What’s the one thing that you would do to make yourself stand out to your clients?
Running a successful photography business relies on delivering a great service to your clients in a timely manner. There’s many steps involved in doing that and it’s important to make sure that you know what your process is, including any special flourishes that help you to give your clients a great experience.
We spoke to Jennifer Sinclair about the journey she takes her clients on, and how Light Blue helps her to do that.
We speak to wedding and portrait specialist Suzanne Black about how to conduct viewings remotely without losing that crucial personal touch.
When it comes to viewing sessions, we’re all familiar with the ideal scenario.
You invite clients to your studio at a mutually convenient time, put the kettle on, pop some biscuits on a stylish plate and spend a few hours together selecting and curating the perfect set of images.
Impressed by the personal service, professional advice and comfortable rapport, they place a decent-sized order and say they’ll be in touch about booking a future shoot.
But what happens if you can’t physically get together? Whether that’s because of the challenges posed by a global pandemic or, in simpler times, just due to geography, there is a solution.
Here established photographer Suzanne shares her insight into conducting virtual viewings, a way of coming together that still keeps it personal.
The Different Viewing Session Options
When your studio is on a farm in the middle of the beautiful Scottish countryside, it’s likely your clients will live many miles away.
This is exactly Suzanne’s challenge. Unless clients are reasonably local or returning to the area on holiday, arranging in-person viewings can prove difficult.
But she’ll always make them happen whenever possible saying: “I’m a massive fan of in-person sales. As an all-round experience, sitting down together and going through the images in person is just the best customer service you can provide. You can easily show them the different options of how those images will work together and chat through ideas.
“Unfortunately, my customer base and location mean that’s not always possible. A lot of my wedding clients will come back to Scotland on holiday and book in a shoot with me, but they don’t then have the time to do an in-person viewing a week later, or they’ve already gone back home by the time the images are ready.”
One option is to send your clients a web gallery. They can browse through the images independently and place their order with minimal collaboration.
But this has various drawbacks. As Suzanne says: “I think you’re doing your customer a disservice by sending them a web gallery. It’s confusing, impersonal, difficult to compare images and less convenient to ask me for advice.
“I’ve experimented a bit with trying to pre-sell images and products through web galleries but I just found that it wasn’t working. The personal connection just isn’t there.”
So now, for any customers who can’t make their way to Suzanne’s stunning but remote studio, she hosts a virtual sales session.
How to Run a Virtual Viewing Session
When it comes to successful virtual viewing sessions for photographers, Suzanne believes that recreating the in-person version as closely as possible is the key.
“I pretty much run it exactly as I would do if a customer came to my studio,” she explains. “Except of course, they’re sat at home and not next to me.”
The first step is to plan a time when there’ll be minimal distractions: children in bed, work put aside and nothing cooking on the hob.
“The aim is to create a completely relaxed environment,” says Suzanne. “That way, everyone can focus on the important job ahead.”
Suzanne preps the session in the same way she would an in-person viewing. So customers will have had the price list in advance, outlining all their options for prints, frames and albums.
She then sends them a Zoom link to an online meeting which starts with a chat about how the session went and what they’re looking for in terms of images.
“This is the ideal time to reconnect, a bit of a ‘getting to know you again’ exercise to re-establish rapport. After that, I screen share through ProSelect and run the viewing session as I would if they were sitting next to me in the studio.
“We can chat through the images together and discuss options for frames and albums. They’ve proved to be very successful.”
One major benefit to clients being at their home is the chance to see the spaces where they’re planning to place images.
Suzanne expands on this: “Quite often I’ll ask customers to send me a few pictures of wall spaces they have in mind for images. The challenge you have with that is they send you an average picture or they’re not very sure where would be best or they don’t remember to do it.
“During a virtual viewing, I’ll say so we’re thinking about this image as part of a multi-frame and ask where in the house they have in mind. As they’re on their laptop or iPad, they can then ‘take me’ to the wall.
