Q & A with Patti Hallock, creator of PhotoWorkflo
You’re an artist and educator, but you also hold Amazon Web Services Certifications as a Solutions Architect Associate and Developer Associate. You describe yourself in your bio as “a mixture of tech and creative.” Can you tell us more about your history and the career path you’ve taken?
I guess I’ve always been a computer nerd. My dad bought a computer when I was 12 and that stuck with me. When I started my career, I worked in the technology industry at a time when you didn’t really need a computer science degree to have success. In the late 1990’s during the dot-com boom and bust, I was working for a web development company in Boulder, CO building out a data center and installing and managing phone systems across the country. After the “bust” part happened, it seemed like the best possible time to finish my undergraduate degree.
Since I was a bit worn out by technology at the time, I pursued photography during my undergraduate and graduate degree programs, which challenged me to use the creative side of my brain. I think the combination of the two has been a great fit for me. After my MFA, I started teaching, which has been very fun and rewarding work. I bring both sides of my brain to the classroom, which makes me a little different than some art teachers.
When did you first have the idea for PhotoWorkflo? What led you to make the leap from idea to creation?
I first had the idea to create PhotoWorkflo when I started trying to solve my own organizational problems. When I was first starting out as an artist, I used manila folders to keep track of shows I applied to, whether I was accepted or rejected, copies of press clippings, etc. That became difficult when I started building an inventory of prints. Then I tried to track everything in spreadsheets. The problem was that the information wasn’t visual and didn’t have relationships and connections between prints and shows. It also didn’t capture what I applied to and which images I applied with. It started to get pretty unruly. So, I searched for applications to solve my problem. Unfortunately, the ones I found were not designed with photography in mind, so the solutions fell short. I had just finished my AWS certifications and was in the right mindset to sit down and draw out what I thought the application SHOULD do for us as photographers. From that, PhotoWorkflo was born.
I confess I’m pretty clueless when it comes to tech, so I’m curious how long something like this really takes to get up and running. How long has this been in development? How many people were involved in the making of PhotoWorkflo?
I started really formulating the idea in January of 2018. I’m still friends with people I worked with when I was in the tech business years ago. Two of them, in particular, had their own successful software business that they had just sold. They mentored me in this process and that guidance has been invaluable. I started out with market research, focused primarily on SPE, an audience I am already connected to. After interviewing software development firms, I chose a company founded by people I also worked with years ago. If you count lawyers, marketing, accounting people, and one of my previous students that works with me, it’s a big village that helped me get this off the ground. Day to day, this entire business is my responsibility and I’m probably the only one that thinks about it 24 hours a day. We launched the beta in November of 2018 at the Albuquerque SPE West/SW Chapter conference, and the official launch took place in March of 2019.
The PhotoWorkflo Blog has some excellent articles on topics like print editions, tracking expenses, and submitting to shows, and I love the educational component of the site. I feel like in school we are taught so much about making and thinking about art, but not the business of being an artist. What has been your experience? Do you have particular thoughts on this?
That’s a great observation and one that I feel strongly about. I’ve been teaching at the college level for 10 years. From my own personal experience as a photography student, the business of being an artist is missing from our education. As an example, I personally went through my undergraduate and graduate programs and never learned about what it means to license photography, the details of copyright, or how to write a contract. I had to learn that all on my own through trial and error and by reading articles on the ASMP website. I also watched my students try to navigate shooting commercially and be taken advantage of, which frustrated me. We collectively are not well prepared for all the details of managing a career, and I want to help fill in the gaps for everyone in our community. By providing PhotoWorkflo, the organizational tool, that’s just one piece. Writing articles about different topics that I see come up often allows artists to come to the PhotoWorkflo blog at any stage of their career and find information they might be missing.
I’m very committed to teaching; it is one of the unexpected passions that came to me through photography. With a background in technology, I also have the ability to consume information about topics like blockchain and help translate the importance of that technology and what it might mean for photographers.
Continuing on this, you have a FREE Student package - that’s awesome! Can you tell us more about this? Are there any other restrictions other than the 100 Image limit?
Related to my commitment to teaching, I really want to see students learn these organizational skills early in their career and emphasize the business of photography. I want them to graduate as savvy professionals into the market which will be good for everyone. There are no other restrictions on student accounts, they just have to verify their student status and expected graduation date. We’ve made it very easy for them to get started.
When I saw you at SPE this year, we talked a little about the cloud storage and practical limitations. I know it is impossible to predict how long this will last, but the unlimited storage you offer is a pretty great thing. It makes me think of all manner of scary items like backups, finances, billing, etc. You have a great post on the blog about Expense Tracking, but do you have any recommendations for other items or resources photographers should have in their toolkit, besides PhotoWorkflo?
I love that you refer to this as a toolkit. I’m hoping that when PhotoWorkflo is a mature product it will encapsulate many of the important parts and pieces that we have to use multiple products to do. That has been my goal from the beginning. Photographers need their analog and digital tools. I’m a fan of Adobe Lightroom, personally.
