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Studio Ninja vs HoneyBook: Time for your Business to Settle Down!

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Every photographer needs a trusted camera that will serve them well — and so the grass is green and the sky is blue. But there’s another thing that should become an inseparable part of a professional photographer, and yet it’s often overlooked: reliable software that can turn anyone from an amateur into a true professional. 

Such software can take care of all your administrative tasks, freeing up your time and allowing you to focus on your craft instead. Also, beautifully crafted proposals and emails, as well as a fast response rate, will impress your clients and elevate their overall experience.

That’s why investing in a studio management tool or a client management system is such a great idea. It will boost your revenue, gain more customers through referrals, and help you work more mindfully. 

Interested, but don’t know where to start? Well, you’re here for a treat then. In this Studio Ninja vs HoneyBook article we’ll discuss the two leaders in the photography business world, who are famous for their excellent software.

Fasten your seatbelts! We’re in for a ride.

Studio Ninja

This studio management system was created by a wedding photographer Chris Garbacz, and a UX specialist, Yuan Wang, back in 2015. 

Before that, Chris was using a typical CRM for his business, but it was, in his opinion, too robust for his own needs. Many of the features, which were also more complicated than not, went unused. So he came up with an idea for a beautifully designed and simple software meant specifically for photographers. Once the idea was validated, he joined arms with Yuan Wang to make it a reality.

To this day, Studio Ninja has been awarded twice, first in the Out of the Garage category at the Pause Awards 2020 and ICT Business of the Year at the MyBusiness Awards 2020. Two years later, Studio Ninja is sponsoring International Pet Photographer of the Year with a 12–month free license for their software.

Photographers’ Haven

Studio Ninja heavily targets photographers, offering not only a tailored solution, but also lots of wisdom in their inclusive NINJACAST podcast or their own book, Shoot Like a Ninja. While other freelancers and creatives could also use this business app, they will have to suffer through this industry’s jargon and to customize the software as much as possible to suit their needs.

Because of settling down for a niche which is filled with freelancers (even up to 63%), Studio Ninja avoided the fate of many similar systems — becoming an over bloated feature creep that nobody uses up to its full potential. After all, if you try to please everyone you will please no one. Simplicity is one of its biggest strengths, because it also offers a shallow learning curve. You don’t need external consultants to set it up or build your processes. On the other hand, it leads to people calling Studio Ninja “immature” and “a work in progress” (source). Well, to each its own!

Simple yet Effective UX/UI Design

Studio Ninja comes with a simple yet pleasant, non–obtrusive design. The most important features — Dashboard, Clients, Leads, Jobs, Calendar, Payments, and Settings — can be found right at the top. The limited number of subpages doesn’t overwhelm the user and their order makes logical sense. In the top right corner you can find your own Account Settings and Brands; if you have multiple photography brands, you can freely switch between them right there with the multiple brands feature.

Screenshot of Studio Ninja's main dashboard.

Additionally, it’s worth noting the endearing name itself, the cute logo, and the communication style the Studio Ninja has adopted. It consistently uses the Ninja theme through all channels — in the Studio Management Software itself, in their newsletters (where they send us missions!), social media, and wherever they’re present. This uniform branding makes Studio Ninja stand out, be memorable, and inspire friendly feelings.

The Great Workflow

The Workflow is, hands down, the best feature of Studio Ninja. And it looks good, too!

By default, the Workflow is divided into three stages: Lead, Production, and Post–Production. Each stage can have four types of task assigned:

  • To–do,
  • Automation (emails, questionnaires, contracts),
  • Extra Shoot (which will show up in your Calendar at once),
  • Appointment (will also show up in your Calendar as well).

With these four elements you can create a thorough and extensive Workflow, starting from the client’s first inquiry to archiving the job. Any upcoming tasks will appear in your Dashboard and once you complete them, they’ll be grayed out in your Workflow. And one little thing — some of these tasks will be ticked off automatically; for example, once your client accepts a quote or pays an invoice.

Screenshot of Studio Ninja's workflow.

Additionally, the workflows are fully customizable to suit your unique needs. You can create general, broad processes or very detailed ones, which won’t let you forget about a single thing. 

