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Years ago when I was first getting into photography I heard it suggested more than once that Real Models(tm) and Real Photographers(tm) would save magazine clippings with interesting poses, lighting, looks, or environments in big binders and use it to formulate their own ideas. I, being completely clueless, heard this and said to myself “well that sounds reasonable I guess, but I’d never do it”.  That was then, this is now though. I don’t use a notebook per-se, but I discovered a tool some time ago called Evernote that allows me to not only get the feel of the scrap book but also a huge number of other cool advantages. Read on to see how I use it and maybe pick up a few tricks for yourself!

First of all, what is Evernote?

From the website:

“Keep everything in sync.  Remember things you like. Save favorite webpages.  Take notes anywhere.”

In short, Evernote lets you keep notes, which can be text, images, audio, or a combination thereof.  They are synced through a central service to whatever device you want to access it from.  Currently there are Evernote clients for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone 7, and if all else fails, their web interface is pretty awesome.  There is also a web “clipper”, which lets you select a webpage or part of a webpage and save it (think Pinterest, but not just for images).  Last but not least when you set up an account you get a special email address that you can send mail to and it will appear in your Evernote notebook!

Imagine going to a webpage, selecting a section with an interesting article, cool image or set of images, selecting it, and hitting the Evernote clip button and boom, automatically synced into your account.  Or taking a picture of a great outfit or cool photo location on your smart-phone and boom, into your account.  Add a few custom tags to the note (“location” “photo idea” and “shoot”) and that’s even more searchable.  They also do some pretty amazing magic to do with making text in images searchable, so taking a picture of say, a sale sign, will make the text in the picturesearchable.  All very cool.  Oh and did I mention that you can just drag a PDF into it and it’ll save (and index the text in it for searching as well).

The Evernote business model is the freemium one, where you get the base service and software free but to get higher transfers a month for the relatively low cost of $45 a year.  The philosophy is that you provide a good enough service and enough of your customers will convert to support the company, and it seems they’re doing well so far.  I’ve actually only once hit the 60mb limit for the free accounts.

Saving To Your Advantage

So getting data into Evernote is pretty easy, but a tool like this is only as useful as it’s ability to get data back out.  Having a thousand notes without a way to filter through them is completely useless right?  When you use the search in Evernote you obviously search the text that you’ve entered, but you can also set it to search by tag (just put “tag:” in front of your search term) and as mentioned before it’ll search any text it finds in images as well.

However, saved Searches really are the bees knees. What you can do is save a search for something so that it’s there for easy access later.  For example, when I find an image of a shot I’d like to try, I add it to a note in my “Photo Inspiration” folder with the appropriate name.  IE: “Boudoir”, “Poses”, “Lighting”, “Wedding” or the like.  This gives me a set of notebooks with inspiring photos categorized.  I then go one step farther and make sure I tag each of the notes with the tag “shotstotry“.  Then I create a saved search for “tag:shotstotry”.  Now I have a smart folder that will update itself whenever I add another note with that tag.  That’s just the start of the possibilities, imagine what else you could do with it!

An Example of an Evernote Saved Search

How I Use Evernote as a Photographer

Here is a quick list of how I use Evernote as a photographer:

  • Saved searches for photo, lighting, or outfit ideas
  • Compiling multiple bits of data together (for example I have a note with everything I need to get into my computer server in downtown Vancouver, including access codes (you can encrypt selections of text in a note, so that’s safe!), a map and instructions on how to navigate the labyrinth of passages)
  • Quick references for lighting setup
  • All my camera and flash manuals (with a saved search for “tag:manual”)
  • Scans of photography contracts
  • A huge notebook of articles to read, photoshop howtos and a variety of other photography related things I’ve found on the web.  If I’m bored and have a few minutes I’ll pull up one of these and go through it, tagging it as “read’ when I’m done.
  • I email any registration confirmations for events, classes, hotel or flight bookings into Evernote through the special email address just so that I know I have a copy if I don’t remember on the day.  Worst case scenario I pull out my phone and pull up a copy of the confirmation.
  • The shared notebook functionality is very useful to save notes and pictures of doodles and handwritten notes and drawings from classes I’ve taken with friends.  I can “brain dump” everything I got from a seminar into a shared notebook and a friend who was at the same location can do the same, end result is double the amount remembered, and more importantly, double the amount of data saved and retrievable!
  • Saving business cards as well.  If you’re a model or makeup artist and I get your card at a shoot there’s a 99% chance that within a few minutes I’ve taken a picture of it, saved it to a “Business Cards” notebook, tagged with “contact” and “business card” and a note added to the image about who you are, what you do and how I met you.
  • For location scouting it’s awesome.  Since all the notes are geo-tagged automatically (when using the mobile), I can take a picture or three of a potential location and then easily find them later (when asking that continuous question of “where’s good to shoot”) using the map view and the search functionality.

