Paperless Organization For Photographers: NeatWorks + Fuji Scansnap S1300 Mini-Review

Fuji ScanSnap S1300 - Paperless Organization

The Fuji ScanSnap S1300 – an awesome little scanner to help you go paperless!

Is paper cluttering up your life? Does it take up space on your desk and in your mind? Do you ever have a difficult time finding documents or receipts that you need? Then now is the time to get organized and go paperless! Don’t worry, it’s a lot easier than you might think!

Why Go Paperless?

Paperless organization is better organization. Even if you’re the most organized person with paper you still can’t beat the search capabilities of a paperless system. On top of the ability to easily find documents and receipts when you need them, it’s also easier to organize digital files vs. paper. And one of the biggest reasons to go paperless is that you probably already have a lot of electronic documents and receipts from online purchases. It just makes sense to use a system that organizes everything together!

How Going Paperless Can Help Photographers

Photographers have a lot of paper to keep track of! Here are a few things a paperless system could keep track of for you:

  • Contracts
  • Model releases
  • Vendor contact information received from business cards
  • Camera equipment warranty information
  • Instructions and manuals
  • Client invoices
  • Client information pdfs
  • Software licenses
  • Travel documents
  • Tax documents and other business documents
  • And of course business receipts!
You won’t realize how much paper can clutter up your business until you get rid of it!

How To Get Organized: NeatWorks

Neat Works - Paperless Organization

(Update!: See end of post) NeatWorks is available for Mac and Neat Software is available for Windows (note that they seem to be in the middle of changing the name of the program to “Neat Software”, but it is still sometimes referred to as NeatWorks or NeatReceipts. A bit confusing!).

It’s a super easy to use program that allows you to keep track of all your documents. Using the Neat scanner (or other compatible scanners) you can scan documents and receipts directly into the program, where they are stored as pdfs.

Once a document is finished scanning the Neat Software automatically applies OCR (optical character recognition) making the entire document searchable. If you’re scanning receipts the software will even try to extract the vendor name, item total, and even the tax amount (though I haven’t found it to be super effective at this).

Paperless Organization - NeatWorks

Instead of printing you can save receipts and documents directly into NeatWorks.

One really cool feature of the NeatWorks program is that it integrates with your printer drivers. So for example, say you just made a purchase online and then received a receipt by email. All you need to do is print that email to save it to your records. But instead of printing with your printer, you can choose to just add the receipt to the Neat Software. This is a super effective way of organizing all the electronic documents that you have to deal with! You can also simply import pdfs and jpegs directly into the Neat Software.

NeatWorks Neat Software

This is an older example screenshot of NeatWorks, in newer versions the basic design still remains the same.

Once your documents have been scanned or imported into Neat Software then you can organize them into folders (and you can nest folders for further organization). All the receipts are stored as pdfs in your Neat Library. And it’s easy to export just a single document or whole folders.

Tip: Make sure you regularly backup the Neat Library file (which contains all the pdf files). I have the Library file stored in our Dropbox for some offsite protection, Time Machine is also set to back things up, and finally once a month (after I do the scans) I backup the library to an external hard drive. I’m usually paranoid about backups, but when it comes to important business documents I’m super paranoid and don’t mind some extra backups!

Note: Neat just recently introduced a cloud version of their software which allows you to scan in receipts right from photos you’ve taken with your iPhone or iPad. I haven’t tried it out yet, but I find that their business plan is a bit too pricey at $25/month, compared to the standalone software price of $80.

Fuji ScanSnap S1300 Mini-Review

Fuji ScanSnap S1300 - Paperless Organization

Another shot of the Fuji ScanSnap S1300 with paper feed closed down. Shown with iPhone for scale.

We use Neat Software in conjunction with the Fuji ScanSnap S1300. They’ve discontinued the S1300 but a new version is available — the Fuji Scansnap S1300i. The new version looks pretty much identical but can scan more pages per minute compared to the previous one.