Avoiding Double Bookings Like a Pro

The worst scenario ever? 

Accidentally booking two shoots on the same day.

If you also felt that shiver of horror, you understand just how awful that situation can be, especially if your work is well underway. Just imagine trying to explain yourself to the particular client that they have to find a new photographer as soon as possible, because you’re booked elsewhere. And it’s even worse when you’re dealing with a happy couple on the way to get married. You’ve just ruined the best day of their lives!

Forget about getting a referral. Forget about maintaining a top–notch reputation for a professional photographer, too. 

Thankfully, Studio Ninja understands how terrible that can be and helps us avoid such fate — by detecting conflicting shoots and letting you know immediately with a glaring red icon.

Screenshot of Studio Ninja showing the booking error.

With such helpful features implemented, you can sleep at night more easily knowing that Studio Ninja watches out for any dangers that could harm your photography business. 

Work on the Go

Photographers can be found in nature often enough. Between one shoot and another, in the flower field or on a castle ground, they might be wondering anxiously — what if someone wrote to them and expects immediate response? What if a potential lead turns to another vendor, because their response rate was faster? What if there was a cancellation, complication, or a myriad of important questions from a worried bride–to–be?

Thankfully, Studio Ninja comes with a solution — by offering a mobile app on both Android and iOS that can accompany you all over the world. Your clients can reach you anywhere and anytime, and such care will surely bring positive results. Your customer service couldn’t be more exemplary.

Lone Wolf Simplicity

If you’re working on your own and don’t plan on growing your business, Studio Ninja could be your best friend for many years to come. But if you want to bring in more photographers, collaborate, or even create your own team — or maybe start offering more broad services, including design, for example — this studio management software could be quickly outgrown. 

Studio Ninja doesn’t support team collaboration and neither there’s rich reporting or analytics that are necessary to gauge how your business is doing. So if you’re thinking of growth in the future, maybe you should try a more robust solution that you can safely scale your business with.

HoneyBook

HoneyBook is Studio Ninja’s predecessor by two years. It was created in 2013 by Dror Shimoni and a lovely couple, Naama and Oz Alon. They were also freelancers battling fiercely with bookkeeping and administrative tasks, until they decided to create a tool to solve these problems for them. 

Their product, in contrast to Studio Ninja, has a much broader audience. They don’t focus on one industry but target all freelancers alike (or, as they say, “independent business owners”), from designers, web developers, coaches, florists, copywriters, videographers, to photographers and event planners. Because of that, HoneyBook is more of a universal tool that doesn’t have as specific features as Studio Ninja.

Top–Notch Project Management

If you like knowing where your business is at with just a glance, you’re in for a treat; HoneyBook has a wonderful overview of all your projects in a pipeline form, letting you quickly get back to speed and figure out your priorities.

Screenshot of HoneyBook's project management subpage.

Most importantly, it brings order into your business. Before, if your process was nebulous at best, HoneyBook will force you to do some self–reflection and define what you’ve been doing up until this point. Then, you’ll have to divide your workflow into neat little steps and improve them by setting up automated emails & automated invoice reminders to make use of HoneyBook’s full potential. 

When it’s all up and running, you can join more free time that stems from organized processes that for the most part, run by themselves. Also, you’ll be able to spot any bottlenecks or issues if your workflow is lacking anything, helping you improve it even more. This way, you’ll be able to deliver the ultimate best value to all your clients on all fronts.

Shallow Learning Curve

HoneyBook, while it has more features than Studio Ninja, is still on the same level when it comes to simplicity. And that’s because of a very smart UX design which doesn’t overwhelm the users and help us get the hang of the software gradually.

First of all, the main dashboard displays only the most important features — Projects, Google Calendar, Templates, Resources, and Bookkeeping. Everything else, like Automations, Time Tracker, Tasks, Reports, and so on, can be found right at the top under the Tools menu. 

Screenshot of HoneyBook's Tools menu.

