New contact form features

We’re constantly improving Light Blue’s features, even when we’re very busy helping our customers to deal with the effects of the pandemic and lockdown.

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.

Increase your bookings by assigning second shooters, contractors or associates

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.

Where possible, it’s likely that you’ll be working with your clients to arrange a date where you’re available, however that isn’t always going to happen.

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.

Handling delayed invoices and payments

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.

Book a free 1:1 chat to get help

Returning money to clients

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.