Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) support added to Light Blue

tl;dr: we’ve taken care of this so that you don’t need to do anything.

On 14 September 2019, new regulations are being introduced across Europe to protect people using cards to pay for goods and services online. These new regulations are called Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) and will add a requirement for two-factor authentication for many online payments.

The requirement for two-factor authentication means that affected transactions will require something in addition to the card number. Details will vary between card providers, but they might include codes generated by your online banking app, a security dongle, etc.

If you’re using our popular online contract signing or online invoice payment services and accepting card payments from your clients via our Stripe integration, you will be affected by SCA. However, we have already made all of the necessary changes and there is nothing that you need to do. Your clients won’t notice anything different: they’ll still be able to pay you quickly and easily by card.

If you’re not already using our online contract signing and invoice payment services, we’d be delighted to show you why photographers give us so much great feedback about them. Our customers love how easy these services make it for their clients to confirm a booking or pay an invoice.

You can find out more about our online contract signing service in this video tutorial, while this tutorial shows you how to go about publishing invoices for payment online. If you need any help getting started with these services (or with any other aspect of using Light Blue) get in touch with us and we’d be delighted to provide you with one-to-one help via a screen-sharing session.

5 more tips for getting started with Light Blue

We posted part one of our series of blog posts on five tips for getting started with Light Blue a couple of weeks ago. If you missed it, it’s worth reading it first before today’s post!

After part one, you should be getting to grips with the basics of adding shoots, contacts, and workflows. Today we’re going to look at how you can use more of Light Blue’s features to cut down the amount time you spend on admin in your business.

6. Set up text messages

Text messages are a great quick way to keep in touch with your clients. You could let them know an order is ready, or send a reminder of an upcoming appointment or shoot. We have a couple of ways that you can set up text messaging in Light Blue.

You can either use our dedicated number service where you rent a number from us or – if you’re in the UK or Ireland – you can send messages that appear to come from you (either your own phone number or a short name). You can find how to set this up under SMS settings in your account.

Sending a text message is really easy. Just select the contact you want to text from the ‘Linked Records’ tab in the shoot record and then use the ‘Create Text Message’ or ‘Create Text Message From Template’ command from the options menu.

Sending text messages

7. Create a sale and invoice

Once you have set up your shoot you will want to be able to collect payment from your customers for any session fees or products. To do this, you create a sale record in Light Blue.

When you’ve entered the details of what you’re billing your client, you can turn the sale into an invoice and send it to them.

Create an invoice

Publishing invoices for online payment

8. Set up your price lists

Setting up price lists is a great idea as it can really save you time when creating quotes and sales. Instead of having to manually type in each product, description, and price to a sale, you are can simply click on the green plus button to add a product then start typing and Light Blue will show you a drop-down menu of matching products. Select the correct one and the description and pricing will be filled in for you.

You can set up as many different price lists as you want. When you create a sale, you can then quickly select products from the relevant price list for your shoot.

9. Set up a booking or information form

In part one, we talked about setting up a contact form for your website that sends new enquiries straight to your Light Blue account. You can also use forms to gather all sorts of information from clients at any stage of their booking. Maybe you would like to gather some information from a portrait couple before their shoot, like who is involved in the shoot and where the shoot will be. Another great way you can use them is before a wedding. You can ask your couples for information on group shots and schedules, and everything that they enter into the form can be used to update their shoot record.

Creating online forms

10 Create an online contract.

One of the most popular features of Light Blue is being able to create online contracts. Our online contract signing makes it really easy for your customers to confirm and pay for their session.

Online contract signing: setting up your contract templates

Online contract signing: an in-depth look at all the features

Now you’re starting to use Light Blue to manage your enquiries, book your clients in, deliver great service, and invoice your clients. We understand that people learn in different ways and that no two businesses are the same, so if you’d like some more help with getting the most out of Light Blue then we’d be delighted to chat with you over a one-to-one screen-sharing session.

Book a screen share

Getting your Facebook lead generation advert data into Light Blue

For many of our customers, Facebook is a key marketing tool. There are lots of different ways to market on Facebook from organic posting to paid adverts. One of the most popular tools is to use a Facebook lead generation advert. You might be running a competition or have a great offer that will get lots of people into your studio.

Facebook lead gen ads make the lead generation process easy. People can simply tap your advert and a form pops up, it’s already pre-populated with their Facebook contact information and ready to be sent directly to you.

But how do you get all these leads into Light Blue?

