I’m a member of a number of photography groups and a frequent topic of conversation is about the best planners for photographers. There so many planners out there and some gorgeous examples you can even find at Target or Office Depot. Beyond that there are also the more expensive and more tailored options available online. There are planners specifically designed around goal setting, around business, around health and wellness, and some designed for photographers. Of course choosing a planner depends on your personality and your own objectives for using a planner. I’ve heard people say “I just use Google calendar and an Excel spreadsheet, why do I need a paper planner?” To which I say: you should probably stop reading here. This blog is for those of us who have the need to write things down. I, personally, use Google calendar to keep track of appointments, which I find much more reliable than writing appointments in a planner. However, I like putting my goals, and big plans and little tasks on paper. The physical act of writing helps me remember things, helps me become a bit more creative and thoughtful, and more connected to the ideas I commit to paper.
Why do you need a planner? Planners are great for list-makers. There are also those people for whom a planner is a diary of their life, a creative art project, or simply the most portable way for them to keep track of everything. Having a system, whatever it is, is the first step to feeling you have more control over your planning and goal setting. Some planners help you create the system, some just help you document what you’re already doing.
Here are some great planners to check out:
There are a lot of pretty cool planners available at stores like Target and Office Depot. Most of these have the basic functionality of monthly overview, and weekly or daily layouts. They’re great for keeping track of appointments, events, and making lists. There were at least two dozen different options at the Office Depot near my house.
Pros: Easy to find, purchase any time of year, typically less expensive.
Cons: Not customizable, less specific to ideas or industry, contents more of a basic calendar.
The LifePlanner is a daily planner but also has a cousin, the Monthly Planner. What’s great about the EC planners is that there are so many ways to personalize the covers and content, even the color of the coil binding. Dozens of cover options are available with or without pre-printed names or initials, all of which are interchangeable if you can’t commit to one design for a whole year. Choose the colorway of the pages inside, optional additional pages, optional inserts for meals, fitness, parties, and travel, the EC offer a great deal of charm. The downside to this planner is that you can spend a lot of money for all the bells and whistles, but will you really use all the washi tape, special pens, and fancy stickers? It also has an optional zip-up planner pouch where you can store and carry your planner and all the doodads.
Pros: Personalized, stylish, interchangeable. Lots of fun ways to customize and make it an art project.
Cons: Price – once you get all the bells and whistles, the price can come in at around $100. Lack of full-page days option and limited writing space keeps this from being a great overall option for someone who uses the planner for lists or a diary.
The Simplified Planner is exactly as described. The pages are simple with limited content and the planners have fewer options and offerings. This is a “Keep It Simple Stupid” type of planner. With just a few cover designs, you can order a daily or weekly version of the planner, and the pages are very simple in content. Half of the space on each day is allocated to a daily schedule and there’s a daily meal plan section at the bottom. You can purchase two sizes, either the 7x9 or 6x8. Each planner comes with a sturdy keepsake box.
Pros: Elegant and simple design with just enough little touches to make it better than store-bought. The thin pages make the planner fairly compact and portable.
Cons: The lines are narrow and space feels cramped for those with large handwriting.
Day Designer is a day planner with dinner, gratitude and top three To Do prompts on each page. This planner has three different versions: regular and “mini” hard cover version with coil binding, and a leather binder version more like the old school planners of yore. There are 11 very pretty hard covers and five leather folio options from which to choose. The benefit of the binder version is that optional add-on pages can be kept in the binder. Day Designer offers a number of free printable pages and a pdf version of their planner to try for free.
Pros: A lot of pretty and fun covers from which to choose. Pages are setup around schedule list and task list so lines are more widely spaced.
Cons: The optional add-on pages only go with the more expensive folio version.
Plum Paper could possibly be described as Erin Condren Light. The Plum Planner offers personalized interchangeable covers and a wide variety of designs. There are ten different versions of the planner ranging from student planners, fitness planners, hourly planners, horizontal hourly, week at a glance, plus notes. You can choose which month to start and buy up to 18 months at once. Further, you can add additional sections with budget, blog, even fitness planners and up to 70 additional pages for notes. The planner can be purchased in full-page 8.5x11 size or the smaller planner size of 7x9. Actually maybe Erin Condren should be described as Plum Paper Light.
Pros: Very reasonable price for the amount of customization, tons of options.
Cons: No metallic in any of the cover designs, thinner paper for more risk of bleed through.
The Inkwell Press planners are available online or in retail office supply stores like Office Depot. You can purchase a bound version or A5 pages that will fit into many folio-style ring planners. They come in vertical or horizontal weekly layouts. The Inkwell Press planners are some of the prettiest designs I’ve seen. They have a hard cover and thick pages inside. The fun, playful goal-setting pages, monthly planning, and habit trackers are beautiful and functional. They also have a set of quarterly planners with a soft cover and sewn binding. These planners break the year down quarterly so each quarter is lightweight and easily portable.
Pros: Beautiful design and lots of great goal trackers. Available in local stores.
Cons: No daily option. The coil binding is flimsy. Three out of four I saw in the store had bent coils.