“I can see the overall style of the room as well as the available space. And I might say, ‘Yes, I really like that but have you thought about an acrylic there as it’s a quite a modern room that you’re in.’ Or if their décor is more traditional, I can suggest that a really nice distressed wooden frame would fit better.
“It’s fun to really get involved in the design process and bounce ideas around. And it results in great customer service that’s uniquely personal.”
How Virtual Viewings Impact on Sales
You may be concerned that a virtual viewing will lead to lower sales than an in-person appointment. But Suzanne has found that’s not the case.
She says: “On average, I sell two to three times more at an in-person viewing session than a web gallery approach. When I started doing virtual sales, I naturally wondered where they would fit in. Will customers spend less or more?
“Generally, I’m pleased to say I’ve found they’re spending the same as if they were sitting beside me. Another plus point of using tech to help bolster sales.”
On the subject of sales, Suzanne advises always being open and transparent about prices. Her customers always get a full price list at the time they first enquire.
“I don’t believe in hiding prices from people,” she says. “My clients always know what their options are and how much they cost. A viewing session could easily be wasted if you’re not upfront about your prices.
“This is especially useful at virtual viewings as they can easily and discreetly check the price of an album, for example, without having to ask me, which some people may be nervous about doing.
“So they may go into the session thinking they only want a couple of prints but as we go through the process and see how images can work together, they’re comfortable changing their mind as they know how much it will cost.”
Suzanne’s approach proves that when an in-person viewing session simply isn’t possible, the virtual version can still deliver exceptional customer service and sales.
Discover how Light Blue can help manage your viewing session schedules.
We’ve made some small changes to the way that Light Blue’s online invoices and emails work. We’ll be announcing some big new features in the coming weeks but these changes have been made now so that we can start beta testing those other new features.
Our online invoice receipt emails now include a link to view the paid invoice online, rather than including a copy of the invoice in the email itself. There are two main reasons for this change: it works better with a wider range of email clients; and it also protects your clients’ privacy if they’re using an email provider that scrapes the contents of their emails for information.
We’ve also changed the information that’s displayed when your client views a paid invoice. Instead of just displaying your “thanks for paying this invoice” message, we’re displaying all of the details of the invoice so that your client can refer back to it or print it for their records.
Client portal emails
The other new feature that you’ll notice is that copies of emails that are sent for Light Blue’s contact forms, questionnaires, contracts, and online invoices are now recorded in Light Blue’s Outbox and the Activity panel for the relevant records. We’re still CCing a copy of these emails to you so that you get an instant notification when your client has done something, but this gives you a clearer record of all of your communications with your client.
As always, we’d love to hear from you if you’ve got any feedback about our new features. And if you’re on our list of beta testers, expect to hear more from us in the coming weeks 🙂
We make tools to help photographers to manage & run successful businesses. As a small, independent business ourselves we recognise the challenges that our customers face and we’re keen to help.
In March, we offered to reduce the cost of Light Blue subscriptions by 50% for any of our customers who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown. We’re now in mid-May and it’s clear that we’re not out of the woods yet and that our customers would still benefit from a helping hand. That’s why we’ve taken the decision to extend our financial help on subscriptions for another three months.
If you’ve already had this discount applied to your account then there’s nothing you need to do: you will continue to pay your subscription at the reduced rate for a further three months (i.e. six months in total).
Our help and support isn’t just financial. We’re working hard to make sure that our customers are in the best possible shape to bounce back as things start to get back to normal:
We’ve published a series of guides to help with some specific challenges that you might be facing right now.
We’re continually offering free 1:1 screen sharing sessions to help you to get more out of Light Blue and to be ready to start working with your clients again.
On Wednesday this week, we’re holding a special day of screen sharing sessions where you can chat with Tom, Ian, or Dani to get help and advice. Click here to book a meeting!
We want you to be able to carry on using all of Light Blue’s tools to ensure that you make the most of the opportunities that come along, whether that’s nurturing your existing clients with automated messages, helping postponed shoots to reschedule with our online contract signing service, working out which clients you want to market to when things get back to normal, or using our contact forms to handle new enquiries.