There are two main ways of doing it. Either manually or automated using Zapier. We have made this handy video to show you how:

The first is by downloading the leads to a .csv file. These can simply be uploaded as contacts into Light Blue using our “import contacts from .csv” option. This will create a new contact record for each of the leads. You can then attach shoot records and workflows like you would with any other contact.

The second option is to set up a Zap using Zapier. You may already have an account if you are using it to link a booking system like Acuity.

Zapier connects the apps you use everyday to automate your work and be more productive. There is a free version that allows you to set up 5 zaps and a paid version that starts at $20/month that offers more complex integrations and the ability to use premium zaps such as the one we use to connect Facebook lead generation adverts and Light Blue.

You can follow the steps for linking your Facebook lead gen ads to Light Blue in our handy video above.

If you have some ideas of good Facebook lead gen ads for photographers, why not post them in our new Facebook group.

5 tips for getting started with Light Blue

We understand that it can be daunting learning a new software, especially one that’s as powerful and full of features as Light Blue. Its easy to put it off because its all too overwhelming. We want to help!

We have a great “Setting up Light Blue” webinar to help you get set up and if you have a spare hour its really worth sitting down to watch it. Sometimes, you just want some quick start tips. Today’s blog post gives you some easy ways to get begin setting up Light Blue for your business.

1. Input your upcoming shoots into Light Blue

One of the first things we recommend doing is to start inputting any current enquiries or confirmed shoots. It helps get you more familiar with the shoot records.

2. Set up your workflows

Using a workflow is a really quick way of scheduling tasks, emails, text messages, and appointments for a shoot. They’re easy to set up, and help you to deliver excellent service to your clients by making sure that you’re reminded about all of the key steps that you want a job to go through.

We recommend sitting down and detailing all the steps you do for each type of shoot. Include all tasks, emails, meetings you might have connected with the shoot. You will want to create an enquiry workflow, a confirmation workflow and one for each shoot type and think about when you do the tasks.

Eg your confirmation workflow might have the following simple steps:

  • Respond to enquiry (email)
  • Send a text message saying you have emailed them some information (text)
  • Follow up enquiry (email)

A simple portrait shoot workflow might be:

  • Check Portrait shoot details day before (task)
  • Send reminder email with direction for session (email)
  • Send text message reminder about session (text)
  • Download and back up images (task)
  • Post production (task)
  • Arrange viewing session (email)

Once you have detailed your workflow sets you should add them into Light Blue. Setting up Workflows

3. Template Emails

A great way of speeding up your business admin is using template emails. Rather than typing an individual response to each email you receive you can set up a series of template emails that you send from initial enquiry through to a client collection their order.

How to set up and send emails in Light Blue

You may already have a list of emails you send clients as part of the workflow planning we suggested in the previous section. If you don’t, sit down and write a list of all the emails you send a client throughout a job so that you can create templates for each one.

If you are looking for inspiration on some ideas for email templates, our recent blog post “Ten essential email templates for photographers” might help!

4. Set up the online portal

Our online services enable you to share your information between computers, hook up your web contact forms to your account, use our great online contract signing services and lets your clients pay your invoices online.

You will want to set up the online portal with so that any contract, forms or online invoices show your business branding. Some of our customers have more than one brand eg a wedding and a newborn business. You can use as many different brands as you like, there’s no limit!

Setting up the online portal

5. Contact forms

One of the great benefits of using our online services is that you can add contact forms to your website that send enquiries into your inbox in Light Blue. No more manually inputting all the enquiry, you simply import the data as a new shoot record.

How to set up online forms

Embedding a contact form into your website

We hope this helps you with getting set up with Light Blue and allows you to enjoy the benefits of several of its features. We understand that people learn in different ways and that no two businesses are the same, so if you’d like some more help with getting the most out of Light Blue then we’d be delighted to chat with you over a 1 to 1 screen sharing session.

Book a 1to1 screenshare

Exporting invoices to Quickbooks

Keeping on top of your finances is really important when you are running a business and, while we have some great tools in Light Blue to help with this, some business need even more accounting tools. Many of our customers use QuickBooks to do their accounts and had asked for an easier way to get their information out of Light Blue and into QuickBooks, so they don’t have to enter information twice.

With our QuickBooks export feature, you can export all your invoices from Light Blue to import straight into QuickBooks. This means you have all the benefits of using Light Blue’s online services such as online booking forms and contract signing plus invoicing and you don’t have to create a duplicate invoice manually in QuickBooks. Here is a handy video to see how it works:

We love hearing how this has made your lives easier!