This design divides the features into the most important ones and nice–to–haves; we don’t have to learn all the features at once. At first, we can focus on the ones shown on Dashboard, and then slowly, over time, we can learn all the additional ones once we’ve mastered the fundamentals.

Excellent Client Portal

HoneyBook comes with an elegant Client Portal which can be accessed by your clients. There, they can see all the messages exchanged, send new ones, view documents, attachments, review their online payments and see the upcoming ones, as well as check the project details.

Of course, they won’t be able to see your internal notes, tasks, or automations, your account details and pipelines, as well as other participants (which could be your collaborators, for example).

What does it matter, though? What benefits can we expect from such a solution?

  • Single source of truth. You swiftly eliminate any misunderstandings by having one platform with all the information pertaining to the project. Nobody can claim they weren’t aware of something if that something is logged into the Client Portal,
  • Fewer questions. You’ll spend much less time answering emails with basic questions — your clients can log in to their space instead and find all the answers themselves,
  • Piece of mind. You can rest assured that all the parties involved are kept up–to–date and there won’t be any nasty surprises waiting for you.
Screenshot of HoneyBook's Client Portal.

Intuitive Automation

Automation is a double–edged sword.

On one hand, it helps you streamline your processes and gives you more time to focus on things that truly matter. You don’t have to remember which template emails should be sent when and to whom, it’ll happen automatically.

On the other hand, once you automate your processes a little too much and then a project strays from the common grounds, you might find yourself in trouble. Trouble meaning sending automated messages and attachments that are no longer relevant, which can bother your clients, lead to misunderstandings, and in overall, leave a bad impression.

HoneyBook saves us from that fate by giving us just enough automation that can be set up in an easy–to–use editor. 

Such a visual path gives a better understanding of the whole process and eliminates the number of mistakes that we could have made otherwise. 

What HoneyBook allows us to do here is to automatically create tasks, send email messages and send files. The actions can be delayed — for example, we can send a file instantly after the payment was made or we can send it the next day. 

Customizable Templates

Emails, Contact Forms, Brochures, Packages, Questionnaires, Proposals, Contracts, Invoices… So many things to prepare in advance! Not only have to write all of that down, but also present it in an eye–pleasing package. This could actually get very time–consuming, especially with iterations and fixing up mistakes (let’s not kid ourselves, there’s always something we’ll notice after sending the message, right?).

Thankfully, there’s a shortcut. In the form of ready–made, customizable templates right in HoneyBook. With it, you can save your time and still deliver memorable files that will bring the customer experience to the next level.

Screenshot of HoneyBook's template customization page.

US and Canada Centric

Unfortunately, there’s a big fat downside to this wonderful software — it’s limited to users located in the US and Canada. If you’re from anywhere else in the world, you won’t be able to use HoneyBook properly. Why is that?

Most probably, it’s because of HoneyBooks’ payment options. There are no external payments gateways used most commonly, such as Stripe or Paypal. Instead, HoneyBook itself processes all the money, but the system isn’t rich enough to include all the other countries. It’s a real shame.

Studio Ninja vs HoneyBook: The Verdict

So here it is, a comparison between two great pieces of software that come with their own strengths and weaknesses. Which should you choose?

If you’re a professional photographer, Studio Ninja offers more curated experience. The features were created with photography business in mind and therefore, could be of real use to you.

But if your craft is different and you like working on a pipeline, pick HoneyBook — but only if you’re living in the US or Canada.

An Alternative Studio Management Software

If you didn’t manage to find your One True Software, don’t despair! There is an alternative you can consider. And this alternative is quite special, because unlike the other two, it’s geared more towards teams than lone wolves. So if you prefer collaboration over total independence, try out Zendo, a perfect tool for managing custom and productized services with an internal chat that allows for better communication with clients and instant payments in the chat box.

Screenshot of Zendo's main dashboard and chat.

How To Choose The Right Software For Running An Agency?

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Paulina Gajewska
Paulina Gajewska
Copywriter

Word Designer and Article Developer, devoted to breaking down complex ideas to make Information Technology look simple.

Learn about Zendo

We blend the simplicity of email with payments and the intelligence of CRM to bring you the next generation of client portal software.
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