What do professional photographers and the world’s biggest music stars have in common?
They all like selling albums.
Terrible jokes aside, a steady income stream from a beautifully curated and printed album will be welcomed by all wedding photographers.
The images will tell the story of an incredible wedding day, a memento for clients to treasure for generations to come. From the nerve-jangling bridal preparations to the joy of the first dance, wedding albums are a truly unique collection of special images.
Some clients will definitely want to order one or a couple. Some may say no thanks and stick to their decision. Others will be unsure and may need to be convinced of their value and charm.
Here we outline Suzanne’s approach to subtly upselling wedding albums to happy couples.
We’re working on some big new features that we’ll be announcing soon, but we’ve added some new features to Light Blue’s contact forms that have gone live today.
The most obvious change is that we’ve added reCAPTCHA to our arsenal of anti-bot tools. Our contact forms have always included effective anti-spam protections, but it never hurts to add more and reCAPTCHA’s popularity and ease of use will be reassuring to both you and your clients.
Most of our subscribers are using the HTML code that Light Blue automatically generates to embed our contact forms into their websites. If you’re using the embed code that we provide then it will automatically resize your forms to accommodate the reCAPTCHA widget. If you’ve modified the embed code to set the height of the embedded form manually though, you’ll need to check whether the form still fits and adjust the height in your embed code. If you need any help with this, get in touch and we’d be delighted to assist.
One other change that you’ll notice is that if you’ve set up an autoresponder for your contact form, we’re no longer including the data that your client entered into their enquiry in the email that we’re sending to them. You’ll still see what they’ve written in the notification email that we send to you though, and of course it will still appear in Light Blue’s Inbox so that you can convert it into a new enquiry with the click of a button.
The notification email that we send you when a client submits a form (whether that’s a contact form or a questionnaire that you’ve sent to a client) has been reformatted, too. The new design makes it much easier to read the information that you’ve been sent if you’ve got any long field headings.
Do you find that you’re ending up with more than one enquiry for the same date, and that you aren’t able to fulfil both of those enquiries? As shoots are being rescheduled and postponed as a result of the ongoing pandemic, it’s very likely that you’ll have more than one client interested in booking you for the same date.
Is there an alternative to losing the booking entirely?
You might consider engaging an associate photographer on a freelance/contract basis to help you to cover the overflow. Alternatively, if you work as part of a lead & second shooter team, you could assign your usual second shooter as the lead photographer on the additional shoot and then contract a replacement second shooter for your original shoot.
For either situation, the approach is similar so we’ll cover both of those below.
Allocating resources to shoots
Light Blue has the concept of “Resources” (staff, equipment, and rooms) that can be allocated to shoots and appointments. Light Blue will warn you if you’ve got more than one shoot happening at the same time, unless you’ve got different staff assigned to each shoot – after all, you can’t be in two places at once!
By adding associate photographers as resources and then linking them to shoot records, you’re able to easily see which jobs have been allocated to which photographers. You can also assign roles within a shoot to each resource, so you know who’s doing what.
The powerful and flexible reporting tools in Light Blue also come in handy here. By setting up some saved queries to show all of your shoots which have been allocated to associates and those which are awaiting allocation, you’re able to easily get an overview without any hassle or guesswork.
Giving your team members the details that they need
Once you’ve got your associate lined up for the job, they’ll need to know the important details so that they can go to work.
It’s possible to give different staff members access to your Light Blue account with a variety of access restrictions, depending on their role. However, giving a freelancer access to your account wouldn’t be a sensible approach.
From the Shoot record it’s possible to produce a PDF summary of a shoot, which contains the important details like the schedule & location(s), requests, notes and contact information. Creating that summary is done by clicking the Print/Send button from the Shoot record. That’s a useful thing to print for your own shoots, too, so that you’ve always got the necessary details to hand.
You can also create some email templates which include the relevant shoot details, so that you can send that info to your associate in an email in a couple of clicks.
