Business + Marketing

How the Right Studio Management Software Can Save Your Sanity

April 12, 2019

By Michelle Lange

© Michelle Lange Photography

When you first start your photography business, tasks and expenses seem to rapidly accumulate. From registering your business in your state, purchasing insurance and setting up a business bank account to learning the ins and outs of your equipment, building your portfolio, creating and launching a website—the list goes on.

But at the top of the list is the very thing that will help manage everything: a studio management software.

Courtesy of Táve

Shortly after I set my business up legally, I started looking around for studio management software. At that time, I had been working as a project manager in banking technology. The tools we used to streamline the projects we worked on inspired me to look around for tools that could help me do the same with my photography business.

I signed up for free trials of two big players in the business and ultimately went with Táve. It had everything I was looking for in studio management software, allowing me to manage my leads, create and send proposals and contracts, gather important information about my clients’ weddings through questionnaires, log expenses, track profits and loss and more.

You may read that and think, I can do this all with spreadsheets, paper and email. Yes, you can. While I’m not here to tell you what is right for your business, I do want to share why I think getting studio management software was a huge “win” for me in finding a solid balance in my business.


I found it extremely important to automate some of the tasks that I knew I would be doing regularly. This saved me time on admin and allowed me to focus on other areas that helped grow my business. It helps so much to automate:

Courtesy of Táve

1. Lead management. All my inquiries go directly though my customized contact form. I don’t have to copy and paste the lead’s details from an email into my studio management software. You will be glad you have this in place when you start getting 200+ annual inquiries.

2. Template emails. When I receive an inquiry, I have email templates ready to go with all of the information requested. I then add in a personalized paragraph to keep it unique to the inquiry. Your inbox can be one of the most time-consuming parts of running a small business, so any minute you can save in your inbox is worth its weight in gold.

3. Proposals. This is my favorite part! I consider a proposal to include both a quote and contract for a specific job. I have a proposal template for weddings and another one for portraits. When someone is ready to book, it takes me just a few minutes to add a couple custom details and send out the proposal. They can select their collection, review the payment schedule, sign the contract and select their method of payment all online.

4. Payment reminders. I have these automated to go out one month prior to when payments are due. I have had very few late payments because of this.

5. Questionnaires. I have a template ready to send to my wedding couples to fill out all of the important information for their big day. I also have a template email for when I send these out. And you aren’t limited to just wedding questionnaires—if you’ve expanded from weddings to other portrait clients, you can include those as well.


I will admit, I can be a little bit nutty when it comes to numbers, but it is how I personally do health checks on the growth of my business. I am not just talking about financial numbers, but how many inquiries I receive, where those leads are coming from, what my booking ratio is.

While this may not seem important when you first start your business, it has been incredibly useful to see how the current year compares with prior years. It helps me see how I am growing. Just like you may use Google Analytics to track how your blog is doing month after month, studio management reporting can be extremely useful in this way. A few reports that Táve knocks out of the park are:

Courtesy of Táve

1. Lead sources. Do you know where your leads are coming from? I regularly run a lead source report to see where I should continue to invest my time and money. If I see one type of lead source blowing others out of the water, I make it a priority to keep that source thriving.

It’s not just how many times one source is sending you an inquiry, but how often you are able to convert that inquiry to a paying customer. There may be one source of many inquiries but no bookings. Maybe your bookings are down and you need to see where you were booking jobs in the past to help reevaluate your marketing strategy.

I have also used this report many times to send jobs I am not available for to those who have referred me jobs in the past.

2. Profit and loss. Táve does require a little bit of leg work to create this report, as I need to log my expenses manually. But I consider this my modern-day balancing of checkbooks. I can confirm my expenses were actually my expenses and that nothing fell through the cracks.

This is the main report I send to my accountant for my taxes and it helps me see how my income and expense category amounts compare year after year.

3. Inquiry by date. At least once a year, I get a feeling that my inquiries or bookings are lower than normal, but I can always go back and see how many inquiries I received for each job type and how many I booked each month.

For example, April is my slowest month for inquiries out of the year. And when I put my package pricing on my website for six months as a test, my inquiries dropped drastically. (It also didn’t help that I didn’t blog once that entire time!)

This type of report helps validate the success of different marketing strategies as well. Even though my inquiries dropped for the months I had my pricing on my website, did my lead-to-booking ratio go up? Read between the lines in these reports. What did you do differently from one year to the next, or one month to the next?


With so many options out there, where do you even start your search for software that is perfect for your business? I polled my friends on Instagram and came up with a list of popular go-to’s:

Táve. I been an active and beloved user of Táve since 2012. They have robust reporting at an amazing price point. Their support team is great and they really listen to customer feedback. I always look forward to their changelog, which documents the latest releases, bug fixes and enhancements. (Check out my Táve link here!)

Dubsado. Many pollsters said that Dubsado has top-notch customer service, often responding to issues and questions within minutes. It’s very customizable, but still simple to use.

17 Hats. Users have said it was easy to set up, simple to use and very affordable. They also noted excellent customer service.

Honeybook. A user noted that they love how it integrates with Quickbooks. It was simple enough to set up (within a couple of hours) and that their clients found it easy to navigate on their end too. Bonus points for having an iPhone app!

Pixifi. Most users who recommend Pixifi have been longtime users. It is a system that offers a lot of customization and depth, but once you have it set up based on your preferences, it makes running a full-time studio a breeze.

ShootQ. A user mentioned that ShootQ recently went through an extensive redesign. It is a software built by photographers for photographers.

Sprout Studio. This studio management meets online galleries and sales in one.

Most of these companies offer a free trial to see if it is the right fit, so take advantage of those and test out a few. Don’t forget to join Facebook member groups and any other support groups for the ones you do try. You may get frustrated getting everything set up in the beginning, but there is usually a strong team behind each application that is ready to help whenever you need it.

Michelle Lange is a wedding and newborn photographer and educator based in Albany, NY. She last wrote about how to photograph your first lifestyle newborn session.


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