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Author Topic: Suggestions for a database to keep track of photos printed/sold  (Read 4947 times)
luxborealis
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« on: December 30, 2013, 09:59:58 AM »
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I am selling more and photographs (fine art prints) and I am hoping those with more experience might be able to recommend a database or other system for keeping track of what's on hand and what's been sold and to whom.

Maybe I'm being too obsessive, but I like to keep track of not just who has purchased my work, but also which edition of each photo(s) they purchased. Does anyone out there have an efficient electronic system that works on a laptop and iPad? I could keep a binder of pages, but it just seems more efficient to keep it digital using a database app.

Your thoughts & experiences?
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Josh-H
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« Reply #1 on: December 31, 2013, 01:37:28 AM »
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Personally, I have just been using Excel. However I recently changed over to Apple's Numbers for this as it is iPad compatible and auto syncs with other devices.

No need to overly complicate tracking print sales - a spreadsheet does just fine.
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john beardsworth
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« Reply #2 on: December 31, 2013, 04:37:03 AM »
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I'd go with Excel too.

In the past I did write an Access database and connected it directly to the Lightroom catalogue via ODBC. If you have those kinds of skills, you'd avoid a lot of data entry and resulting errors, and you could build up reporting features, for instance.

An in-Lightroom alternative would be to create a virtual copy for each sale. You've got fields like virtual copy name, job and instructions which could contain some of the info you want to record. If you want to go a bit further get your hands a little dirty, it's not difficult to create your own plug-in with some custom fields - look up my BigNote plug-in and customise it.

John
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Isaac
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« Reply #3 on: December 31, 2013, 11:44:54 AM »
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No need to overly complicate tracking print sales - a spreadsheet does just fine.

Yes, even a simplified spreadsheet like Google Sheets.
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Mike Guilbault
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« Reply #4 on: December 31, 2013, 08:56:33 PM »
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I like your in-Lightroom alternative John!  Might give that a try.  I suppose one could stack the Sale images together to keep it neat.
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msongs
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« Reply #5 on: January 01, 2014, 12:46:26 PM »
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tried playing with excel a few times. My problem is setting it up, what categories, how to do it by size/name of image? all that sort of stuff. right now I use paper pen and the old slash marks method. when my tax lady asks how much inventory I have I just smile and say "some"
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Msongs
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Justan
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« Reply #6 on: January 01, 2014, 01:39:11 PM »
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Good suggestion, luxborealis. I will give this some thought, as my needs continue to increase and the current system has some shortcomings. Currently I use an Excel workbook with multiple pages, an Outlook contact list, a paper notebook, and a MS Word to do list.

One spreadsheet page is for works printed and this is used to keep track of the print production numbers. All my works are numbered editions and I update this list after each printing cycle.

One spreadsheet page sheet keeps track of each work sold at each show. This tracks what sold by show, by image name, by media used. This is by-far the most useful as when it comes time to plan for future shows it helps me maintain a manageable inventory.

One spreadsheet page is for custom orders that is updated at the time I invoice for the works. These are the only works for which I request name and related info from the customer. I keep each work order on paper and it would be easier to keep track of this stuff if it was all in a DB.

I also keep a paper notebook out at my shows for people who want to sign up for my newsletter and for their recommendations/suggestions. When people recommend something, which happens a lot, I note the details in this notebook. After each show, I copy the email information to an Outlook Contact list. I get between about 70 and 200 new email addresses per show and anywhere between 5 to 20 or so recommendations. The problem with a notebook is that some people have worse hand writing than me and some addresses are illegible. Some recommendations are quite good and those get posted into a MS Word based to do list.

I could probably write a DB that would consolidate all of this. It would be useful to offer free passes to previous buyers of custom works, for example, make the to do list easier to manage, make the custom orders easier to track, make email addresses more readable. Doing so is currently more work than i have time for, but of course as the business moves along, it is difficult to keep track of everything. It helps (or hinders, depending on how you look at it) that Ive been using Excel to keep track of my other business for so many years that the use of Excel is a natural to me.