Rose and Garry Stacey from Timeless Images run their portrait studio from Bridgwater, Somerset.

“Light Blue has really helped with the day to day running of the business but with Making Tax Digital coming in, we knew we had to sort out our accounting package. QuickBooks was our choice as there is an import invoices function. So we can within 20 minutes have the month’s invoices imported into QuickBooks ready for the accounts to be reconciled. Thanks to the boys at Light Blue this is quick, easy, straight forward monthly process keeping us in line with government requirements.”

Based in Kent, Manjit Sohal runs Sohal Light Photography offering business headshots and Lifestyle Portraits.

“I had set up QuickBooks before I signed up for Light Blue, I then was faced with how to manage the two. Initially, I was exporting the data to a CSV file and then re-formatting it for QuickBooks and then importing the data to QuickBooks. This took about an hour. Now with the new feature, I’m able to export the data in the correct format for QuickBooks and then import it directly into QuickBooks. This process now takes me about 15 minutes to complete, I’m sure that it will get quicker as I become more practised at it. Now I can easily keep both programs up to date.”

Useful things to have in your camera bag, other than cameras and lenses!

Camera? Check. Phone? Check. Bin bags? Err …

Preparing for a shoot always includes carefully packing your camera bag. But what exactly should you try to squeeze in to all those handy pockets?

And why might those bin bags come in handy?

Here we delve deep into the camera bag essentials that might just become your shoot superheroes.

The bulk of your bag must always of course contain all your kit.

Alongside your beloved cameras, you have lenses, spare memory cards and batteries, a microfibre cloth and flash guns. 

What else?

Depending on your type of photography and what situations you might find yourself in, you probably already have some proven favourites.

Maybe as a specialist wedding photographer you never go anywhere without a stash of tissues and a spare packet of confetti.

Or if you spend your days capturing a newborn’s magical first days, you never dream of leaving the house without at least one packet of baby wipes.

Whatever your niche, here are the camera bag essentials (apart from tissues and wipes) we heartily recommend:

Torch

Indispensable in low light and on night shoots, a torch is your wingman for all things light-related. If you’re using an off-camera flash, you can use it to help you focus and then switch it off for the actual shot. And of course, they always come in handy during a power cut.

Safety Pins

Random? Maybe. Useful? Definitely. Safety pins are your saviour for holding something in place, tidying loose fabric or mitigating a major wardrobe malfunction.

Penknife

Your all-in-one friend, a penknife can be called upon in many an emergency. Alongside the blade, it can compactly hide a pair of scissors, tweezers, carabiner and even a corkscrew if you fancy making a post-shoot toast with your client.   

They’re especially helpful on fashion shoots for snipping off labels and loose threads to make every garment look impeccable.

First Aid Kit

We’re not suggesting the whole works here, but it’s wise to carry a selection of painkillers, plasters and antiseptic cream to soothe minor ailments.

And don’t underestimate how hay fever can creep up on you and possibly wreck a shoot. A packet of antihistamine tablets might make the difference between getting beautiful images and having to reschedule.

Business Cards

Your clients already know who you are but what about the people who walk past your shoot and show an interest? You could just be in a park or school hall but if you’re in the foyer of a multi-national corporation, you’ll want to be ready for every opportunity. 

Shoot Schedule

Even when you can access your schedule on your phone, having a physical copy to stick up on a wall, stuff in your pocket or pass to an assistant and refer to quickly is super-helpful.

With Light Blue, you can easily print off a summary of all the crucial details for the day so you never miss a shot.

Pen and Paper

We love time-saving tech as much as, OK probably more than, the next person, but we’re not ready to abandon pen and paper just yet. In these mobile-dependent days, you could be the only person in the room to have a simple notebook where you can scribble down notes and ideas. 

Snacks and Water

Your talented photographic brain needs fuelling so don’t forget to pack plenty of water and some snacks to nibble on. Nobody likes a hangry photographer …

Bin Bags

Thought we’d forgotten about the bin bags? Apart from using them to actually put your shoot rubbish in, they double up as makeshift ponchos for when the heavens unexpectedly decide to open.

They’ll also come in handy as a barrier between client and soggy bench or log, keeping them dry and reasonably comfortable when they sit down. Just keep the tell-tale signs out of shot – clear/transparent bags make that a lot easier! 

