Using ShootProof with Light Blue at Boggio Studios

Earlier this year, we launched Light Blue 6.1 and were delighted to be able to introduce integration with ShootProof. ShootProof provides stylish online galleries that beautifully showcase your work, and intuitive sales tools that help you to sell your images to clients. They’re also leading the way with allowing developers like us to automatically gather information about customer orders. With this new integration, anyone who subscribes to our online services can have notifications of new ShootProof orders automatically sent through to the Inbox in Light Blue, from where you can seamlessly import them, without having to re-enter anything.

Our friends at ShootProof got together with London photographer Julia Boggio recently to talk about how both Light Blue and ShootProof are key parts of her business, and how Light Blue streamlines all of the invoicing, bookkeeping, and management processes involved in dealing with ShootProof orders.

If you’d like to find out more about Light Blue’s integration with ShootProof, Ian’s recorded a short tutorial that walks you through how to set it up and start receiving ShootProof orders in Light Blue’s Inbox.

Importing purchases from a spreadsheet

It’s all very well recording your income, but unless you also have your expenditure in the same system then you can’t see how profitable your business is.

The advantage of managing your photography business in Light Blue is that everything linked together. It allows you to quickly & easily run reports on the financial state of your business, something we discussed in more detail in an earlier article.

You may have previously recorded your business’ expenditure in another system, or perhaps you’re using some receipt scanning software that produces a spreadsheet of purchases. Alternatively, you may have recurring expenditure in the form of subscriptions or regular purchases.

We introduced a really handy feature in Light Blue 6 which allows you to create many purchase records in one go by importing from a spreadsheet file (.csv). It’s a huge time saver when you’ve got lots of expenditure records to add at once.

Here’s an example of how to format your CSV file, you’ll notice that each line of the spreadsheet represents a new purchase, with the details about that purchase recorded in separate columns.

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The formatting of dates and numbers is quite important. You must make sure that dates are written as dd/mm/yyyy (separated with slashes and using 4 figures for the year). You don’t need to include the currency symbol for financial amounts, just the number.

Importing this spreadsheet into Light Blue is really straightforward:

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You can choose which fields in Light Blue will correspond to the columns in your CSV file & drag to re-order them:

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Once you click import, Light Blue will create a new purchase record for each of the lines in the CSV file, as well as a payment record for the date that you indicated the purchase was paid for.

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All of your expenditure data is now in one place with just a few clicks. It’s ideal if you’re moving from an old system or have a record of your purchases in another format.

Light Blue 6.1.3

We regularly release free updates to Light Blue that tweak existing features and fix bugs. Today, we released Light Blue 6.1.3 for Mac OS X and Windows.

If you’re one of our subscribers, or if you’ve bought a standalone licence for Light Blue 6, you can download this latest update by using the ‘Check For Updates’ command from within Light Blue. If you’re using a Mac, you’ll find this command in the ‘Light Blue’ menu. If you’re using Windows, it will be in the ‘Help’ menu.

Light Blue 6.1.3 includes the following changes:

  • Forms that have been submitted but not imported into Light Blue can now be printed via the linked shoot’s Activity panel.
  • Fixed a problem where some mail-merge tags that contained special characters could fail to work properly in contracts.
  • We’ve changed the “Your details” heading in our sample wedding booking forms to “Wedding couple’s details”.
  • You can now use all of the usual date options when using the ‘Email Date’ field in the query dialog.
  • Appointments that have been created but not linked to any other records can now be edited via the calendar.
  • Fixed a problem that could prevent our licence agreement from being displayed on Windows.
  • Fixed a problem that could occur when trying to link a shoot that doesn’t exist to a purchase item.
  • Fixed a problem that could prevent you from importing an MPA Cherubs data file that contains inconsistent data.
  • When you delete incoming data via the Inbox, any associated form is now always deleted as well.
  • Fixed a problem where, on Windows, changing the price list in a sale or quote item dialog failed to take effect until the dialog was closed and reopened.
  • We’ve fixed any unexpected quits that have been reported to us.

We’ve also been continuing to update our client portal, and have recently made the following changes live:

  • Required fields are more prominent and, if they haven’t all been filled in, an explanation is included next to the disabled ‘Submit’ button.
  • ‘Wedding Couple’ controls on forms now always require two contacts to be added.
  • Added a drop-down menu to time controls, to make it easier for clients to enter times correctly.
  • When a client adds new contacts to a form, they now appear in the correct order in Light Blue Inbox and in the email that’s sent to you.
  • When using a popup contact form, clicking the ‘Submit’ button scrolls you back to the top of the page to ensure that the thank you page is visible.
  • Popup contact forms are now reloaded if you close and reopen them.

