Professionals are proficient.
In any industry, professionals spend time learning their tools and becoming proficient in their use. As photographers, the first tools that often come to mind are cameras and lights, but software is increasingly an important piece of our equipment that can make us successful. Some of that software is purely photography-focused (Photoshop anyone?) but other software plays a supporting role that can still be vital to our success.
Several months ago I began using Roam Research for notes and information management. As I become more familiar with the tool, I keep making a mental parallel in my mind to that of becoming proficient with OmniFocus.
Roam Research is a tool that allows for creating a network of linked information, either created within the application itself or pulled from other sources such as web pages or Kindle highlights. OmniFocus is a tool for managing tasks, and I’ve written about it how I use it as a photographer.
Complex Tools Have a Learning Curve
Neither Roam nor OmniFocus would be considered simple tools. If you need to take some quick notes, your computer probably came with a program that will handle that in a very simple fashion. If you need a basic todo list, again, you probably already own something that’s capable of handling that job.
The folks who use Roam or OmniFocus aren’t looking for simple tools. They’re looking for powerful tools. A simple tool is good for simple tasks. More powerful tools can be used for more powerful tasks.
What I’ve discovered with both Roam and with Omnifocus is that they’re not just tools… they’re toolkits, and much of their power lies in the flexibility to configure and extend them for custom purposes. Sure, you can use them for simple purposes, but their power isn’t going to be immediately obvious, and you’re going to wonder why you spent money on them rather than using free or cheap alternatives. But if you really dive deep… you’re going to find a payback on your monetary and time investment.
Diving Deep with OmniFocus and Roam Research
What does diving deep look like? Here are what I would say it means for these two applications:
- Building custom perspectives
- Exploring Omni Automation
- Using templates
For Roam Research:
- Installing functionality with roam/js
- Extending Roam with browser extensions
- Using automation to import data (Kindle highlights via Readwise, for example)
The common theme here is customization and extension. To make the most of the software, you aren’t just using it as it arrives (“out of the box” as we’d say in the olden days when software came in boxes) but you’re customizing its functionality based on your needs and your other systems.
No two OmniFocus power users use the software in the same way.
Apply Lessons to Other Systems
What can we learn from how folks get the most of OmniFocus or Roam Research?
How can that apply to photography and photographers? We can take the underlying principles and apply them to other tools of our trade. As professionals, we should become proficient.
- On our cameras, consider that they are general purpose devices. Modern professional cameras have multiple buttons that can be customized. The savvy pro will spend time with their hands getting used to the feel of the camera, and will customize those buttons to put their most-used controls in easily-accessible places. Which will be your most-used? That depends on.. you.
- In our software, we import, edit, and then export our images. Whether it’s Lightroom, Photoshop, Capture One, or another tool, all of these applications offer customization, scripting, and/or interface options. By spending time to hide features we don’t use and automate repetitive tasks or otherwise customize our editing environment, we can speed up our workflows and focus on the uniqueness that is the real value we deliver for our clients.
- With our business, consider the tools you use for client management, invoicing, and marketing. How can you learn those tools deeply to reduce the time you spend on routine tasks and make them work for your particular needs?
Whether it’s cameras, networked notes, photo editing, or tasks, we can choose to use the basic features of our software and hardware, or we can choose to put in some short-term work to make them our own, and reap the long-term efficiencies from them. You can be like the masses, or you can invest a bit more, and get a lot more.