As a photographer, sometimes I find that coordinating office work and shooting time for my portrait studio can be difficult.
I did some research on those online scheduling programs, and found that most of them are too complex for the needs or our studio. Then my lab, Miller's Professional Imaging, mentioned Brownbook (www.brownbookit.com). I came across Brownbook again when I did a Google search for "simple appointment software."
Since it's free for 30 days, I downloaded it to check it out. The program seemed to do everything we needed. Still, I thought, it just seemed too simple. Maybe there was something missing.
After signing up and getting started in less than five minutes, I saw that it really does everything we need for our studio and our clients-simply and easily. Brownbook is essentially a 24/7 secretary. Every morning, I check to see who went online the previous night to book a session.
When we first started using the program, as people called to make portrait appointments, I would check the schedule and make their appointments based on the available times. But I was still relying on our traditional appointment calendar. It took me about 20 days to finally throw my paper calendar away and use the online system exclusively.
There are several things I like about Brownbook.
1. Since it was developed by a portrait photographer-Tim Brown (tbrownphoto.com)-for photographers, the program features reflect our scheduling and business needs.
2. When I enter a client's information, including the email address, and book a session, the program sends a confirmation email saying what we are going to do and when. The software also keeps an existing customer email address list for me. All I have to do when a client calls back for another session is click on the "Existing Customer" tab and scroll down to find their info.
3. Clients love having the opportunity to see my schedule and make their own appointments, especially when they don't know their own schedule or the rest of their family's agenda. It makes their lives easier, which is a great customer service feature.
4. Photographers have always had to deal with "no shows." With this software, I can have my clients prepay, which gives them a greater incentive to show up, or at least call to reschedule.
5. Since every studio has a different style and offers many different services, a great feature of this software is that it lets me set up my own appointment types, which reflect our service descriptions, pricing, and session duration.
6. We have multiple shooters at our studio, so coordinating our schedules is essential. With Brownbook, we can do that easily and make every shooter's schedule visible and accessible online.
7. Probably my favorite aspect of this software is that I can access my schedule at home for the following day, or even for the rest of the month. This has helped me manage and protect my personal time, as well. For example, everyone who knows me knows that I like to play golf. Now when friends call to plan a day at the course, I just check for available times, select a time, then block it off right then and there.
For $14 a month, I have streamlined our scheduling process, given our clients the additional service option of scheduling their photo sessions at their convenience, and found a better way to coordinate business and personal appointments.
I recommend Brownbook's appointment management software to all photographers looking for a simple scheduling solution. With a "30 days free" offer, just try it and see for yourself.
Dan McCart is photographer and owner of Shutter Magic (www.shuttermagic.com), a portrait studio in Temple, Texas.