One-to-one training and consultancy

To help photographers get the most out of Light Blue, we offer a range of training and support resources to suit a wide variety of needs:

Some photographers prefer a different approach, so we also offer a one-to-one service that allows us to offer training, setup, or consultancy that’s specifically tailored to your needs. We use screen-sharing software that allows us to work with you and your copy of Light Blue wherever you are in the world, and the session can be customised to cover anything that you need help with. For example, recent sessions have included:

  • Helping photographers set up all of the resources and processes for easily handling enquiries and managing your shoots.
  • Helping identify what information you find useful for running your business, including setting up helpful reports & queries.
  • In-depth training on specific aspects of using Light Blue effectively for your business, such as how to handle specific invoicing and bookkeeping scenarios.
  • Training for new employees, to quickly bring them up to speed on using Light Blue effectively.

Prices for one-to-one training and consultancy start at just £35 (plus VAT, where applicable) for a half hour session. If you’d like to book a session, or to discuss the possibilities, please get in touch via email.

Compatibility with macOS Sierra and iOS 10

In a couple of weeks, Apple are going to be releasing macOS Sierra (yes, they really have stopped called it “Mac OS X”) and iOS 10. Because many of our customers like to upgrade their Macs, iPhones, and iPads as soon as new operating systems become available, we’ve been testing the latest versions of our apps with both new operating systems.

The good news is that Light Blue 6.1.2 seems to work well with macOS Sierra, and our new iOS app appears to be working well with iOS 10. However, we can never be entirely sure that Apple won’t change something before the release of either operating system, so please read on for the important health warning…

Health warning

As with all major operating system updates, it is a very sensible idea to be cautious about updating all of your computers and mobile devices at the same time. Although our testing of Light Blue 6 and version 3 of our iOS app has been positive so far, there is every chance that Apple could change something that breaks compatibility or that we’ve missed something because we can’t test every conceivable combination of devices and settings.

If you rely on Light Blue to run your business, we would therefore recommend holding off from updating your operating system as soon as the latest versions of macOS and iOS come out. At the very least, if you absolutely must update on day one, make sure that you have at least one computer and iOS device on the ‘old’ operating system until you’ve had a chance to test that all of the features that you depend on are fully functional.

Also, please note that our testing has been has been focussed on the latest versions of our desktop and mobile app. The vast majority of our customers are already using Light Blue 6.1.2 and version 3 of our iOS app, and if you’re using older version of either the desktop or mobile app then please update to the latest version to ensure that you’re able to take advantage of all of the new features and bug fixes that we’ve been adding. You can update the desktop app by using the ‘Check for updates’ command (in the ‘Light Blue’ menu if you’re on a Mac, or in the ‘Help’ menu if you’re using it on Windows), and you can update the iOS app via the App Store.

Light Blue for iOS, version 3.0

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We’re pleased to announce a major update to our iOS app, Light Blue for iOS 3.0, which brings huge improvements to Light Blue for iPhone and iPad users.

Helping you to run your photography business on the go

Version 3 of our mobile app has been rewritten to be faster, easier to use, and bring across some of the most popular features from the Mac OS X and Windows versions of Light Blue. The feedback from our beta testers has been excellent, and we’re very happy to be able to give all of our customers access to the new app today.

As well as a comprehensive redesign, one of the major improvements in the new app is that it syncs your data without interrupting your ability to use the app. This means that, if you need to look something up quickly, you can just dip into the app and do so without having to wait for it to finish syncing your latest changes. It also means that, as soon as you make any changes, they’re synced straight back up to your Light Blue account without you having to remember to manually trigger a sync.

Of course, syncing the app with your account requires an internet connection, but connectivity can be hard to come by when you’re out on a shoot or at a meeting. The beauty of Light Blue being an app rather than a service that you use via a website is that all of your data is stored on your iPhone or iPad, and that you can carry on using it even when you don’t have an internet connection or find yourself with poor data coverage. Any changes that you make while you’re offline are saved locally, and when you get back into mobile or wifi coverage then you can just launch the app again to sync any changes you made while you were offline up to your account.

Our new mobile app includes many new and improved features, but here’s a quick overview of some of the most important additions.

