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7 Tech Tools All Photographers Should Use

Often, we’re talking about the latest and greatest camera body or lenses to help our photography business flourish. However running a photography business requires many more tools than just a fancy camera, lens or even lights. We are all using other tech tools to help us manage our lives easier, and run our business more effectively. So without further ado, here is the list of seven tech items all photographers should be using.


1. Square Card Reader


If you’re not familiar with Square at this point, its about time to get acquainted. Square is a small card reader that you’re able to plug into your smart phone and immediately accept credit card payments for your business. The best part of all about Square is the rates, its a mere 2.75% per swipe, and the card reader and service beyond that is absolutely free. Also, their website makes it easy to manage payments with their analytics, and the money is usually deposited into your bank account within the next business day.


[Square Card Reader is 100% free, however have a 2.75% processing fee per transaction]


2. Google Drive


Formally named Google Docs, Google has developed a comprehensive tool box that every photographer should be using. Google Drive is essentially a web version of Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint and more all available on the internet for free. Perhaps the best part about Google Drive is the ability to share the documents with friends, and even modify documents and spreadsheets together, in real time.

One practical use I had with this was when I was building a group shoot with another photographer a couple years ago. We were able to build a spreadsheet on who was attending, and who was not, and mark everything paid or unpaid. It quickly and easily made two scatterbrained photographers taking payments look like a well oiled business machine.

Another great tool within the Google toolkit is Google Calendar. I use this for all booking, and like Google Drive, multiple people can view and edit specific calendars. So if you have multiple people sharing studio space it allows you to have multiple people editing and filling up time spaces.


[Google Drive is 100% free with a Google Account]


3. Spotify
When Spotify was announced for the United States, I was pretty much immediately sold. Spotify is a lot like Pandora, as it allows you to legally stream music from your favorite artists. However, where Spotify differs is that it lets you build a radio station of your favorite musicians, but also lets you listen to their entire collection in a pick and choose format. That's right, you can pick and choose what songs you’d like to hear, as if you have them downloaded and in your iTunes Library.

This works especially well if you’re shooting a subject in studio. I often have clients come into my studio space, and immediately pick their favorite genre, or even artist to play during the shoot. The diversity and wealth of music in their library allows you to get your clients comfortable during a shoot, and ensure the music is always playing.


[Spotify Premium is $4.99/$9.99 a month; However the ad version is free]


4. Bluetooth Speaker
This one lies right with Spotify above. A bluetooth speaker will allow you to play your music wirelessly and without the hassle of a traditional speaker system. And with it being bluetooth, you’re able to stream music from your phone, your subjects phone or any other tech devices that you may have laying around. Most of these speaker systems are small, practical and have the option of being battery powered. So not only do they work great in studio and indoor situations, but they are also great for when you’re shooting the great outdoors. I personally use the Logitech UE Mobile Boombox, but feel free to do some searching online to find the one that is best for you.

[Bluetooth Speakers range from $20/$300 dollars depending on the brand/quality]


5. Flashlight


If you've shot outdoors at dusk, or night, you probably already have a flashlight in your bag. Auto focus systems have not yet reached perfection in focusing in low light situations so a flashlight can sometimes be extremely useful and practical. When shooting a subject at night, you’re able to use the flashlight to focus on their face, turn it off, and shoot with a strobe firing. Its the only surefire way to make focusing at night not a completely headache. I personally recommend the high powered LED flashlights, as they’re like spotlights in your pocket. However, many smart phones have apps available that can be used in a pinch. Apps for the phone can be found for free in your respected app store, and physical flashlights can be found for under $10.


[LED Flashlights range from $4/$200 depending on brand/quality; Phone apps can be found for free]


6. GPS
I find having a GPS system is extremely helpful during the photography process. Not only does it make location scouting a complete breeze, but with everyone having GPS on their phones these days, it also makes it easy to find places to meet without the hassle of giving detailed directions. I personally, live in the desert, so I’m graced with miles of desolate terrain that is able to provide some interesting locations for photo shoots  Its so much easier to give coordinates to someone rather than painstakingly looking for them in a sea of sand. The ability to geotag interesting locations as you’re driving (I usually accompany it with a photo from my phone) makes location scouting incredibly easy. Pocket Scout is a great app that allows you to save photos of and geotag locations while on the move (Available for iOS & Android).


[GPS apps range from free/$10 available in your app store]


7. Mint
Mint is by far my favorite web site and app on my phone. For those unfamiliar, Mint is arguably the best finance application available today. It allows you to add all of your bank account and credit card information onto one site, and manage your finances with ease. Aside from that, it gives you financial advice after watching your spending habits, and sets budgets for you to help you save. I've also used its wonderful credit card finding tools to find a new credit card with the best benefits and lowest APR rate that helps me with my financial lifestyle. And perhaps the best part of Mint is the fact that its all free (and secure). Go to their website and create an account if you haven't already, and watch as Mint turns into your ultimate digital financial adviser.

[Mint is 100% free]


Certainly there are plenty more tools that we use in our day to day lives that makes running our businesses easier. If you have any other items to contribute to the list, feel free to add them in the comments below.