Being prepared doesn’t have to mean carrying a bag that looks like you’re off on a three-week hike.

But it could mean that your clients are dazzled by your helpful, organised approach to the shoot and inspire them to leave you a five-star review. 

Light Blue 8.1.1

We’ve released Light Blue 8.1.1, which is another free update to everyone who subscribes to our online services or has bought Light Blue 8. This is a minor update that adds new features and fixes bugs that were reported after the launch of Light Blue 8.1.

  • You can now create Purchase records from Sale records, using the cost information that you’ve entered into your price lists. In a price list, you can now specify the supplier, net cost, and VAT / sales tax cost of the products that you offer. From a Sale record, you can use the options menu in the Items section or right-click on an item to create Purchase records for the items in the Sale.
  • You can now create one-time setup codes from the “Manage My Devices” section of your account. This allows you to add a device to your Light Blue account without giving your account password to the owner of that device.
  • You can now set up automatic SMS credit top-ups yourself by logging into your account on our website.
  • Non-breaking spaces copied and pasted from other apps are now automatically replaced when you edit a text message template. These characters could make a message use the Unicode character set despite looking like they only contain characters from the standard GSM character set.
  • Workflow messages linked to a session or an appointment can now use contact and shoot mail-merge tags.
  • Added a warning message when you try to go to records that you don’t have access to from the Home screen.
  • The “Restore From Backup” and “Reset Your Light Blue Account” commands are now only available to staff who have full access privileges.
  • Clarified the “you can only submit this contract once everyone has signed it” message that appears on unsigned contracts.
  • Fixed a problem where non-https images included in emails couldn’t be previewed on macOS.
  • Fixed a problem where restoring a Contact record from the trash wouldn’t restore it to the group that it was part of.
  • Fixed a rare problem where an email could be sent via our servers rather than your selected email account.
  • Fixed a problem where the date of a scheduled text message in the Outbox could be displayed incorrectly.
  • Fixed a problem where the purchase net and tax amount calculator wouldn’t work with European decimal separators.
  • Fixed a problem where creating a credit note could create one with the wrong cents value if you’re using European decimal separators.
  • Fixed a problem where re-entering your account password in the “continue trial” or “your trial has expired” pages of the setup wizard wouldn’t successfully authenticate your account.
  • Fixed a problem with upgrading from Light Blue 4 to Light Blue 8.
  • Fixed a problem that could cause the “your trial has expired” setup screen to appear when you’re not actually using a trial account.
  • Fixed a race condition that could cause “The email hasn’t been synced to our servers yet” errors when trying to send emails in quick succession.

Updated Gmail security

Google are updating their security rules for apps that send emails via Gmail (and G Suite) and we’ve been keeping up to date with their changes to make sure that you’ll be able to continue to send emails from Light Blue via your Gmail account.

The new security rules mean that you might need to add your Gmail account to Light Blue again. You can easily tell if you need to do this:

  1. Log into your Light Blue account and go to the email settings page.
  2. If you use more than one email account with Light Blue, select your Gmail account from the list.
  3. If your Gmail account is affected by Google security change, a red warning will appear underneath the popup menu that you choose your email account from.

We’ve recorded a short video that shows you what you need to do to remove your Gmail account from Light Blue and add it again. This will walk you through the steps that you need to take:

Google’s deadline for switching over to the new way of sending emails via Gmail is 21 June.

As always, if you need any help with any aspect of using Light Blue, get in touch with us via email and we’ll be delighted to help.

How to avoid a data loss disaster

Dealing with a deluge of data is unavoidable when running a business. 

For professional photographers, managing and protecting your client details, schedules, invoices and of course all those precious images is vital. 

Lose it and you’ll end up in stormy waters. You’ll be faced not only with a loss of income and huge administration headaches, but potentially irreparable damage to your reputation. 

Our advice? Be prepared. Anything could happen.

Hard drives fail, computers malfunction and, if you do dodge a meteor strike, you could easily fall victim to a break-in or fire.

Having a robust data backup system in place is crucial.

Without one, at best you could be rearranging a set of corporate headshots and swallowing the extra cost

At worst, you could be breaking devastating news to newly-wed clients when they return from honeymoon: your irreplaceable photos have vanished.

Here we explore and compare the different options for backing up your data. Keep it safe and secure and you’ll ensure smooth sailing for your photography business.

