The Best CRM for Photographers in 2021

March 10, 2021

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What is a CRM?

CRM stands for ‘Customer Relationship Management’ software, also referred to as Studio Management Software when it’s specifically for photographers and creatives.

For this article, I wanted to ask the wider elopement photography community their thoughts too, and while Dubsado and Studio Ninja came out as the clear favourites, there were a number of CRMs for photographers that stood out for different reasons. I asked in my Facebook group which platforms people used, and for some quotes about why they had chosen a particular platform.

From the poll in the group, this was the breakdown of CRMs that the photographers used:

Do you need a CRM for your photography business?

When I first started my photography business I didn’t use a CRM. Instead I used Google Docs and sheets. When I only had 5 clients it wasn’t too hard to copy and paste names and addresses onto invoices or manually send contracts via digital signing programs like Adobe. But as my business grew, having everything in different places started to slow me down. Then the EU introduced the new GDPR data protection laws, and I decided that using a CRM was not only going to help speed up my workflow, but it would also make sure I was compliant with these new privacy laws.

CRM softwares let you automate many of your processes in one platform, which means you can save so much time. And not only does it save your time, it can hugely elevate the client experience you deliver too.

What is the best CRM software for photographers?

A CRM software should help you streamline your processes so that you can save time on admin work and spend more time doing the things that you love to do. Some of the key features that you should expect to see in a CRM inlcude:

  • Lead Capture & Management
    The ability to capture the data from new enquiries and trigger an enquiry response workflow
  • Invoicing & Payments
    Send invoices, accept payments through payment services such as Stripe or PayPal and keep track of outstanding balances.
  • Calendar Sync
    Bookings get automatically added to your Google or iCalendar. No risk of double bookings.
  • Email & Contract Templates
    Save hours writing the same emails & contracts. Have all your templates saved and you only need to edit what’s relevant to your clients.
  • Workflows
    Track the progress of each client workflow to make sure that you never miss a step. Automate regular check-in emails or set up reminders to let you know when important deadlines are coming up.
  • Questionnaires
    Gather all of the information you need from your clients in questionnaires that you can refer back to at any time.

Other additional features that you may want in a CRM:

  • Proposals & Quotes
  • Customisation options for branding
  • Option to sync with email & calendar
  • Appointment scheduler
  • Integration with bookkeeping software
  • Integration with online gallery
  • Automations
  • Time tracking
  • Expenses tracking
  • Client portal
  • Timeline creator
  • Mobile app
  • Multiple languages
  • Multiple currencies
  • Email marketing capabilities
  • Online gallery integration
  • Compliant with EU data protection laws (GDPR) if your business or clients are in Europe

Choosing the right CRM software for your photography business will depend on your specific needs, as well as your budget. In the last few years a few European CRMs have launched into the market to address the issue that many photographers have had with the complicated VAT rules as many of the non-European CRMs didn’t do a very tidy job of handling this in their invoicing options.

Many of the most popular CRMs have almost identical features, as you can see from this comparison table below:

Let’s take a look at some of the main CRMs for photographers in a little more detail:

Studio Ninja

Overview:

Studio Ninja is a CRM created by photographers for photographers. The interface is simple to use and has all the main features you would expect from a studio management software. Studio Ninja is an end-to-end client management software designed for busy photographers. Extremely user-friendly, it takes less than 30 minutes to set up. Increase your bookings with customisable workflows, automated emails and easy payment plans.

Pros:
– Email tracking
– Shootproof integration
– User friendly

Cons:
– No appointment scheduler
– Workflows & automations not as advanced as platforms like Dubsado

What photographers are saying about Studio Ninja:

I’ve been using Studio Ninja for 4 Years. It was very easy to set up. I did not need to use the support docs for set-up as it’s very simple and intuitive. By far the easiest CRM to get going. Previously, I have tried LightBlue, Dubsado and Click-Up, and Studio Ninja is by far the best for a wedding photographer. The simplicity is great, but it has enough features to be really valuable. The workflow feature is a great way of automating communication with clients. The only feature I wish it had was multiple contact forms.Karen Julia Photography

Price: from $19 a month – Use promo code ADVENTUREWEDDING and get 50% off your first year’s subscription to the world’s most user-friendly photography business software, Studio Ninja!

Dubsado

Overview:

Dubsado is a pretty advanced CRM system for small business owners, not just photographers. Dubsado is packed full of features that can help make your client workflows seamless and professional. One of its distinguishing features is its advanced workflows and automation, so you can go above and beyond for your clients with very little extra effort. It’s also one of the most customisable CRMs allowing you to make everything from Dubsado match your branding.

