Monday, August 25, 2014

Rafael Soldi's Five Favorite: Apps that have changed the way I work for good

Today on Light Leaked, we start a new series of post in which photographers share their Five Favorites of a photography related subject. To begin, Rafael Soldi shares his five favorite phone apps that have made him a more productive and inspired photographer.

It's no secret that between smart phones, apps, and the internet our modes of working have changed dramatically. Sometimes I feel less and less grounded in reality and I try to force myself to do things the "old way"—I love making phone calls, handwriting notes, and leaving voice mails, for example. But there are a few apps, websites, and online services that have in fact changed the way I work, for the better! Let me start by saying that while I am not old-school per se, and I am connected and fairly savvy with technology, my technical know-how is still very limited compared to some of the things I hear my fellow photographer friends talk about (I think I finally figured out how to use my DSLR!).

So, on to the list. These are my 5 favorite apps that changed the way I work for good:

Considering most photographers today are on Instagram, it's very easy to underestimate its power and take it for granted. Some people are very against it, I'm very for it—and here's why. Before Instagram I wasn't making pictures every day, now I am. Before Instagram I wasn't looking at images every day (at least at this rate), let alone "curating" an ever-changing feed of images that make my brain happy and inspired. I haven't really seen a change in my fine art work due my Instagram influences, but I have seen in me a renewed interest in exploring image-making, meeting other photographers, trying new things, and stopping more often to appreciate the beauty the world a little longer. I appreciate once again the magic of photography to bring fragments of permanence to a world in motion. Instagram is my visual journal. You may ask, are there other ways of doing this exact same thing without subscribing to Instagram and its terms of service? yes, probably. Do those other ways work for me? No. I've learned one thing: If something works for me, I stick to it.

Accounting. Record keeping. Invoicing. Expense reporting. Taxes. Financial Planning. BO-RING, I know! When I decided that this would be the year to get my ish together, I met with a CPA and did lots of research on accounting softwares. I was looking for something that was efficient, affordable, and user-friendly for a dude who loves accounting as little as me. Freshbooks came to the rescue and changed my life!  Well, here's the thing... now I truly do love doing all of these things, and I log into Freshbooks almost daily—I've never been so organized in my life. 

Freshbooks allows me to create and send invoices, receive payments (manually or online), craft and send estimates, log expenses, track my time, manage projects, pull reports, project my income, and hundreds of other things. They also have a blog with amazing resources. Some of my favorite dorky things about this software: 

- I can use it both on my computer and on my iPhone. 

- It has all kinds of reports, including one that pulls all the info you need to prepare your taxes at the click of a button, which, if you've kept good records, is a life saver! 

- Possibly one of my favorite features is the expense recording tool. Every time I spend money on anything (film, framing, dinner with a client, museum membership, camera repair, software subscription, my internet, etc) I just upload a photo/file of the receipt and log in the expense. You can assign it a category, note the vendor, and bill it to a client if applicable. This means I don't have to keep any paper receipts and everything exists on the cloud. 

- For a design freak like me, I turned down many other perfectly suitable softwares simply because I found them to be ugly; Freshbooks gets the job done and is lovely to look at at the same time—at $20/month it's worth every penny! (<-- Hint: you can expense that!) 

Most people already have a Dropbox account or something similar, whether it is Google Drive or something else. The concept shouldn't be foreign but it has become such a big part of my daily work that I have to mention it. Dropbox allows you to store files on the cloud, so you can access them wherever you are. I use Dropbox primarily for three things:

- To store a permanent folder (which I call 'professional practice') that contains all of the documents related to my practice, some things I access almost daily and others not so much, but they are all important to keep handy. Here I find my C.V., my bio, headshot, grant applications, mailing lists, contracts, track my editions, consignment agreements, model releases, portfolio samples and frequently requested jpegs, among other things. I also keep a W9 PDF handy with my signature on it that I can just send so I can get paid quickly!

- To store files for clients. If I do a shoot for a client, I can put my final edit in a zipped folder on my Dropbox and just email them a link to download it. Later I delete the folder to make room. It doesn't get more seamless than that!