Calendar

Adding a calendar view was one of the most popular feature requests for our mobile app, and this update includes a really helpful one. The calendar gives you a great overview of your bookings and enquiries, and brings over all of the colour-coding of events that you set up in the desktop version of Light Blue so you can quickly see what kind of bookings you’ve got on any given day.

You can also add events directly to the calendar, which makes it easy to search through your diary for an available date and book new enquiries in when you’re out of the office.

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Task manager

Light Blue’s task manager is now available in our mobile app, allowing you to keep on top of your to-do list when you’re out and about. You can also schedule in new tasks (including using workflows to quickly add a whole series of tasks to a shoot), so if inspiration strikes when you’re out and about then you can quickly set up reminders from within the app.

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Contracts & forms

One of Light Blue’s most popular features is our online contract & booking form system, and our new mobile app lets you publish contracts and forms from your iPhone or iPad. You can have these contracts & forms emailed to your client, just like you do from the desktop app, or you can open them up right there on your device.

So, if you’re at a meeting with a client and they decide to book you, you can add one of your contract templates to that client’s shoot, open up the published contract on your iPad, and hand it over to your client so that they can sign it right there and then. Our beta testers tell us that doing this with the Apple Pencil and an iPad Pro is particularly impressive in client meetings.

Because our online contracts and forms are hosted on our servers, you’ll need an internet connection to be able to use these features in our mobile app.

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Publishing invoices

Our new app can also make use of Light Blue’s online invoice payment service, so you can create invoices in the app and send them to your client for payment online.

This great feature allows you invoice a client for a job as soon as you’ve finished it, maybe even before you’ve left the location. You’ve got access to all of the price lists that you’ve set up in the desktop app, so it’s quick and easy to build an invoice without having to go back into the office.

Inbox

Light Blue’s Inbox is used to turn messages you’ve received from your contact form into a new enquiry, accept signed contracts, and process payments that have been made online. All of these features have been brought over to our new mobile app, which allows you to handle even more of your admin quickly and easily while you’re on the road.

For example, if you’ve got your contact form set up to send new messages to your Light Blue account, you can use the Inbox on your iPhone to create a new Shoot record when a new enquiry comes in. You can then use one of the email templates that you’ve set up in the desktop version of Light Blue to quickly respond to your prospective client by creating a new email in Apple’s Mail app.

One feature that we haven’t been able to bring across from the desktop app’s Inbox is importing emails, because iOS apps are tightly controlled and isolated from each other and therefore we can’t import emails from the Mail app. However, we’re working on plans that might eventually allow us to add this feature in a future update.

And much more…

These are just a few of the most important improvements that we’ve made in our new iOS app. You can find out more, and see it in action, in some of the new video tutorials that we’ve recorded:

We’ll also be going into more detail in our webinars. You can find a list of our forthcoming webinars, plus recordings of previous ones, in the Help section of our website.

How to get it

Our new iOS app is available to all of our subscribers via the App Store. You can either use this link to go straight to the app, or search for it by its full name: “Light Blue – business management software for photographers”. If you already have the old app installed, you can upgrade to the new version via the App Store (or if you’ve turned on automatic updates, it might already have been upgraded for you!).

The app is a free download from the App Store, but requires a subscription to our online services. Each iPhone and iPad you connect to your Light Blue account counts towards the number of devices on your account. For example, if you want to use Light Blue on a desktop computer, a laptop, an iPhone, and an iPad, that’s a total of four devices so you’ll need to be on our plan that allows you to use up to five devices on your account.

You can upgrade your subscription to add more devices by logging into your account on our website and using the “change your number of devices” link.

What about Android?

Although most of our customers seem to prefer using iPhones and iPads, we’re very keen to make Light Blue available on as many mobile devices as possible.

Previously, it’s been very hard for a small team like ours to produce apps for Android as well as iOS. However, one of the main reasons why we’ve undertaken this huge project to rewrite our iOS app is because we wanted to lay the groundwork for making Light Blue available on Android.

You can read more about our plans for Android in this blog post.

Bringing Light Blue to Android

Although most of our customers seem to prefer using iPhones and iPads, we’re very keen to make Light Blue available on as many mobile devices as possible. Currently, it’s only available on iOS, but we are planning to bring Light Blue to Android.

Our original iOS app was written by a team of external developers and, although it had some useful features, both us and our customers had a long list of frustrations with it.