Again, a good suggestion. Given a chance to write the key elements down (above), gives pause to see where a better job could be done. Another reason would be to keep better track of supplies....
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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #7 on: January 01, 2014, 07:31:53 PM »
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A nice thing about a spreadsheet is that it is so easy to add either rows or columns wherever you want as you think of items you forgot to build in at first.

It's also easy to sort instantly on any column on a page (but be careful to select the whole page first, or you'll mess up the rows).
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bretedge
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« Reply #8 on: January 02, 2014, 07:20:01 AM »
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We've been using an Excel spreadsheet since we opened the gallery and it has worked fine.  Our sales volume is getting to the point where we'll need to look at another alternative soon, though.  We're considering Filemaker Pro for a number of reasons, but primarily because it offers the ability to do several things we need to do: keep track of customer information, physical inventory and print sales, for starters.  It isn't cheap but it may be something to consider.
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luxborealis
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« Reply #9 on: January 02, 2014, 09:33:46 AM »
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We've been using an Excel spreadsheet since we opened the gallery and it has worked fine.  Our sales volume is getting to the point where we'll need to look at another alternative soon, though.  We're considering Filemaker Pro for a number of reasons, but primarily because it offers the ability to do several things we need to do: keep track of customer information, physical inventory and print sales, for starters.  It isn't cheap but it may be something to consider.

I am also considering the FMPro alternative. I've worked with it in the past and had excellent results, but the reinvestment is a bit steep. It does have iPad integration, though, which will become more helpful over time.

Is anyone out there successfully using a database the has desktop/laptop and iPad integration?
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Terry McDonald
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bretedge
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« Reply #10 on: January 02, 2014, 09:42:16 AM »
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I am also considering the FMPro alternative. I've worked with it in the past and had excellent results, but the reinvestment is a bit steep. It does have iPad integration, though, which will become more helpful over time.

Is anyone out there successfully using a database the has desktop/laptop and iPad integration?

We use the iPad as our cash register with the Square app, although we're not using Square to run the credit cards.  FM Pro's iPad integration is a pretty significant bonus for us.
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rgs
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« Reply #11 on: January 09, 2014, 11:59:21 AM »
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Although I know it's very popular for simple data collections, I don't like Excel spreadsheets. One mistake during a search can corrupt your data. If you're on a PC, take a look at the simple MS "Photo Gallery" that ships with Windows. It allows you to access your photo (including RAWs) and tag it with all kinds of useful information. You could use the "descriptive tag" to make extensive notes if needed. I suspect MAC has a photo gallery with similar capabilities.

If LR or Photo Gallery can't be made to work well enough for your needs, then I think you need a real database. FileMaker Pro is the most user friendly one but MS Access is probably more common. Either one will do about the same thing once you have learned them and, if you can make LR and PS work, you can learn a database. Just jump in and do it. 

FWIW
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PeterAit
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« Reply #12 on: January 09, 2014, 03:59:11 PM »
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Although I know it's very popular for simple data collections, I don't like Excel spreadsheets. One mistake during a search can corrupt your data.

Searching in Excel does not corrupt data - really! But, Excel is not that easy or intuitive a program. I would not recommend it for anyone who does not already know it - but if you do, it can do a great job. I would use it - if only I had some sales to track!
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LesPalenik
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« Reply #13 on: January 09, 2014, 05:02:40 PM »
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To paraphrase the old saying - if your only tool is Excel, you tend to look at everything as spreadsheets.
The engineers (I used to be one myself) find it easier to think in rows and columns, but the real-world applications are typically more dimensional.
 
Filemaker or another free form / variable field and record length database would be a much more flexible tool for such an application. Each photo may require different kind of notes, print batches, etc. The initial setup will be for sure more complicated than for a standard Excel spreadsheet, but if it is an application for years to come, it would be a much better solution.

