We have a small, eclectic crew of assistants, models, and second shooters, organized by a studio manager, with a single owner as the primary photographer. The Awesome Mitten called us an “edgy band of outsiders” and that’s not far from the truth. Our speciality is natural beauty, and we focus (pun intended) on portraits, commercial, glamour, and wedding photography.
We work as much as we can close to home, but we’re constantly on the road - in part due to our remote location and partially due to our love of living by the seat of our pants. And that’s where 5pm and smartQ come in. We consider ourselves mavens, and not out of aesthetics, but out of necessity. With a large workflow, constantly changing venues, visual needs, staff, deliverables, a variety of clients, and always being on the run across the county, and across the globe - we needed a workflow to track projects. This workflow needed to be web-based, accessible by mobile, and customizable to our needs as visual artists running a business. 5pm was the answer to this, and we latched onto this tool in 2009.
We manage commercial, wedding, and portrait clients through the interface - often integrating our clients right through the app so they can participate in real-time to the project; giving direction, sending inspirational insight to the project, and having transparency to the entire process. At a glance, anyone on our crew can see what they’re tasked with, and with what immediate priority. There’s no guessing what there is to do when our crew wakes up in the morning: it’s all in front of them with timeline, due-dates, progress, hours logged, notes, attachments, and next-steps - all through web or on their phone in front of their faces. Our studio manager can assign and update projects wherever she is, allowing our photography crew to simply check-in to the project for the latest updates as they’re traveling to the job. We keep projects in custom categories, and the visual interface helps us see at a glance where each project is in terms of progress and due-date. It’s peace of mind and keeps us on top of our workflow, which in the end - keeps our clients happy. With over 50 projects at one time, it’s unclear how we did this before…
At one point, we found ourselves losing track of post-it notes, text message reminders to ourselves, and notes scribbled on the back of our hands as we got verbal inquiries, voicemails, and emails about jobs. We clearly needed a ticketing system to keep us straight. And of course there was something for this - built by our friends who had mastered 5pm, it was called smartQ. Fully customizable, web-based, and mobile-accessible, this has saved us literally, tens of thousands of dollars that we would have otherwise lost due to disorganization.
Every inquiry, task, and idea is entered as a ticket in smartQ. We assign these tickets to staff, give them timelines, and move them through a workflow we’ve customized for our needs. In full disclosure, our steps are: submitted | tasked to | shit has begun | done! At any one time we have two dozen tasks that we run through as a team once a week. We update them as we go, but we’re all mobile, traveling, random, and working constantly - so coming together to “run through smartQ tickets” keeps us on top of reminders to clients, reminders to ourselves, and keeps our workflow moving along.
This combined with 5pm which tracks our committed, long-term projects that mature from the smartQ tickets are indispensable to our business model.
As an added highlight, we’ve become addicted like so many others to Slack. The most recent enhancement to 5pm and smartQ is Slack integration. What this means is that as we update project timelines, progress, and notes in 5pm - as we add and move tickets along in smartQ - these updates show up in their own channel in Slack. No more email notifications. No more having to scan the apps for updates - we see these in real-time. This means we’re even more connected to the project timelines, more connected to each other, and even more on top of our workflow.
This all translates to efficiency and transparency - all with the ultimate goal of being professionally responsive to our clients - and in our business that’s what it’s all about. Taking photos is key, but being able to take the photos our clients want, in the timeline they need, and with the professionalism they expect - that’s where 5pm and smartQ come in. They’re the indispensable backbone of our workflow, and they keep us where we want to be: a premium photography studio that caters personally and professionally to our clients.