It keeps office tasks more automated and consistent, freeing energy from procedure to focus on the task at hand. Stand outs include equipment inventory spreadsheet, mileage log, estimating forms, contracts. These documents are always a work in progress and it’s taken years to get to this point, but templates are my favorite way of organizing them in Apple’s iWork suite.
4. Declutter your desk by going paperless
There’s not much reason to keep physical copies for most things if you are backing your data up. I download current PDFs from all of my online accounts organized by date & in folders by type, which also saves trees. Cleaning out is super refreshing, so go one further and declutter your workspace by scanning documents. If you don’t have one, get a scanner with a document feeder, it’s far more efficient than using a tray. Scanning makes it faster to find the information you need and while on the go. Naming and organizing your documents will pay dividends later. It takes a second and your accountant will love you with all the time (and potentially money) saved in tax prep. Expensify is my preferred app of choice for saving paper receipts. It offers free and paid services, and the online interface allows for greater customization in the iOS app, and can generate PDF reports of receipts. Be sure to securely dispose of your paper documents with a paper shredder. If you don’t have one, they’re not expensive or see if a friend has one to loan. Pro tip: keep current year records in one folder, synced with DropBox. You can use the app on your phone to then access any of your records, contracts, etc., quickly and on the go.
5. Schedule social media posts
If you keep your photographs organized by date, this process is already started for you – just start at the top and work your way down. Focus on what works for you so it gets done. If that means scheduling posts a month at a time in WordPress instead of posting twice a week, go for it.
6. Get image organization off your plate
Staying on top of image organization and color correction will remove a lot of stress. It helps manage client expectations and avoids further delays taking on new projects. I shouldn’t have to mention backing up because that should be step one after photographing, arguably while photographing if your camera has two memory card slots. Creating a dedicated off site backup is also wise if you don’t have one, and Carbon Copy Cloner can help. Find a hard drive on a holiday sale and use it for a dedicated backup off site for content made over the last year or more. This is also a great time to for maintenance, including software updates and, if you’re a nerd like me, using Disk Warrior to repair volume directories.
Remember, two is one, one is none.
7. Learn a new skill, software application, or photo technique
Watch a tutorial. Take a class. Try out new gear, or try using your equipment differently. Learn to weld. Read a book or continue reading this blog. The list of learning resources out there is endless. RGG EDU, Lynda.com, Zack Arias’ Ded Pxl tutorials are my personal favorites. I recently switched to Capture One Pro 10 which you can read about here and here on their blog, something that I invested a lot of time in.
Capture One’s webinars are a superb (free) resource and in a few weeks I’ll be offering a webinar with David Grover on image organization. You can sign up for one of the available time slots here for free.
8. Get more from your camera
Whenever I buy a new camera, I do my best to read the entire manual before photographing with it. Features that your hard earned dollar pay for are better learned and you’re more prepared to put them into practice. One place where I skipped years ago and wished I hadn’t was with my APC backup, when I later learned I could easily disable the Master slots so each outlet functioned independently. Pro tip – find the manual in PDF format online and save it on your phone for quick reference in the field.
9. Catch up on tax prep
From updating mileage logs to saving receipts and online statements as PDFs, you’ll be glad you kept up with this come tax time. Scanning your documents will certainly help, and QuickBooks Cloud can make your financial workflow better. It automatically syncs your bank and credit card statements while learning your habits, all you have to do is assign or confirm each expense after they are incurred. If you have an accountant, well first hire one, and second, talk with them about how QuickBooks Cloud can save you time. If you are growing and would benefit outsourcing part of what you do, an accountant is perhaps the most beneficial person you can enlist.
10. Cash in your unused gear
Remember cleaning out your camera bag? What tools do you have that you’re not using that someone else could be? Free up extra cash or even make a trade towards something you can use to improve your workflow. KEH is an excellent source for selling (and buying) used gear. Sign up for their email newsletter first, they often have promotions for both buying and selling.
Bonus: Find new inspiration
Not everything has to be photo related. I get a lot of inspiration reading books completely unrelated to photography. Listen to a new music album or record (vinyl is wonderful for this), catch up with friends, go to a museum, an art gallery, or take a day trip somewhere new. Photograph for yourself or put the camera down, depending on the season you are in.
Save 10% when buying or upgrading to Capture One Pro 10 for Mac & PC via the Phase One Online Store using the promo code AMBUSH at checkout.