Sunday, February 17, 2008

Decisions, Decisions

One of the parts of building my business that will require a significant financial investment, and soon, is a new computer system. My current machine, a 5 year old Dell, has just about reached the end of it's theoretical lifespan. The starter crank on the back keeps rusting out, and vacuum tubes are getting tough to come by these days...
But seriously, it's gonna be new computer time soon. I can take comfort in knowing that this time around, my ~$2k investment will be tax-deductible, which eases the sting a bit, but it's a few months out and I have some other computer related things that aren't going to wait that long. The two major categories are (big surprise here!) photography and business.
On the photographic side, my workflow has been evolving in fits and starts over the last 18 months or so. I started with Picasa, a free organizer and basic editor from Google, which served us quite well in our P&S photography days. I then ventured into the free Nikon View and Nikon Transfer software, which have proven to be worth every penny I paid. The only advantage they have over Picasa is that they can handle .NEF files without attempting to auto-correct them. This trait of Picasa's has been a deal-breaker for me since I started shooting raw last spring. I tried Photoshop Elements for a week or so, Nikon Capture NX for about two days, and up until last week my workflow was:

  1. Manual Import (yep, drag and drop)->
  2. View NX ->
  3. Adobe DNG Converter ->
  4. Adobe Camera Raw ->
  5. Photoshop CS ->
  6. Export as necessary.
  7. Yeah.
  8. That sucks.
I am currently 19 days into a 30-day trial of Adobe's Lightroom, which works far better now that my machine has a full 2GB of RAM. LR replaces the first four steps of my old workflow, and replaces the fifth step about 95% of the time. I could theoretically live without Photoshop for quite a while given the power that LR has. Another huge advantage is it's non-destructive, always preserving the sanctity of your original files. be they raw or jpeg. Adobe supports both PC and Mac with the same program, so this one is not a problem for me. I can pay for the PC version now, and when I upgrade to a Mac in a few months, I simply download the Mac version, transfer my library and index file, and keep on going.
I have an old copy of Photoshop CS, (caution, ugly secrets ahead) which is not registered or even paid for. I got it from Kazaa in between viruses about three years ago (before they went legal). Using this program has been a moral weight for me recently, and I currently rationalize it with the argument that I haven't made any money from it yet, and when I do, I'll pay for CS3. Yes, that's very, very weak. If somebody was stealing MY intellectual property, and rationalizing it likewise, I'd be irritated. This is another one that I could easily port over to a Mac if I buy it before my PC expires. However, buying Photoshop could put quite a dent in my new computer budget, so I'm stuck operating on a pirated copy for now. I am NOT happy about this. I may actually quit cold turkey, and from here on any potentially paid work shall not be touched by Photoshop. Or, if I activate my 30-day trial of CS3, that buys me a month to re-evaluate my position here. I think that sounds like a plan.

The other bit of software I will be needing soon is some type of accounting/financial management package. I've been looking around quite a bit today, and I really don't have any answers. Intuit's QuickBooks seems like a popular option, John Harrington (who definitely knows his way around a photography business) has recommended it, and it seems to be pretty close to an industry standard. However, there seem to be huge differences in the Mac and PC versions, to the point that it's like two totally different software packages. Quicken Home & Business seems simpler still, and may be easier to carry over, but it lacks some features I think I'd want fairly soon.
Other contenders are the MYOB (Mind your own Business) products, which seem fairly robust for Mac, Peachtree, which is probably much more accounting than I need, and Microsoft's Office-integrated Small Business.

Quick summary if you've made it this far: I'm switching to Mac in a few months, and I need a business accounting software package that I can set up now and bring with me when I make the jump.

And I need to find all my receipts from January.



StockPhotoJourney said...

I am a mac head, if you need any help just let me know!

Rick Nevels said...

Might I suggest