 
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rgs
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« Reply #14 on: January 09, 2014, 06:32:14 PM »
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When using Excel to collect data, one typically works with redundant backups and archived, dated backups because of the possibility of errors. Excel data is easily corrupted. For example, if you sort a column, you will be asked if you want just that column or if you to extend it across all columns in each record. If you answer wrong or carelessly, you will wind up with a single column sorted separately from the other columns in the record. Depending on how large your database is and how difficult it is to reassemble your data, I would call that corrupted.

I toyed with using Excel to keep track of my stock photos. I could not find an easy way to automatically (or even semi-automatically) put image thumbnails in the cells without having to key in each one manually. That's when I tried the MS Photo Gallery and now I am just using LR collections. If it gets more intensive, I will use FileMaker Pro.

Excel is good for data initial data collection in a work-group because almost everyone knows it or can figure it out. But, once you have your data, you need a real database to work with your data.
 
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Josh-H
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« Reply #15 on: January 10, 2014, 03:16:51 AM »
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Just as an alternative to Excel - if you are on a Mac; the new 'numbers' program is simple, easy to use and auto syncs across iCloud to IOS devices.
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john beardsworth
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« Reply #16 on: January 10, 2014, 06:16:29 AM »
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When using Excel to collect data, one typically works with redundant backups and archived, dated backups because of the possibility of errors. Excel data is easily corrupted. For example, if you sort a column, you will be asked if you want just that column or if you to extend it across all columns in each record. If you answer wrong or carelessly, you will wind up with a single column sorted separately from the other columns in the record. Depending on how large your database is and how difficult it is to reassemble your data, I would call that corrupted.
....
Excel is good for data initial data collection in a work-group because almost everyone knows it or can figure it out. But, once you have your data, you need a real database to work with your data.
 
You might call it corrupted but it's too strong a term for user error. I agree with your last comments though - if the OP knows how to write a database, that's the way to go.

As I know the OP uses Lightroom, it's a shame that it's not easy to extend in this direction and keep all the data together. Virtual Copies can help, but only at the cost of cluttering up your catalogue with Virtual Copies. I've seen some people use keywords to record sales, but then you're cluttering up keywords with information that doesn't belong there. You can make such methods work, but they are sticking plasters rather than real solutions. A database like Lightroom should allow the user to add custom fields, but it doesn't make this at all easy (Aperture does) but in LR they are pretty limited - a single text value for the field - and you can't set up one-to-many data that's needed in this case where each photo has multiple sales records. You'd have to write a full-blown plug-in for that, or develop something externally.

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Justan
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« Reply #17 on: January 10, 2014, 07:50:53 AM »
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I am also considering the FMPro alternative. I've worked with it in the past and had excellent results, but the reinvestment is a bit steep. It does have iPad integration, though, which will become more helpful over time.

Is anyone out there successfully using a database the has desktop/laptop and iPad integration?

What would you use as a web server platform with FileMaker Pro or does it require that?

The complexity of running a database across the internet goes up substantially. In comparison, with Windows platforms you can use SQL server+ a web interface, MS Office 365, SharePoint, ms Visual Web Developer. None of these are exactly trivial to work with.

You can use MS Access on an ipad but would require some of the above on the back end, plus remote desktop on the ipad. Very cumbersome any way you look at it.
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rgs
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« Reply #18 on: January 11, 2014, 12:06:11 PM »
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One database not mentioned yet is LibreOffice Base. I've just been playing with it a bit and it looks promising. It's very tightly integrated with the rest of LibreOffice and, like all of the LibreOffice suite, it is free. It also seems very user friendly.
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kikashi
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« Reply #19 on: January 11, 2014, 12:54:12 PM »
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I use 4th Dimension for a variety of tasks. It's hugely competent, but may be overkill.

Jeremy
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