Pros:
– Email tracking
– Appointment scheduler
– Advanced workflow automations
– Customise forms & client portal to match your branding

Cons:
– Steep learning curve can be overwhelming & take time to set up
– No mobile app yet
– Complicated EU VAT rules can make invoicing difficult.

What photographers are saying about Dubsado:

I’ve been using it for about three years.There’s a bit of a learning curve and I honestly haven’t even scratched the surface on what it’s capable of. The basics such as sending contracts and invoices is pretty easy to set up.I used both shootproof and honeybook before this. Shootproof just wasn’t as comprehensive as I wanted it to be and Honeybook is about twice the price of Dubsado. I love that it’s so customizable. I can add my own colors, themes, set up proposals, etc. Honestly I don’t think there’s any feature I would want that it doesn’t have.Tabitha Corinne Photography

Price: $35 a month ($30 with the code ‘wildconnections’)

Sign up for a trial and use code ‘wildconnections‘ for 20% off when you upgrade your subscription

Dubsado

Sprout Studio

Overview:
Sprout Studio is a great option for photographers who are looking to combine all of the functions of a CRM software with marketing functionality and online galleries and sales tools too.

Pros:
– includes online galleries & print sales options
– Album proofing
– Email marketing

Cons:
– The best features are only available with the top plans

What photographers are saying about it:
Sprout Studio has honestly changed the way I run my business! It does pretty much everything including galleries, email marketing, scheduler, album proofs… I love that everything is in one place for me and my clients, and I’ve had loads of clients tell me they were super impressed with how easy it was to book!The Unscripted

Price: from $15 a month

Sign up using this link to save 20%

Sprout Studio Crm for photographers offer graphic

17 Hats

Overview:

17 Hats was the CRM that I used prior to Dubsado, and since I moved away, it’s had a major update and offers many of the same features that were one of the reasons I moved away. It offers pretty much every feature that you would want to see from a CRM and it’s easy to learn your way around.

Pros:
– Shootproof integration
– Time tracking
– Categorise contacts as hot or cold leads, clients or other
– Mobile app

Cons:
– European invoicing & tax not straightforward

Price: from $17 a month

Sign Up Here

Light Blue

Overview:

As well as all the usual things you’d expect from a CRM – task management, diary, contracts, forms, questionnaires, invoicing with payment plans, expenses, Light Blue also has powerful reporting and analytics tools that help you to get a really useful overview of your business, remove the guesswork and feel less frantic. You can keep all of your communication in one place. Emails and text messages are centralised and linked with the right record, so you’re not franticly searching in different places for information. You can also plan your adventure with the schedule & request features in the shoot screen so you can clearly see & share the timeline with your clients.

Pros:
– Advanced reporting options
– Timeline tool
– Desktop & online so it can be used offline

Cons:
– Not as user-friendly as other CRMs
– Styling not as customisable as some of it’s competitors

What photographers are saying about Light Blue:

I’ve been using Light Blue for 9 years. It was super easy, install and input client data and my own templates for invoicing, I never needed to change anything! My favourite feature is being able to just use my own templates in order to speed up responses such as sending invoice and contracts easily
Christopher Ian

Price: From $25 a month – Use code Adventure21 to get 25% off your first 6 months with Light Blue.

Honeybook

Overview:

All-in-one

Honeybook is an all-in-one end-to-end software with a state of the art mobile app that allows your to handle bookings, payments, reports and pretty much everything you need in order to run your photography business.

Pros:
– Create branded temples
– Advanced automated workflows
– Mobile app

Cons:
– Most expensive CRM

What photographers are saying about Honeybook:

I use HoneyBook, I’ve been using it for 5 years. After I watched a few videos in the help section it was VERY easy to set up! I have tried others and I found them to be confusing or didn’t have the same amount of features. My favourite feature is the automated workflow. I wish I was able to send client galleries but that’s not a huge issue for me.Allie Knulls Photography

Price: $9 for an income up to $10k, then $39 a month

Screenshot Honeybook CRM for Photographers

Fotostudio.io

Overview:

Fotostudio.io is a CRM aimed at photographers in Europe. It supports multiple languages and

Pros:
– Multiple brand identities possible under 1 account
– Multiple languages
– Setup for complicated EU VAT

Cons:
– Workflows not as sophisticated as platforms like Dubsado
– Customisation options not as vast as some other CRMs.

What photographers are saying about Fotostudio.io:

I recently switched from Dubsado after having issues with invoicing and European VAT. Whilst Fotostudio doesn’t have the customisation options or sophisticated workflows that I had in Dubsado, I’m very happy with it. I work under different photography brands, and I can create different branding within a single account which is great. I also love that I can set it up in Dutch as the primary language, as that is where my primary client base is from.A Tale of Two Lovers

Price: From €24 a month

Octoa

Overview:
A new CRM on the scene that’s aimed at the European market. One of the big benefits of Octoa is the ability to set different languages based on the project, not just for the overall program, as well as having the ability to invoice in multiple currencies. At the moment it is still in its infancy with new features still in development.

