It’s much easier to scale your photography business with a great CRM. I’ve used a few, trialed a lot, and settled with Sprout Studio for my business. Sprout Studio is billed as an all-in-one powerhouse for photographers. But is it right for you, and does it always live up to the hype?
I’m writing this for those who want to understand if this could be a good solution for your business. Sprout Studio is something I’ve wanted to review for a while now but have held back because there is a lot to review. So, don’t expect a cute review where I gloss over details for fellow photographers. Good, bad, and indifferent, here it comes.
*Part of this post may contain an affiliate link. A portion of my education site is reader supported. When you purchase through a link, I occasionally receive a small commission. I only share links for things I use in my own business. Thanks!*
What is Sprout Studio
Sprout Studio is a Customer Relationship management system (CRM) for photographers. Put as simply as possible, it helps you manage your customer relationships. Sprout specifically focuses on those photography-client relationships and keeping everything in order. Focusing on photography clients sets Sprout apart from other CRMs on the market.
Another critical feature of Sprout is that, as of writing this in 2023, it’s one of the only true all-in-one CRMs that can scale for a mid-size photography studio. Sprout touches on everything a photographer might need, such as email marketing, galleries, storefront, contracts, and basic accounting.
Created for photographers by photographers is their motto. Now, this part makes me chuckle. They do a good job but coming from a background of CRMs, and different management systems, an end user being the sole driving force behind a design can make things messy. However, Sprout does pretty well with this and has great intentions.
If you’re interested in more about the owner, he has a podcast for photographers you can check out called the Business of Photography.
Pros of Being an all-in-one CRM
As stated above, Sprout Studio is an All-in-One CRM for photographers. There are some big advantages to having an all-in-one system for your photography business.
All-in-One systems can have significant cost savings. Adding up all the individual program fees you need to run your business is expensive. Email marketing, gallery delivery, accounting systems, contracts, and proofing programs can add up quickly. Sprout bundles everything up nicely in one annual or monthly fee.
Streamlining everything was the main reason I left another CRM for Sprout. Having all your client touchpoints in one place simplifies your process and makes automation a breeze. Time is money, and even more so for photography studios of 1.
Cons of All-in-One CRMs
Have you heard the term “Jack of All Masters of None”? As much as I LOVE a good all-in-one CRM, this is a pain point for any software billed as such. When you’re doing all the things, it’s challenging to be a master at any of them.
I don’t mean the above to knock Sprout specifically, but it’s something to understand when signing up with an all-in-one system. You may not find the world’s best email marketing system bundled up with 15 other things. And this is normal.
Can galleries, email marketing, and a calendar system be good when packaged together? Yes. I think Sprout has good products. However, it’s important to tailor our expectations. Think of this like a family physician versus your dermatologist.
Leaving an all-in-one system is problematic. If you love your CRM, this is great, but untangling things and breaking up can be messy if you fall out of love. If you ever want to break ties with your all-in-one CRM for your photography business, it will be challenging, as every aspect of your business is tied into one company.
Review of Sprout Studio Support
When I joined Sprout years ago, their customer service was terrific! I sang the praises of their support to everyone I could. Support met any problem with kindness and prompt replies. The Sprout Customer Service team was an extension of my business.
However, as of writing this in March 2023, the customer service I’ve encountered has been a mixed bag. I’ve had some good interactions, but some that were truly bad.
Glitches happened that shut down my business. Often the customer service person I got gave me poor advice that made the problem worse, seemed to care less, or was dismissive in responses.
If you need hand-holding with your CRM, Sprout support can be a mixed bag depending on who answers your question. My last interaction was about 4-5 months ago, and I’ve since avoided contacting them for help. However, I’ve heard rumors it’s getting better.
Getting Sprout Set Up and Going
Starting with any CRM is hard, and I hear the biggest complaint about Sprout being the setup. However, we need to cut them some slack because the more you ask a system to do, the bigger the learning curve in the beginning.
You’re not just setting up a system to take payments. Sprout setup includes email marketing, accounting, galleries, storefronts, and automation. So yes, Sprout takes some getting used to, but it’s expected with any big system you bring into your business.
Also, Sprout has done a lot of work with setup programs and training for new users. I have yet to use them, but from what I’ve seen, they are making onboarding easier and easier as time goes by.
Email Marketing with Sprout Studio
Email marketing with Sprout is a secondary feature but one that might sway you to join, so I wanted to touch on it.
Some leading email marketing companies charge as much as the entire package of Sprout costs for one month. So, if you want to get started with email marketing (and save money), Sprout offers a solid starting point.
For my business, I’m not using email marketing within Sprout. However, that’s because I was already stretching my email campaigns, especially for my SEO business. Again, it goes back to the “Jack of All, Master of None” comment on all-in-one CRMS.
However, if I were using an email list to add to only my photography business, Sprout would be perfect. Don’t let the fact that I use someone else sway you. Email marketing is a GREAT feature within Sprout Studio.
Galleries and Storefront within Sprout
If you tried Sprout pre-winter 2022, you probably missed out on all the new features and improvements in galleries and storefronts for clients.
At this point, the galleries are my second favorite feature within Sprout. They are gorgeous, reasonably intuitive to manage for clients and us, and features are regularly tweaked and updated.
Clients can order wall art and prints from their gallery or click into a beautifully customizable store as well. The store does take some setting up, but once you get it going, it can be a great addition to your workflow.
Workflows and Automation Set Sprout Studio Apart
I mentioned above that my background before photography was as a business analyst. In my 15 years as an analyst, I spent a fair amount of time with various CRMs across different industries. Sprout has the chops to compete with some of the best small business CRMs in the automation department.
Almost every aspect of Sprout can be added to a workflow and managed with automation to make this system as hands-off as you want. Automation is why I’ll continue to stay with Sprout, even though other aspects could be improved.
Sprout can be customized to run exactly how you imagine your business to run. If you have time to sort it out, Sprout can be your best employee with all the automation opportunities.
Most significant Drawbacks with Sprout as of Early 2023
- Glitches and Bugs. These are getting better, but sometimes updates get rolled out too fast, throwing more bugs than the competition. Glitches in the scheduling system have gotten me into problematic situations.
- Support. I mentioned this above. The support crew is hit or miss, and my miss experiences have been epically rough.
- Poor Quickbooks integration. Sprout relies on Zapier (By the way I LOVE Zapier for making systems work) as a third party to link your QB to Sprout Studio. However, it could be smoother. I found that the data tables coming out of Sprout need to be corrected, so it’s brutal trying to match things up.
- Sales tax is basic. If you’re like me and live in a point-of-destination sales tax state, you will be limited. Sales tax is painful, but not many CRMs do this better. It is a weird, weak spot in photography CRMs.
My Favorite Features of Sprout
- Automation and workflows are why I stick with Sprout year after year. Automation will be at the heart of the solution if you want a CRM to save you time (not just keep you organized).
- I wouldn’t have said this a year ago, but the galleries are getting fantastic and have lab integrations.
- Customer Portals for clients are dynamic and user-friendly.
- Support. But wait… isn’t this on the cons? Yes. But when you get the right person I remember why I loved the support team years ago.
Overall, Sprout Studio is a good fit for my business. If you’re like me and value automation and workflows (plus gorgeous galleries), you’ll be happy and hard-pressed to find a better option. However, other systems might have a better learning curve if you’re looking for a simple CRM for your photography business or won’t be interested in all the extra features.
If you want to give it a free trial run, you can head here for 21 days for free and 20% off your plan. Again, I mentioned this above, but this is an affiliate link. But please know I only share the products and services I use myself.