Lean On A Local Backup

Local backup consists of using storage such as a computer’s hard drive, a disc, flash drive or external hard drive. 

It’s the most basic of backups and, because it doesn’t work over the internet, is handy for those with a slow connection.

But while it’s useful as a first line of defence, local backup suffers from major limitations.

Using a straightforward solution like this leaves your files vulnerable. If you store your external hard drive or USB stick in the same physical location as your PC, there’s still a single point of possible failure. Any damage or theft that takes place there could lead to complete data destruction.

Maybe you like the physical presence of an object containing all your data and the security that nobody else can possibly access it unless it’s stolen.

And if you subscribe to specialist photography management software such as Light Blue, a local backup perfectly complements how it backs up your data from the last time you synced.

However, the geo-redundancy theory goes that if data doesn’t exist in at least two different geographical places, it doesn’t exist at all. 

And that’s why off-site backup is so important.

Opt For an Off-Site Backup

Geo-redundancy is critical to your backup strategy: if your primary backup fails, you have insurance at a second physical site.

But off-site means more than just keeping a spare hard drive in the glovebox of your car.

If bandwidth is an ongoing challenge, you could embrace the ‘Sneakernet’ phenomenon: simply transfer your data to an external hard drive and take it somewhere that you visit regularly, maybe a trusted friend or relative.

Leaving one or more encrypted copies of your data away from your own premises in this way will provide a basic off-site backup. One that may prove more reliable and speedier than depending on a slow network connection. 

But the best solution for most is more sophisticated than this. Online backup sends your files over the internet to a secure data facility with remote servers: you upload them to be stored and download them to be restored. An extra layer of security to protect your data from any on-site disasters.

Backing up to the cloud allows you to ‘set it and forget it’: everything happens automatically so you always have a recent backup without having to add another task to your to-do list.

Do be careful not to confuse cloud backup with cloud storage. While backup software does what it says on the tin, cloud storage is based around syncing your files and folders.

So while the likes of Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive and Google Drive do offer some level of backup – any file backed up to the cloud is naturally protected from computer failure – it’s not their primary purpose.

Instead, true online backups preserve all of your computer’s files, not just those that you select within a synced structure and want to access easily. 

Platforms such as Backblaze, Crashplan and Carbonite are designed to recover and restore unlimited amounts of data. 

So to be fully prepared for a potential disaster recovery mission, make sure you opt for one of these comprehensive cloud backup packages that go one step beyond simple storage.

For around £50 per year per user, you can rest assured that you won’t have to make any awkward client phone calls about lost photos.

You can also choose software specifically designed for your computer with dedicated options for Mac and Windows.

While Time Machine is native to your Mac, it relies on an external hard drive so the recommendation is to add a cloud backup service such as Carbon Copy Cloner. This allows you to schedule specific backups whenever it best suits your business needs.

On Windows, software such as Paragon and Acronis are especially suited to protecting your precious PC data.

When it comes to data, never underestimate your clients’ expectations.

Whether the images you’re taking are professional or personal, can easily be taken again or not, it’s important to demonstrate that you take the responsibility of looking after them seriously.

Highlight your professional approach to data storage and protection as part of your service offering: the peace of mind it can give both you and your clients is priceless. 

How Light Blue and Acuity helped Amy Knowles book out her Mini Sessions

Based in The Wirral, Amy Knowles runs Slinky Photography, a newborn family and maternity photography studio.

Amy got in touch with us after reading our blog post about how to use scheduling tools to allow your customers to book shoots online with Light Blue.

She took the advice and ideas that we’d presented there to effectively sell portrait sessions via a marketing campaign.

This is really useful for any portrait photographers who are looking to market their services and are running their marketing with a clear call to action to book a session. It means that the photographer doesn’t need to do anything extra, as the clients will book the sessions themselves whenever’s convenient for them.

Hi guys,

I can’t thank you enough for the webinar the other week regarding Acuity/Zapier.

I’d wondered how I could get an online booking system to work with Light Blue, and this came at just the right time. Last night I launched 75 Christmas Mini Sessions…they were sold out by this morning and all the client and shoot info is now safely in Light Blue without me having to do any extra admin. WIN!

I’m delighted!

Amy

Have a read through the blog post and watch the embedded video webinar at the top of the post to find out how you can set up a similar system in your business. We would love to hear more success stories like Amy’s!

Using scheduling tools to allow your customers to book shoots online

Amy’s Website

Amy’s Facebook page