One of our key frustrations was that the app was written in a way that would make it hard to bring it to Android. Android development is already more problematic than building iOS apps for a number of reasons, including the wide variety of devices that it runs on, the fact that many of those devices aren’t able to be upgraded to the latest versions of Android, and that we weren’t able to reuse any of the code that we’d built for our Mac OS X, Windows, or iOS apps. For a small team like ours, we have to concentrate our resources on building features that benefit the majority of our customers, and that meant prioritising iOS ahead of Android because Android development was so much more difficult for us.

Our new iOS app has been developed entirely in-house, and rewritten from the ground up. This has allowed us to rebuild it in a way that should make it more feasible for us to build an Android app that shares many of the same features. Once we’ve finished launching our new iOS app and the forthcoming Light Blue 7 desktop app, we’re hoping to be able to start working on bringing our mobile app to Android.

As always, we can’t make any promises about future features, including release dates. Building our new iOS app was a huge project, and bringing it to Android is going to be an even bigger challenge. There’s a lot that can go wrong with a project like this, and we’re going to be dependent on a lot of factors that are outside our control.

However, we want to remind our Android-using customers that they’re important to us, and that we’re keen to make sure that you’ll be able to access Light Blue via your mobile devices. We’re working hard towards that goal, and our new iOS app is a big step towards that.

Exporting data from Light Blue

Throughout this short series of articles, we’ve been covering how to make the most out of the information that you’ve already entered into Light Blue.

There’s a few different ways of finding useful information that’s already in Light Blue, both with Quick Queries and creating your own more specific searches using the Query Dialog. Once you’ve found the data you’re looking for, you can step back and look at the bigger picture using List View.

But there’s even more that you can do to make the most out of the valuable data in Light Blue, and in this article we’ll have a look at exporting information from Light Blue for use with third-party tools.

Finding the information you need

Before you export anything from Light Blue, you’ll need to find the records that you’re interested in. These could be within one of the Quick Queries (the saved searches in each of the main sections in Light Blue), a more detailed search that you’ve performed using the Query Dialog, or the result of one of the Custom Reports you’ve saved.

Simple PDFs

Clicking the Print/Send in the toolbar while you’re using List View allows you to produce a simple PDF of the results of your search. It’s read-only, but that’s still useful for getting a snapshot of your data.

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More flexibility…

There may be occasions when you want to export a specific set of fields from your search, perhaps to import into a spreadsheet in Excel.

Clicking File > Export… opens a dialog similar to the Customise List View dialog we looked at in the last article. Here you can specify which fields of data you’d like to export (and in which order).

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That will produce a CSV file (a simple spreadsheet) of the selected information from the records in your list.

You may be exporting the same information on a regular basis, and want to keep the format consistent. Saving a field set means that you can load the selected fields (and their order) again in the future, so you don’t have to remember which fields you were exporting.

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If you want to send out a large email newsletter to a list of your contacts, using a service like Mail Chimp for example, you can export a list of email addresses at the click of a button. This produces a CSV file which you can upload/import into whichever application you’re using.

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Finally, when preparing information for your accountant, there’s a really handy ‘Export Financial Information’ command. Once you’ve specified the period you’d like to cover (last financial year, for example), Light Blue will save a number of CSVs which you can send over to your accountant, without having to spend ages setting anything up!

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Light Blue making your life easier

Because all of your information is in one place, making use of it is really simple. There’s no need to spend ages collating the data, to be copying and pasting things, or doing anything complicated, and because reports & queries pull up your live data, you’re always seeing the most up to date information.

You can use everything you’ve entered into Light Blue to give you an overview of how your business is performing and where you need to focus your efforts so that you can hit your goals!

Light Blue’s List View & Custom Reports

In this short series of articles, we’ve been covering how to make the most out of the information that you’ve already entered into Light Blue. We’ve previously looked at different ways of finding useful information that’s already in Light Blue, both with Quick Queries and creating your own more specific searches using the Query Dialog.

That data is really useful and can tell you a lot about how your business is doing. In this article we’ll explore how we can step back and look at the bigger picture using List View.

More than just a list of records

When you view the results of a query, you can see all the records that fall into that found set in either Detail View (the default), or List View. List View is a really good way of seeing a big group of records all at once, and the totals and averages that it provides are great for quickly understanding your data.

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When you go into List View, Light Blue will show you a default set of columns, but you can choose to customise this to display the fields that are relevant to you.

For example, you may be interested to see how profitable all your shoots from the previous month were. Having queried for those records, you can now customise the list view (by clicking Window > Customise List View) to show columns of the most relevant information.