Mail-merge tags can be used within email templates to customise the message and make it relevant to the shoot it’s linked to. It’s important to note that where you’re using mail-merge tags in email templates that are added to a wedding, Light Blue will merge the contact information of the linked contacts with roles of Bride, Groom or Partner. That means that if your email starts “Hi %contactfirstname%”, it’ll merge “Hi Sam & Jo” (the wedding couple) not “Hi Tony” (the associate photographer that you’re sending the email to). It’s best to keep that part of your associate emails generic; you have the opportunity to manually personalise further if required.
Handling the important financial and contractual details with your associates
As well as handling your staffing by allocating resources to shoots, you’ll also want to manage your finances. By adding the associate as a contact record – as well as a resource, they’re two different things – you’re able to add the associate as the supplier in a purchase record to note the fee that they’re charging to you. Don’t forget to mark that purchase as paid once you’ve settled up with them.
Light Blue’s online contract signing system can help you to send an associate/second shooter contract so that you are all clear on the terms of your engagement. To do that:
start by creating an Associate/Second Shooter contract template,
then link the associate photographer’s contact record to the shoot record in question (remember that contacts and resources are different things).
Now go to the Activity tab of the shoot and add the contract.
Make sure that your clients (who’ll already be linked contacts) are not checked as signatories to this particular contract. You only want your associate to be the signatory.
You won’t need to include a form or any quote or booking fee information.
Working as a second/associate photographer for someone else
You may also find yourself with available dates which you’re keen to fill, and are able to help a fellow photographer out by working as their associate or second photographer.
Here’s some quick tips on how to manage that in your own copy of Light Blue:
Consider adding a separate shoot type for associate photographer work. This allows you to easily see how much of this sort of work you’re doing.
Create a separate price list for associate photographer work. You’ll be charging different rates as an associate/second photographer, compared to the rates that you’re charging to your own clients. A separate price list means that you can assemble your invoices quickly and easily.
Set up an “Associate/Second Shooter” workflow. You won’t be going through all of the same steps as an associate photographer compared to when you’re managing the whole project yourself (for example you may only perform an initial cull of images and won’t handle any other post production). By adding this workflow to the shoot date, you’ll be able to deliver to the lead photographer in a timely fashion.
While shoots and projects are being postponed, rescheduled or cancelled, you will find that there’s a need to alter existing financial arrangements with some of your clients.
This article covers some of the more common situations you may face for refunding money, cancelling invoices or deferring the date when you’ll be asking for payment. There’s lots of variables here, so if you’re in any doubt, please reach out to us for help.
In situations where your client has given you money that you are returning to them, you are undergoing the process of issuing a refund. The following video walks through the steps to take in that case:
Cancelling an unpaid invoice
There will be situations where you’d raised an invoice which is yet to be paid, but will no longer be perusing the amount at all. To cancel that invoice to show that you’re not collecting that money, you’ll need to issue a credit note. The following video covers the relevant steps:
Asking for an unpaid invoice to be paid later
You may encounter situations where you’d raised an invoice and you’ve agreed with your client that it’ll be due some time later, instead of being due to be paid in the near future.
You can visit the sale record in question and adjust the payment due date so that the sale won’t appear as being overdue until after the new due date.
You might find it easier to issue a credit note for the original invoice and then set a reminder to raise a new one later, however there’s some value in seeing invoices that are outstanding but due in the future so that you can (as much as possible) forecast your expected income. We’ve got another post on forecasting your income, which you can read here.
Schedule an invoice to be sent automatically at a later date
If you’ve prepared an invoice for your client and agreed to send it at a particular time in the future, then Light Blue’s email scheduling feature can help you here.
First of all, prepare the invoice with an appropriate payment due date. Choose to email the invoice as a PDF and write the body of the email but don’t hit send!
Instead, use the schedule button to choose when the email will get sent. Light Blue will send that email automatically on the date and time of your choosing, so you can forget about it and carry on with other things.
