Business Trends
Software For The Business Side Of Photography; Can One Program Do It All?

Thanks to reader Robin Gaines for the inspiration for this column. To approach her question, we talked to several photographers about their solutions, including those who work in the wedding and portrait, nature, and high-end commercial world of photography.

New York City-based photo industry consultant Gaines wrote, "I am desperately trying to find a way to integrate photo business needs into one software program that would integrate the programs I presently recommend to my clients. I need a concise system, which allows all information from preproduction (estimates, castings which have multiple holds on models, hair/makeup, and all general free-lance talent) to call sheets, and then a database which includes images for all the nagging details of shoot needs. This program should integrate all categories for tax and billing purposes with the information to be inserted once and then usable in other aspects. I also need usage rights and copyright information attached."

Our main issues are presented in the accompanying sidebar below, but as we talked with photographers others arose. From Jim Fiora ( "The issue of image management is the last and most daunting decision to be made by me. Now I need to commit (way too late) to a program to handle all my images and this is what I'm currently ready to research. I'll be attending a couple of programs in the next few months that I'm hoping will make it clear to me which program and why. I'm currently of the opinion that it will be between iView Media Pro (a program I use now for editing my digital shoots) and Extensis Portfolio, of which I know nothing yet."

Then from James Imbrogno ( "When I first started looking in 1993, there were only a few photo studio specific programs around. The three I looked at seriously were Silent Partner, HindSight, and Full Spectrum. Silent Partner is gone, HindSight seemed clunky to me and I did not like the fact that everything was not integrated into one program. I have been a regular user of Full Spectrum since '93. Full Spectrum is always a work in progress. David Arky is very open to additions to the software. There are a multitude of functions in Full Spectrum that are a direct result of my input and I'm sure of others as well. It does everything and anything and the features that I don't use (the stock photo stuff) do not get in the way. Full Spectrum, a web browser, an e-mail client, and Photoshop and you have everything you need to run a studio. The fact that so much is customizable is also a huge plus."

An integrated program that allows information from one function to be used for another function (see our shopping list) is absolutely necessary to meet the needs expressed in Gaines' letter. We talked with David Arky of Robin Road Software ( about their program, Full Spectrum. David said, "The majority of off-the-shelf solutions do not tie the contacts to clients and keep track of where people have been! A relational database, like Full Spectrum, will tie all of their records together. So if you send a portfolio to a contact, Full Spectrum knows that when you create an estimate for that person that they saw the portfolio, and when they saw it. It also keeps notes and records of past jobs so that when they move to a new company you keep your info intact. When they do move, you still have their name associated to a job record. And it's extremely easy to retrieve your history with that person."

Commenting on functionality, several photographers outline the strengths and weaknesses of software solutions they have tried.

From Fiora: "In the course of the last 10 years I've had a bit of experience with HyperCard, FileMaker, Panorama, and Now Contact (the software counterpart to the calendar program Now Up to Date). I've found that the true test of a good database is in how well it lends itself to import/export use. Full Spectrum is still a work in progress for me but continues to demonstrate its strength in this area."