Neat does make their own scanners (a mobile version and a desktop version) but if you check the reviews for these scanners on Amazon they’re not rated well and largely refer to the ScanSnap models as a fantastic alternative.

Here are some of the features that make the ScanSnap S1300 awesome:

  • It’s small in size – about 30cm by 10 cm
  • Easy to setup
  • Integrated document feeder – holds up to 10 sheets of paper and smartly guides the paper through the scanner.
  • Easy to use – press one button to scan the document right into your Neat Software inbox
  • Double sided scanning – scans both sides at once!
  • Scans up to 8 pages per minute (The S1300i does 12)
  • Connects through USB
  • Powered by wall outlet power adapter or you can connect a second usb cable from the scanner to your computer (which is better for mobile scanning, but it takes a bit longer to scan)
  • The quality of the scans is fantastic (scans up up to 600dpi)
  • The original box is quite sturdy and has a useful carrying handle!

I’ve really enjoyed how easy this scanner is to use. Loading documents and receipts is super simple and one button scanning makes things a breeze. It scans quickly and works seamlessly with the Neat Software.

One drawback of the scanner is the cost. At around $260 it’s a pricey investment. But if you commit to using it in your paperless workflow, it’s totally worth it!

Our Paperless Workflow

It’s a pretty straightforward process, relying mainly on NeatWorks, but I’ll list it out here to show how easy it is.

1. Throughout the month when we receive any sort of important electronic document or receipt we immediately print it directly into NeatWorks.

2. At the end of the month I scan in all the paper documents and receipts we accumulate throughout the month. This includes bills, invoices and the like. The only thing I don’t scan is personal receipts (though we do keep those, just in case!).

3. I then file away all the paper into one small filing box which is emptied into a bankers box at the end of each year. I keep business documents and receipts separated from personal documents and receipts.

4. With the NeatWork inbox full of different documents, I sort them into the proper folders I’ve setup.

The whole process of scanning, filing, and sorting probably takes about an hour a month.

Other Paperless Tips

1. Keep in mind that it’s not just receipts that you can use the Neat Software to organize. As mentioned in the list at the top of this post, the software is great at keeping track of a wide variety of documents.

2. Reduce the amount of paper being sent to you. Try to have bills and statements emailed to you instead. You then skip the step of scanning it in.

3. If you like to write notes or brainstorm on paper then switch to Evernote and Xmind! (http://photographyconcentrate.com/organizing-your-ideas-xmind-evernote/

Go Paperless Today!

Having good paperless organization is going to lift a weight off your shoulders. It’s easy to do and is going to save you a ton of time in the long run!

UPDATE September 21, 2012: Neat recently updated their software from 3.5.7 to 4.0. I attempted this upgrade several times before reverting back to 3.5.7. The 4.0 update required signing up for a neat cloud account (which wouldn’t connect through most of the attempts I made). Most of the time I couldn’t even get to my receipts library, but when it did load it took much longer (up to a minute) compared with the snappy 3.5.7. I’m not sure what’s going on, but I would recommending holding off on the upgrade if you can. If anyone has any experience with the upgrade let me know in the comments!

Do you have any tips for going paperless? Share them in the comments below!

Rob Lim

Hi there, I’m Rob! I’m a photographer and head ninja here at Photography Concentrate. I love all things photography: shooting, teaching and always learning more! If I’m not reading up on the latest photography news, or studying a technique, I’m probably reading a book or planning our next adventure!

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Comments

2 Comments // Leave a comment

  1. Hi Rob & Lauren,
    Do you have some advice/tutorial on learning how to better use Aperture photo editing software?
    Many thanks
    Best….
    Param Sandhu

    • Lauren Lim says:

      Hi Param! Unfortunately we don’t have experience with Aperture. We use Lightroom for all our editing. We’ve tried Aperture but just felt it wasn’t as well thought out as Lightroom. Sorry we can’t help you there!

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