Alternatively add a task to the activity tab of the sale to remind you to send the invoice later.
If you’re publishing the invoice for online payment, then you could publish the invoice without sending the publication email (by unchecking the “Send the following email when the invoice is published” checkbox), then copy the invoice URL and paste into an email that you’ll schedule later.
You might need to reach out to your clients to give them an update on your policy regarding the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. We’ve seen some of these emails that photographers are sending out being reported as spam by the recipients, which can damage your ability to get emails delivered to clients’ inboxes. We’re here to help you to ensure that your message gets to those contacts safely.
Using the right tool at the right time
Light Blue is designed to send “everyday” emails to your clients and is very good at doing so: dealing with new enquiries, responding to your clients’ messages, automated appointment reminders, and so on.
However, when you’re interested in sending a message to a large group of contacts at once (I’m defining ‘large’ as anything more than about 20 contacts in this context) then specialist marketing tools are a better fit for making sure that those messages reach your audience. Sending lots of marketing emails from your own email address risks damaging the reputation of your email account, making it substantially less likely that your prospects (or paying clients) will receive your messages, that’s why it’s best to use a tool that’s designed for the job.
Mass marketing tools like Mailchimp & Active Campaign put a LOT of effort into establishing best practices and building a reputation with the major email providers. They’ve got teams of engineers working on this stuff every day. That means that the major email providers know that what’s being sent via a tool like Mailchimp or Active Campaign probably isn’t spam, and that if any of their users report it as spam Mailchimp and Active Campaign will sort it out really quickly.
Some of the major email providers (especially Hotmail, Outlook and Gmail) are getting a lot stricter about what they consider to be spam and even one bulk email could affect your ability to deliver emails to your clients both now and in the future. Using a tool that won’t leave your email address (and our servers by association) on a blacklist is essential!
Setting up Mailchimp or Active Campaign is really easy to do, and worth doing even for sending out a single important message like this.
How to export your client’s email addresses for use with a mass emailing tool
Light Blue’s mailing list opt-in feature and querying tools will help you to make sure that you’re not sending emails to clients who might report your message as spam.
After you’ve found the records that you’re interested in by using Light Blue’s querying tools, you can export a list of those email addresses. Simply click on the Records menu, choose ‘Export’, then ‘Export Email Addresses’ – you will then be able to save a CSV file which can be uploaded into your mass marketing tool of choice to get the message to your clients.
As always, we’re here to help so please get in touch if you need any help from us with contacting your clients.
The Covid-19 pandemic sadly means that many couples are having to postpone their weddings and are looking for alternative dates.
In order to make it easier for your clients to select a date on which you are going to be available, you may wish to share a calendar of your available dates. Should that be something that you would like to do, this guide illustrates how you could put that in place.
Block off any unavailable dates
The first step is to make sure that you aren’t showing any potential dates to your clients where you know you won’t be able to work. Existing bookings will already be in the diary as shoot records, but you may also have personal commitments that you don’t want to interrupt too.
Light Blue’s time off feature is a great way of blocking out those times to prevent any clashes. To add time off, go to the calendar view and right click on the date you need to block out, then choose to add time off. There’s a few options for different types of time off, adding descriptions and changing durations, so it’s pretty flexible.
Publish to a calendar
It’s possible to publish the events from Light Blue into Google Calendar, and you can set that up via the External Programs preferences window. Be sure to check the Only Show I’m Busy checkbox to avoid publishing any detailed information about the shoots like your clients contact information.
After you’ve set up Google Calendar publishing, you’ll be able to share that calendar with your clients so they can see which dates you have available.
Collaborating with other photographers
It’s very possible that there will be a number of dates that you won’t be able to rebook with your clients as they may still choose new dates that you can’t be available for, and it’ll be a similar case for fellow photographers.
If you share this calendar with a group of trusted fellow photographers, then they will be able to see the dates that you have available and can refer clients on to you. You can reciprocate with any of your clients who booked a new wedding on a date that you aren’t available for.