- To store files I am currently working on. I also do graphic design for some clients and often work on both my desktop at home or my laptop, depending on where I am that day. So if I am working on an inDesign document, I keep the file, any images I might use, fonts, text, and other assets on my Dropbox until I'm done with the project.

Nowadays whenever you ask anyone how they've been, chances are they will respond with some version of 'super busy!' Everybody is busy. Truth is, with endless procrastination opportunities at our fingertips, we are all very busy procrastinating, me being the leader of this movement. I have to be very diligent with the systems I set in place for myself, which has turned me into an obsessive list maker. I write down everything I have to do--even the littlest things--and if I accomplish something not on the list I write it down anyways and cross it off. I need to visualize my progress. 

While feeling very behind at work one day I discovered Todoist, a handy to-do app that can live on your desktop, iPhone, and even your gmail inbox. Whatever you access most often. I simply use it to keep a running list with me at all times and crossing it off as I go. The app is a lot more powerful than that, depending on your needs. You can assign tasks colors and categories, priority status, flags, and separate them into folders and projects. I'm not using it to it's fullest potential, but it works for me.

Travel: Tripit and Uber/Zipcar

A. Tripit
Lately I've been managing a lot of travel for work. Tripit by Concur has been amazing! Every time I book a plane ticket, bus ticket, hotel room, or Airbnb and the confirmation e-mail reaches my inbox, Tripit recognizes it as travel arrangements and immediately pulls all the information from those e-mails and sends them to the app on my phone. When I log into the app I see in an organized list all of my upcoming trips. When I tap on each trip I see every detail I could possibly need, from confirmation numbers and departure times, to what kind of plane I'll be flying in and my seat assignment. 

What I like about it is that it presents all your information for your trips in an extremely organized fashion, and once again, it's easy on the eyes. If I have booked a trip that involves flights, hotels, ground transport, and other details, it takes all of it and feeds it into a visual chronological itinerary with all the details a tap away. You can even check into your flights directly from Tripit and share all your flight details with friends (i.e. shoot an e-mail to whoever is picking you up from the airport with all the details).

B. Uber/Zipcar
Most people already know about Uber, and though it might not relate directly to my work as a photographer, Uber has gotten me out of many sticky situations without breaking the wallet. I do not have a car, and I live in a densely populated city with not-so-great public transport—it gets me places but it's not ideal if you are carrying equipment or framed work, obviously. So being able to request a car directly from my iPhone with one tap, and have it show up at my door 2-5 minutes later is amazing! If I am planning on running a bunch of errands or need to transport something bigger, then Zipcar is usually my choice. Unlike Uber, which is taxi service, Zipcar allows you to rent cars of all sizes/prices by the hour.

One of my favorite things about both services is that there is no transaction involved, I get in and I get out, and I receive a receipt via e-mail (which I quickly screen grab and log into Freshbooks as an expense!). So for a car-less soul in a city littered with Uber cars and Zipcars, I am a fan!

Rafael Soldi is a Peruvian­-born, Seattle-­based photographer and independent curator. He holds a BFA in Photography & Curatorial Studies from the Maryland Institute College of Art. Soldi has helped curate exhibitions at Farmani Gallery, Wilgus Gallery, MICA, Silver Eye Center for Photography, and Photographic Center Northwest, where he is the Marketing Director. Soldi’s photographs have been exhibited and published internationally at the Frye Art Museum, American University Museum, Griffin Museum of Photography, Greg Kucera Gallery, Connersmith, Emory University, PCNW, Vertice Galeria, and G. Gibson Gallery among others. He is a 2012 Magenta Foundation Flash Forward Award Winner, 2014 Puffin Foundation grant recipient, and his work is in the permanent collections of the Tacoma Art Museum, Frye Art Museum, and the King County Public Art Collection, among others.


  1. Excellent article and info Rafael! My friend and Fine Art mentor Aline Smithson posted a link on Facebook and I've already begun to set up my online accounts with FreshBooks! I've also had DropBox for a few years, but didn't consider the potential of also using it for documents to access while on the road. I'm going to get on that as well. And TripIt. As much as I travel it looks like a great asset where Apple's Passbook falls short. Thank you!