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Daniel Troutman's picture

I loooove my square card reader. Gone are the days of renting a card reader from the bank on a monthly basis and then having to also give them a percentage. I've never been a fan of double dipping. Great blog guys!

Andrew Griswold's picture

Can't say enough good things about Square! It has been a great little tool for my design and photography freelance. I can accept payment out of state and country very easily with clients and its got a modest fee to the overall cost. Now that I am taking my office mobile again I have to say getting Spotify over a year ago has been great and pair that with a Jawbone bluetooth speaker! Fantastic! Mint I created and account but havent used as much, what do you all think about Mint?

Zach Sutton's picture

Mint is amazing (as I sang in the post).

I have a couple accounts at a credit union, a Bank of America Business and Personal account, and a credit card from Capital One. Its so nice to be able to check what my income is sitting at with a single app. And I really love the budgeting tools, so that it notifies me when I'm going out to the bar too much in a month :-D

Andrew Griswold's picture

Very slick, I will def have to get back to looking at it. Thanks for all the info man and great post!

Kaouthia's picture

Yeah, because Square are the only card reader out there. :)

Zach Sutton's picture

Perhaps not. I know Paypal has one with about identical fees, and Bank of America is rolling one out soon. But Square is the first real reader for your phone, and in my opinion the best. (I, like others, have had so many troubles with Paypal in the past)

Kaouthia's picture

Looking at all the costing reviews, Square also has the highest fee rates of all its competitors (of which there are many).  iZettle, Worldpay, Payleven, PayPal's bringing out a new device, and in the UK, many of them have issues as they don't accept chip & pin (we ditched signatures for credit card payments in the UK years ago, and the general public are naturally suspicious of using signatures for credit cards these days - I don't know why the USA hasn't switched already).

The new PayPal device is looking like it'll be rather good.  Connects to the phone via BlueTooth for internet access, and people can safely and securely enter their pin number to make their purchase.

Zach Sutton's picture

Certainly there are other options, however, at least here in the States, Square seems to be the most popular brand. 

And there are many other more expensive options too. Prior to Square, I had a credit card machine, and they were charging upwards of 6%-8% for Discover and American Express purchases. And looking around at the time, that was the cheapest rates I could find for those merchants.

As for Paypal, I've bought and sold enough on eBay that Paypal leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I'm not familiar with those other brands (They might not even be available in the US), but I've used Square for two years now and have absolutely nothing but great things to say about them...which is a rarity when it comes to the financial service industry.

I am interested in the new Bank of america system coming out though, as my business account is through I imagine the fees will be really cheap for me. But ultimately, Square has my loyalty.

Kaouthia's picture

"Most popular" doesn't necessarily mean "best".  Sometimes "first" makes them "most popular", simply because they've already had several months or years of sales before any other company has even entered the race.

As a comparison, look at PocketWizard.  They were "the best" radio triggers and "the industry standard" because, for years, they were the only reliable option.  Now, there are many many more reliable options (with far greater features) at much better price points, yet PocketWizard is still called "the industry standard" and "best" because it was the first.

Sure, dedicated card readers with their own built in connectivity to the outside world are going to be more expensive, it's the traditional way.  It's worked for them for years, and up until fairly recently they've not really had much competition.  That will change, just as PocketWizards prices have drastically dropped compared to 5 years ago due to the competition now available.

Best is a relative term.  Square is not ideal (or even close) for a lot of people, but up until recently it's been their only option besides a dedicated card reader from a bank.  Now there are more options.

Zach Sutton's picture

Eh, agree to disagree then.

I know a lot of people who use Square and are very satisfied with fact, the first few comments on this post are praising Square. You may have had different experiences with them, and if so, I'm glad you found an alternative. But for me personally, Square is my baby :-)

Kaouthia's picture

Those who have good things to say about Square, how many of the alternatives have they actually tried? :)

That's fine if Square is great for you, it might be the perfect solution for you, and that's fantastic, but to blindly suggest a single option as a one-size-fits-all business payment solution is just idiotic.

You managed to suggest "Bluetooth Speaker", "Flashlight" and "GPS" without saying "Bose", "Maglite" or "Garmin", so why not just suggest "credit card payment system" and let business owners do the research to find out which one's best for them and their needs?

Zach Sutton's picture

Okay, I'm curious at this point.... What did Square do to you that made them on the top of your shit list?

Cause I have had nothing but great experiences with them. A friend of mine was using Untuit for a while, and switched to Square...couldn't be happier.

Every food truck here in Albuquerque (And we're nearly the capital for food trucks) uses Square payment system, and their bottom line is a lot smaller than ours is as photographers. 

I know people who once swore by Paypal's card reader, but last time I saw them, they were using Square....

I graduated with a degree in Business, and the general concept for business is that you don't become the most popular and successful brand by doing things incorrectly. So you keep complaining about Square, but you haven't shared why...other than other unknown services offering smaller fees. So tell us your horror story....or have you never used Square?

And also for the record...I mention, and I'm sure there are other financial websites available for people to use. I also mention Spotify, while there are other streaming services available for people to use.

