Microsoft adapts Outlook for photographers

Microsoft has released a free Outlook plug-in to help photographers remember which equipment to bring to photo shoots they’ve scheduled with the calendar and contacts software.

The free plug-in, called Pro Photo Shoot, lets photographers create a list of their photographic equipment and then use a check-box list to pick what’s needed for a particular appointment. Outlook produces a sorted list.

The software can be downloaded for Outlook 2003 and Outlook 2007.

The software is part of Microsoft’s gradual effort to appeal more to photography enthusiasts, an audience that historically has been one of Apple’s most loyal and lucrative. Another part of that effort is Microsoft’s work to standardize HD Photo as JPEG XR, an alternative to conventional JPEG that can store higher-fidelity images.

And another part is support in Windows Vista for viewing, tagging, printing, and otherwise handling “raw” photos, the unprocessed sensor data from higher-end cameras that can yield higher-quality photos than ordinary JPEG. Where Apple creates its own raw image codecs–software for encoding and decoding digital files–Microsoft relies on camera manufacturers to supply them. (The codecs also work with Windows Live Photo Gallery installed on Windows XP.)

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Never forget a lens again:

Some of us just are not detail people. I’m great at seeing the big picture, but I often forget the little things. So I make a lot of lists to keep track of stuff. Pro Photo Shoot is a Microsoft Office Outlook add-in that is designed to help photographers keep track of the little stuff. When you’re first planning a photo shoot—perhaps while you’re on the phone with your customer—you can bring up a dialog with a list of the equipment you own and then check off what you want to bring with you. The list is stored in the body of the appointment so when you print the appointment record the list is right there with all the other details. That way you can have the list in hand as you’re running out the door to make sure you’ve got everything you need. And you can have the list at the shoot to make sure you bring everything back with you (I told you I was bad on details).

Setting up the equipment pool

Of course, you have to tell the add-in what photo equipment you have. When you first start the add-in using a button that is either in the ribbon (for Outlook 2007) or the task bar (for Outlook 2003) of the appointment, the equipment list is empty. Pressing the “Equipment Pool…” button brings up the dialog where you enter the equipment. For each piece of equipment you own you enter a name (such as “Canon 5D,” “1600W Topas,” or “EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM”) and a type (such as “Camera”, “Battery/Powerpack,” or “Lens”). If you want, it’s as simple as that. But you might decide to enter more information for each piece of equipment.

One of the things I know I should do is to keep a current list of my photo equipment for insurance purposes, in case of loss or theft. The easiest way to keep such a list current would be to enter the serial number, purchase price, and purchase date when I first buy something new. That’s when I’m excited and thinking about it. So the Equipment Pool form also lets you store that information. Then you can print a copy of the list and save it in your files. Having purchase date and purchase price helps the insurance company estimate the current value of your equipment. If you want to, you can also choose to display the purchase date, purchase price, or serial number in the main Photo Shoot dialog by checking the boxes on the right of the screen.

Using the Photo Shoot dialog

The Photo Shoot dialog is easy to use. You just check off the equipment you want to use on a particular shoot. If you click on the column header for the Type field, the equipment list will be sorted by type. That’s useful if you’ve got a bunch of similar equipment, like lenses, and want to see them all grouped together. Clicking on the Name column header sorts the list alphabetically by name. You can also sort by the purchase price, purchase date, or even by the serial number.

If you’re a professional, you might also want to use the Shoot Name field to associate the shoot with your billing system. Different people have different ways to keep track of their shoots, such as “Client Name/Date” or just a sequential number. So Pro Photo Shoot allows you to put any data you want in the Shoot Name. You can also select the client’s name from your contact list or add a new client to that list.

You can print the list of selected equipment from this dialog either when you first enter the data or at some later time, like just before you go. When you exit the dialog, the information is saved in the Outlook appoint and is displayed in the body of the appointment. Having the selected equipment in the appointment information is particularly useful to those who share their appointment information with colleagues or assistants.

That’s all there is to it. Pro Photo Shoot is a simple little tool that makes it easier to keep track of what to bring on a photo shoot, so you’ll never forget a lens again.

Download plug-in here:

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