Pros:
– Optimised for European market and tax laws
– Multiple language options
– Easy to setup and use

Cons:
– Lacks a number of features that you’d expect to see from a CRM like automations and questionnaires
– Limited customisation

What photographers are saying about it:

We’ve been using Octoa as our main CRM since last September and we are happy with it! It is super super easy to set up. They have a quick setup process and some video explanations too. Using a Flothemes website it is possible to buy also an extension to transfer directly the data from your contact form on the website directly into the Octoa’s projects. Very easy and efficient!We tried Studio Ninja but were not fully happy with that. I simply love how easy is to customize proposals, having templates for almost everything and the email tracking feature to have a feedback if the client opens email and checks the proposal! I’d love they to add a calendar feature to have an easy way to access bookings and inquiries.Yidaki Studio

Price: from €17.50 a month

Bloom

Overview:

Unlike many complicated CRMs, Bloom stands out with a design that is highly intuitive and easy to use.In addition to the standard CRM functionality, Bloom uniquely features two-way messaging, a website portfolio, and even image delivery function.

What photographers are saying about it:
I’ve technically been a customer for a bit over 2 years but it took a while before they added Euro’s, so in practice a bit longer than a year. It was very easy to set up. Before Bloom I tried ShootZilla, Honeybook and I think the 3rd one was Lightblue (but I’m not entirely sure), I didn’t like them. I love being able to have clients sign and pay automatically. The forms are great too and being able to organise email templates. I thought I’d love the messenger function too. But I removed it after a couple months because it slowed down my website, most messages weren’t potential clients and the ones that were were price shoppers extraordinair (who didn’t read anything on my website or else they hadn’t started the chat 😂). So I was better off without it. There’s lots of things I don’t use though (a website and image delivery for example), so that’s fine. It’s not like I really miss it, because I can create something myself within the current options. But if I have to name something it was missing, than maybe templates for automated print sales like pic-time has.Wit Photography

Price: from $29 a month

Unscripted

Overview:
Unscripted is known for it’s mobile app that can give you posing prompts when you’re feeling stuck for inspiration. Now they also have a CRM feature in their app which allows you to send invoices, contracts and questionnaires.

Pros:
– Relatively cheap price
– Additional features such as posing prompts and sun tracker

Cons:
– Mobile app only. No desktop version

What Photographers Are Saying About Unscripted:
I recently signed up for the Unscripted lifetime access mainly for the wide range of helpful posing tips and planning tools within the app. Personally, it is an added bonus that they offer a Client Management System. In terms of handling client communication (including questionnaires, contracts and invoicing), I would have loved to have a desktop option (not to mention, clarity on whether or not it adheres to the data protection laws (GDPR) in Europe). Referencing back to questionnaires, it is rather handy that templates are made available for different types of sessions: e.g. weddings, couples/engagements etc…And as a person who loves checking off a list, I do appreciate that customizable checklists for photoshoots are also made available. The ability to add a timeline with the option to set a push notification is rather convenient. In my opinion, Unscripted will only further develop and get better. They even recently announced that they are adding editable guides to send out to booked clients!Aida Glowik

Price: $15 a month

Unscripted posing app screenshot of CRM functions

Táve

Overview:
The online gallery company ShootProof created their own CRM, Táve. Táve markets itself as the most customisable CRM for photographers. It offers advanced reporting options such as booking trends, and links to ShootProof galleries which means any print sales are be tracked. The true power of Táve is realized when you connect their individual features together to create repeatable workflows that cut out hours of manual work each week.

Pros:
– Great reporting features
– Links to ShootProof galleries

Cons:
– No Quickbooks integration (possible via Zapier)
– Styling not as customisable as some of it’s competitors

Price: From $22 a month

Which CRM should you choose?

Any CRM is going to be better than no CRM, and one you get used to working with one, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without one. You’ll save so much time once you start working with templates and automating workflows.

Most of the ones’s I’ve mentioned in this article have very similar functionality. Most of them also all offer a free trial. So my advice would be to pick your top two or three based on what you want them to do and on your budget, sign up for a free trial and take them for a test drive. Once you’ve got a feel for which one works best for you and your business, then go with that one and build your workflows into it. It’s not impossible to change your mind and migrate at a later stage, but it can slow you down as you re-learn how to use a new platform. It’s best to take a bit of time to look forward when you’re going to be at your busiest times of year and think about how the CRM will assist you in saving time and making sure nothing gets missed as your business grows and flourishes.

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