Backup tools all suffer from the same problems. If you have a local backup (as I do) then you have the maintenance of the drives, potential drive failure and physical security. I have a local “network attached storage” (NAS) by a company called Synology. The rule is: you need at least three backups and one must be offsite (in case of theft or natural disaster).
Cloud based backups suffer from bandwidth problems if you have a large inventory of files.
Expenses need to be tracked. Being able to write off your expenses at the end of the year is fantastic, but if you aren’t tracking throughout the year, it’s time consuming at tax time. So, until we create a simplified expense tracking tool in PhotoWorkflo, I’d suggest Shoebox, Mint, Harvest, or Quickbooks. They all have great features, you just have to try them and see what is right for you.
My favorite mileage tracking tool is called MileIQ. It uses GPS on your phone and tracks all of your trips when driving. It learns your routes, categorizes business and personal trips, and has a great PDF report you can give your accountant at the end of the year. It’s awesome because you don’t have to REMEMBER to do it.
I also strongly believe that memberships in professional organizations are invaluable. Being a part of the community is what helps keep us engaged and inspired. They also usually come with many learning opportunities. I like to promote SPE (Society for Photographic Education) and ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers) but local non-profit photo centers are also a great resource.
I know the site has only been out of beta testing for a few months, but do you have any items you’re considering for PhotoWorkflo in the future? Is there anything on your wish list to add?
Oh, I have a very, very long wish list! Some of the items we have in mind are:
· Copyright Registration: We want to streamline the process of registering the copyright of your images. PhotoWorkflo will be able to export images in the proper format for easy registration with the USCO. For example, if you want to register a group of 750 images, select them in PhotoWorkflo and we will export the images you selected in the format dictated by the copyright office, and generate the properly formatted spreadsheet with the appropriate fields. The goal is by making it easier, it will be more likely that photographers will actually register their copyrights.
· Institutional Model for Universities and Galleries: PhotoWorkflo already is great for educators to help track their professional activities as well as student work and courses taught. We plan to introduce an Institutional option that will allow Universities to purchase a site license for instructors to track student work to ease the process of accreditation reporting and other administrative functions. Additionally, this model will also serve the artist/gallery relationship, allowing artists to share access to their inventory with their gallery or studio assistants.
· Cloud storage and archive management: A service for artists that have large archives to store but it would be too difficult to upload to a cloud service because of bandwidth restrictions. I have a plan to deal with how to get the image data stored easily in the cloud and I’d like to help established artists with managing their archive of full-size image files.
· Image License Tracking
· Sales and Expense Tracking
· QR Codes for tracking print locations
· Blockchain registered certificates of authenticity for prints
· Fully featured reporting module that allows for generating custom Inventory Reports, Consignment Sheets and Condition reports, for example.
All of this sounds amazing. I know you’ve been traveling around introducing PhotoWorkflo to the community – do you have any upcoming locations where you’ll be? Where can interested parties find out more? And finally, do you have any last pieces of advice for those of us who are still in the manila folder phase of organizing?
· I have some speaking engagements coming up and I’m available for more. I am visiting some non-profit photography centers over the summer, and in June I’ll be talking about PhotoWorkflo at the ASMP Colorado Chapter Brews & Business meeting.
· I’m also speaking about PhotoWorkflo at the Lone Tree Photography club meeting on August 21st and I’ll be jurying their photography competition earlier in the month.
· I will give an introductory talk about Blockchain and it’s applications in the world of photography. The first talk is September 11th at the Colorado Photographic Arts Center PhotoVox and the second will be another ASMP talk on November 4th.
· I’m available to talk to schools and photography centers throughout the year and if people want to get an idea of the kinds of available topics and find out more, they can go to this page. There is a signup at the bottom to contact me to set something up.
Of course, I’ll recommend trying a free trial of PhotoWorkflo. For artists that are still in the manila folder stage of keeping track of their art practice, just start from today. It can be paralyzing to think about trying to organize your whole career at one time which prevents people from getting started at all. Choose one thing to do and start with that. For example, maybe you have an upcoming show and you want to create a record that includes the statements you used, press that comes out about the show and which photographs you had in the show. Or, you want to apply for an upcoming call for entries. Create an Activity in PhotoWorkflo to track the submission. We created a quick-start video to help people get going.
Thank you so much for your support and for giving me the opportunity to talk about PhotoWorkflo in Fraction!
Lauren Greenwald lives and works in southern California. She teaches photography at MiraCosta College in Oceanside, CA.
PhotoWorkflo was founded by Patti Hallock, an educator and photographer based in Denver, Colorado. Patti is a mixture of tech and creative. She is an artist with her MFA in Photography and holds Amazon Web Services Certifications as a Solutions Architect Associate and Developer Associate.