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Grouping records together

In List View, you can view the found records as one big list, or you can group them to give you a more helpful view of your data.

For example, it’s really useful to get an idea of how your bookings are doing year on year, so running a query for all of your confirmed or completed shoots in last year, this year and next year is a good starting point.

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While you can sort all of these records by their start date, it can be pretty hard to see where one year ends and another begins, and without totals you’d need to count them up in your head.

Grouping the list view by year means that there’s a clear separation between shoots from one year and another.

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You’ll notice that we’ve now got sub-totals and averages for each group, essentially a list within a list. At a glance we can now easily compare how one year has performed against another.

Grouping records together isn’t limited to just one criteria, either. If you wanted to group your shoots first by year and then by enquiry source, that gives a useful picture of how many shoots you’ve booked for each year and also which types of marketing are proving most effective.

Saving custom reports

There’ll be some cases where you want to run a one-off analysis like this, but plenty of other cases where you might want to keep an eye on a particular set of figures regularly.

Light Blue allows you to save a query and the customised list view as a custom report, so it’s ready with a couple of clicks. It’s a huge time-saver for anyone who’s interested in getting the most out of their data.

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Whenever you want to re-run your report, you’ll find it in the Custom Reports submenu of the Reports menu.

Doing even more with your Light Blue data…

There’s even more that you can do to make the most out of the valuable data in Light Blue, and in the next article we’ll have a look at exporting information from Light Blue for use with third-party tools.

Using the Quick Queries to find useful information in Light Blue
Using the Query dialog to dig deep into your data
Exporting Data from Light Blue for use with third-party tools

Using the Query dialog to dig deep into your data

This is the second instalment of a short series of articles that will be covering how to make the most out of the information that you’ve already entered into Light Blue. That data can tell you a lot about how your business is doing, and help you to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

The great thing about using Light Blue is that all of the information that you need for this is in one place. In the first article, we talked about Quick Queries, which are saved searches of your current data. These queries are automatically updated and show all of the relevant records that match each saved search.

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Using the Query dialog to dig deep into your data

Compared to using Quick Queries, Light Blue’s Query dialog allows you to be much more specific about the information that you’re searching for, and construct your own queries. These queries can be as simple or detailed as you like, and all of our Quick Queries were built in the Query dialog and can be loaded into it.

For example, you may be interested in targeting some of your clients for a particular promotion. For example, all of your portrait clients who’ve spent more than £500. You can narrow down the selection of records that the Query dialog returns by adding extra criteria, as you can see in this screenshot.

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Using advanced mode for more detailed queries

 

In most cases, when you’re building a query and want to add extra criteria, you’re adding them to narrow down the selection of records that Light Blue will find for you. In our first example, we started off with all of our portrait shoots, and then narrowed that down by specifying that we were only interested in those portraits shoots that also spent more than £500.

This is an example of what’s know as an “and” search, where you’re looking for records that match all of your criteria. You also have the option of adding more advanced options to your queries, including “or” operators and grouping parts of your query together using brackets.

We’ll go into more detail on these advanced features in a future article, but for now here’s an example of how you could modify our example query to search for portrait shoots that spent more than £500 or wedding shoots that spent more than £1,000.

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Using an existing Quick Query as a starting point for your own custom queries

You may find that our existing Quick Queries are helpful, but that you’d like to refine the search a little more. With the Query dialog, you can load an existing Quick Query to use as a starting point, and then add more criteria to your search.

 

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The “Stale Enquiries” query is shows you all of the unconfirmed shoots that first got in touch more than a month ago, but don’t have any more outstanding tasks.

However, let’s say that you’re only interested in a specific type of shoot you could add that criteria to the query.

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Saving queries saves you time!

Everyone runs their photography business in their own particular way, and that means that the information that’s important to you is likely to be different to whatever’s important to the next photographer. Light Blue allows you to add your own queries to your list of Quick Queries, and therefore makes it easy to keep an eye on whatever’s important to you.

To do that, first build your query in the Query dialog. When you’re happy with it, click the “Save Query” button and give your query a name.

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More detailed analysis…

So far, we’ve talked about using Quick Queries and the Query dialog to find a selection of records. In the next article in the series, we’ll look at how you can use the List View & Custom Reports to analyse data in more detail.

Using the Quick Queries to find useful information in Light Blue
Using List View & Custom Reports to analyse data in more detail
Exporting Data from Light Blue for use with third-party tools