Kaouthia's picture

They've done absolutely nothing to me, I'm just wondering what you have against all their competitors.  The article suggests that Square is basically the only option outside of a dedicated card reader.

Zach Sutton's picture

For the same reasons we suggest Photoshop over Gimp....

Because people are familiar with it.

Bert McLendon's picture

Zach don't fall into the perpetual troll trap.  It's about attention for them, not common sense and information.  =)

Ramón Acosta's picture

Can you please direct me to those better and cheaper than pocketWizard? I'm interested, but all I can find are unreliable,  cheap, POS.

Andrew Griswold's picture

Its not the only one, I was about to get the Intuit one but decided this one was a little neater and the website is so much cleaner to use and balance all the payments. 

 Paypal released their own reader recently, but still not as good as square.

Kaouthia's picture

Not as good how?  Can you be more specific?

Thewirehead's picture

Paypal has shitty customer service and they would never get my card transaction business. Tried disputing a charge for a product that I never received and was told that because I waited more than 45 days I could no longer dispute it. Because I bought a custom made product that took a while to produce I gave the seller the benefit of the doubt. Paypal got paid, the seller was paid, and I got completely robbed.

Also, Paypal apps are poorly designed so I have no doubts their card reader is too.

Kell Baldwin's picture

 I know a least a dozen people who use the Paypal reader, and they swear by it. I have yet to use one, but have been useing Paypal for years. Never had a problem with them

Rick Porter's picture

 paypal has one!

Jeff Orig's picture

If you use Paypal, Paypal also has a card reader as well.  Less accounts to keep track of.

Brian Reese's picture

Damn... looks like anybody that comments is gonna get a slap on the hand by Kaouthia.  Make sure before you comment you read and re-read before hitting post.

Zach Sutton's picture

Don't encourage the trolls ;-)

THE GREAT ZEEE's picture

I use google drive all the time for invoices and so on. ill have to check out mint as well. still debating weather to use square or paypal card readers but I tihnk eventually I would use paypal seeing that I have an account there. Wait... I technically made my decision already haha

Kyle Ford's picture

I utilize all of these minus the bluetooth speaker, *pats myself on the back* I agree with all of these though. 

David Hendricks's picture

It's "without further ado"... not "adieu". ;-)

Other than that, though... an interesting list of gadgets!

Tim Turner's picture

PayPal is great, blends right in with my PayPal account which is easy to pay and use online. PayPal Debit Card too! I think all PayPal apps and features are great and work good for me.

Brad Buckman's picture

I started to use Square, then used Paypal's "Here" when it came out (have had Paypal account for years). Paypal service works great, no problems so far. Used to use their Virtual Terminal, but now we swipe the card while talking to client, and email them a receipt directly from the app. Quick and easy. My retoucher uses Square, and just hit the point where they decided to hold her funds for 30 days, and I've heard of other people having an issue with this. No thanks. I think you can request changes to your account, but just more hassles I rather avoid. 

Emiliano Leonardi's picture

Sadly Mint doesn't support Germany

Emiliano Leonardi's picture

Same goes for SquareUp!!

K. Bryant Images's picture

I love the square reader. I have the PayPal reader too and they are great resources for client payment.  Especially PayPal since it goes directly to your PayPal account and you get it out with your PayPal debit card.

Funny you use the term "surefire" in your decsription of flashlights. My absolute favorite go-to flashlight is the SureFire E2D Defender. Military/law enforcement grade with amazing light output from a very small package, and what's more, the beam is very even, unlike the donuts or hotspots you get with lesser flashlights. That means you can actually use this flashlight as a fill or spotlight to hilight subjects on a dusk / sunset shoot. I use the older halogen version, but they now have an LED version that's brighter and still has the smooth beam spread.

raz13's picture

Paypal offers a great card reader as well. 

Ye TZ's picture

I will never post/upload my account info/CC info online. NEVER!

You are secured from hackers/whatever.You are not secured for them.
They can do whatever they want with your data.

GokhanCukurova's picture

Square is a joke! When you have an issue with a transaction, try to get some help! It's really a JOKE!
No customer service, very very late email responses (takes days), asking you to find the solution in a "forum" instead of providing help... NO MORE, thanks.. :( Square is not a "real" service provider at all. Sorry, I had bad experience with them more than once and could not put up with extremely  low customer service.
I recently switched to PhoneSwipe and I really am not promoting them here but boy! what a big difference! Please don't take my word on either Square or PhoneSwipe, but don't get Square just because it's posted here on fStoppers. 
Thank you.

james ragle's picture

I use payware cardreader, supposedly better encryption and they will not take a dipusted transaction out of your account without proof that it is fraudulent.

Andy's picture

what about FLINT guys?

Andy's picture

n yup, PayPal has a card reader now.

Zoran Vogrinčič's picture

3 of 7 tools are not available in my country :) Proper title would be 7 Tech Tools that US photogs should use..

Smart_Alex82's picture

This is why I love Mint -

Square is notorious for problems with their "email only" customer service, as well as holding large funds for days, sometimes months at a time with very little communication to their client.

Good for small funds, sure, not for serious businesses, though.

Dafni Vlachou's picture

Very helpful article!
You can try to optimize your 500px activity!