Some Tips For Evernote Use

So once you get started you probably will wonder “OK, so now I’m started how can I use it best?”  Here are a few tips.

Use the Favorite button if you want quick access on your mobile device.

If you’re using Evernote on a mobile device and you know that you’re going to need the data a lot, set it as a favorite.  This saves it to the locate data cache on the phone so it doesn’t need to connect to the Internet to get it the next time you access it (handy in slow (or no) Internet areas).

Be careful about your upload quota

I’m not against paying people money, and of the tools I use every day, $45 a year is well worth it to give the Evernote guys some love.  But when you’re starting out you want to be concious of how much of your free space that you’re using and get a feel for how long it will last you.  It’s no fun to try a new tool and max out your free account in the first few days and then be face with paying for something (just to try it out) or waiting another 27 days before you can sync notes with it again.

Listen to the Podcast

The guys at Evernote have a great monthly(ish) podcast where they discuss the business of the company, use cases, answering user questions, and overall getting information out about how to use Evernote better.  This isn’t a “selling” podcast, they even admit more than once) that they’ve been very bad at pimping their own stuff on it.  You can check out The Evernote Podcast here, or if you’re an iTunes person, here’s the iTunes feed.

Read the Blog and Twitter Feed

There’s tons of good info (and use cases that will surprise you) at http://blog.evernote.com/ and@evernote.

Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t “click” right away

I started with Evernote in 2008 and after adding a few notes just sort of forgot about the app.  It didn’t really match my workflow and what I was looking for, and the few lists of random bits (this is the first URL I clipped into my first notebook) just weren’t being retrieved after I put them in.  About a year later I picked up the app again (so to speak) and this time really understood what I was needing and looking for, and I’ve been going full bore since.  I’ve heard a similar story from other people, so if you try it out and it doesn’t work for you, don’t worry about it, maybe it’s just not time for you or maybe it’s just not the tool for the job you’re looking to do.  Hopefully some of the things I use it for that I’ve listed here will help inspire you to use this fantastic app however!

It’s not just the main Evernote app

People were using Evernote a lot to save pictures of food, so the guys there created Evernote Food, a streamlined iPhone application that is designed to let you save your food pictures (and notes, and location) into your Evernote notebooks.  People were also using Evernote to get contact information from people (see my “how I use Evernote as a photographer” section above) so they created Evernote Hello, which I absolutely love.  These days instead of asking for your business card I’ll probably hand you my phone and ask you to input your own information (it even prompts you to take a picture of yourself).  It’ll then save that to my Evernote account, connected with any other notes from the same time and location (ie: if I meet several people at a lunch it’d create an easy way to link my Evernote Food note on the burger I had for lunch with the contact information and even any other notes that I added to the main Evernote application at the same location and time).  Super cool.  It also lets you sync data to your iPhone’s address book as well as letting you contact people right from the array of faces in the application.

evernote-hello

There’s also Evernote Clearly, a Readability/Instapaper-like plug-in that will remote extra crap from a webpage (banners, navigation, ads, etc) and let you more easily clip just the parts you want without the extras.  Skitch is an Mac application that was acquired last year and looks great, but I haven’t used at all, but it’s integrated and you can use it to doodle on notes or images.

Conclusion

If you haven’t heard of Evernote or haven’t used it before, you really should.  It’s got a great premise, use it to remember things, and because the second premise is “sync it to any electronic device you have” works so well, it’s incredibly useful. If you’re a creative person the ability to load it with drawings, pictures, or random web clippings makes it a powerful too, and combined with it’s search, asking the question “where did I see that cool chair I wanted to have a photo shoot with last year” doesn’t have to have an answer of “I dunno” anymore :)

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