The Passion Planner has the soft binding of an old-fashioned journal, with simple or engraved faux-leather covers. They come in dated or undated versions, in 8.5x11 size or 5.5”x8.5” in academic or classic calendars. Each contains a “passion plan” section for envisioning your future, month at a glance, and weekly vertical spreads with space at the bottom for lists. They’re bound journal style and have an attached page marker and elastic band closure.
Pros: Very reasonably priced, they’re pretty and lightweight with almost subversively simple designs.
Cons: Limited edition runs sell out quickly, only a few cover options, and no daily or horizontal layouts.
The Volt Planner is focused on the big picture and provides tools for tracking progress. It includes a section for creating a yearly theme, goals and achievements section, monthly overview, monthly goals, 30-day challenge (one for each month), weekly goals, and a weekly overview with large boxes for morning, noon, and night. The design is simple – pick your favorite shade of black – layflat with two attached page markers.
Pros: Great for tracking goals and habits, reminders to check in on goals, and weekly and monthly exercises to help maintain focus.
Cons: The weekly layout of vertical boxes seems constraining.
The Start Planner business planners come in hard cover (Hustle) or as folio binders (Fancy Pants). They are both 7.5” x 9”. They come in daily or weekly versions. Each planner contains business planning sections for finances, mileage, marketing, and social media. They also sell separate inserts for different professions, including teacher, realtor, direct sales, and photographer. The photography insert includes workflow checklists, goal setting, an order tracker, client gift list, and marketing/promotional sections with plans, costs, and due dates.
Pros: For those who run their business on paper, this would be a great help. The industry specific lists could be very helpful.
Cons: It seems overwhelming how much is crammed into this little planner. The add-on industry specific inserts only work in the folio binders.
The Hobonichi planner is a Japanese planner/journal. They come in two sizes – the Cousin A5 size, and the Original A6 size (approximately 4x6). The planner itself comes in plain paper binding and is intended to be inserted into a purchased cover. Each book comes with a month at a glance, week at a glance, and daily pages. All numerals, weekdays, and months are in English, the hourly sections are on a 24 hour clock. Pages are designed for maximum flexibility. All pages are covered in a very lightly printed grid, along one side is a column of very lightly printed hours of the day. There is an almost unnoticeable, but slightly darker line which could divide the page into two sections: one for a daily schedule, the other side for lists or notes. However all of these can easily be ignored and pages can be used for writing journals, lists, or making drawings. The pages are extremely thin so that a full year with a page per day, weekly layout, and monthly layout measures only about 1” thick and lays flat on every page. Hobonichi also sells adorable add-on stickers, tape, post-it notes, pens, and covers.
Pros: Extremely flexible planner that has weekly and daily pages all in one. Each planner comes with a fine point gel pen that writes black, blue, and red and is perfect for the thin paper and fine lines of the planner.
Cons: Shipping from Japan is expensive (it works best to consolidate your planner order with other people to spread shipping over multiple items). And if you like to use sharpie or watercolor on your pages, the thin paper may not be your friend.
Design Aglow has become the measure by which many photography templates are measured. In this case, their contribution is an elegant and classic studio planner which you can purchase as an online download to customize and print at home, or a 7.5 x 9” bound edition with fillable dates. Each planner comes with worksheets for big picture planning, goal setting, blog marketing tracker, social media tracker, workflow tracker, monthly task suggestions, month at a glance, week at a glance, and daily overview.
Pros: They’ve thought of everything so you don’t have to. If you buy the downloadable version, you can use it year after year.
Cons: The amount of information can be overwhelming and they’re not here to fill it in for you.
The National Association of Professional Child Photographers (NAPCP) has published it’s own downloadable marketing planner. Available online, this planner is here to do one job: help you create an annual marketing plan. The planner offers a few pages of personal, financial, and professional goal setting and then jumps right into the marketing plans. It includes informational pages about types of marketing techniques, the lifecycle of a marketing promotion, and an example promotion. Each month has a month overview with major US holidays already marked, a monthly marketing checklist, monthly social media tracker, blank marketing campaigns, client workflow, and monthly do-do list. The planner comes with an implementation and use guide to help you get going. As a fun add-on, the beginning of each month has a coloring page with a quote.
Pros: This is as simple and marketing-focused as it gets.
Cons: No bound edition.
Colorvale’s downloadable photographer planner includes a boatload of content. Year at a glance, session packing list, monthly goals and objectives tracking, workflow tracker, social media schedule, social media tracker, task list, customized To Do’s, monthly planner, weekly planner, and a number of other items. Colorvale also has a large number of add-on’s such as a location scouting form, daily responsibilities checklist, Pinterest checklist, print and product ordering forms, advertising tracker, social media schedule, session checklists, and more.
Pros: Tons of content which you can choose to print or not.
Cons: Tons of content can be overwhelming. They also seem to have discontinued the bound version, this is download only.
The Blank Notebook
When all your plans and schedules are online, maybe what you need is a place to simply make a list or take notes.
Pros: Inexpensive and easily accessible.
Cons: It’s not actually a planner.
What's your favorite planner?
Do you have a favorite that I missed? Please share in the comments.
What did I buy for 2017? I’m saving that for my next post.