Do you follow up on enquiries? You could be missing out on work. We loved this tweet from Graham Carruthers.
It can be difficult to keep on top of enquiries, but with Light Blue you can set up a workflow that automatically follows up enquiries. Workflows can be used to add a series of tasks, emails, or text messages to a shoot.
A really simple enquiry workflow might include a task to respond to an enquiry, then an automated email for 5 days later to follow up.
When you’re setting up your workflow you can choose to create a task, appointment, email, or text message. Select the email template you wish to use and decide how long after your initial response you want to follow up. You can choose the time of day you would like the email to send.
Once you have created your enquiry workflow, go to your preferences and set this as your default workflow for enquiries.
When you receive an enquiry and create a new shoot click on the add workflow button beside the enquiry date.
This lets you add your enquiry workflow to the shoot. It will automatically select the default enquiry workflow you selected in preferences along with the enquiry date.
Any workflow items will be added to your activity panel.
If you also look in your Outbox you’ll see any scheduled emails and text messages ready to send.
We’d love to hear how following up on your enquiries has lead to more bookings. Get in touch and tell us if it’s helped!
We know that one of the most important parts of your business admin is being able to forecast accurately. Being able to know exactly what is happening in your business at any time helps you to plan for the future.
With Light Blue, you can run various reports to check your business finances, one very useful one is the ‘Income Forecast’ report. This uses the quotes function in Light Blue so will be really handy for wedding and commercial photographers (who often use quotes when confirming a booking with a client).
To run the report select Reports > ‘Custom Reports’ > ‘Income Forecast’ to create an income forecast. This will bring up all quotes with a status of “Accepted” or “Awaiting Invoicing”.
The information from these searches and reports is displayed in the list view, where you can see all of the records that meet your given criteria. The default view shows a list of all future income due grouped by the date the quote was created.
You may want to preview your projected income from a particular type of work over a given period. In that case, you can use Light Blue’s powerful querying tools to find the information that you need
Maybe there’s a month you’re not very busy with weddings and want to run a portrait promotion to fill the shortfall for that month? Without planning you don’t know where your income gaps are.
You can use the query function to search for your expected income over a particular period. In this example we have run a query for quotes where the shoot type is “Weddings” and the start date is “In Next Calendar Year” and the status is “Accepted”. This will show us all next year’s wedding where the client had accepted a quote.
You can adjust the columns within the list view to show whatever you find useful. By going to Window > “Customise List View” and you’ll see this dialog. To view the balance due each month, simply add the “Balance Due”, “Shoot Title” and “To Invoice” fields to the “Columns” section, then make sure they are grouped by “Balance Due Month”.
By using the “To Invoice” column it takes account of the booking fee already paid so this will give you a really clear idea of your monthly wedding income forecast for next year.
How do you use the reports in Light Blue? We’d love to hear how you find Light Blue helps you to keep track of your business!
As a wedding or portrait photographer, there are times you need to handle large numbers of leads. You might attend a number of wedding fairs throughout the year and need an easy way to handle all the contacts from that, or maybe you run a busy portrait studio and need to manage lists of leads sent to you. Light Blue can help!
Let’s look at each situation separately.
Wedding fair leads
A popular way for a wedding photographer to get leads is to take a stand at a wedding fair. Some of these can be big multi-day shows, so you need an easy way to get the details of all the couples you chat to and be able to follow up with them afterwards. You may also want to check leads against a date to make sure you are free.
A really simple way would be to set up a form in Light Blue, then get couples to fill in their details using an iPad or your laptop. These leads would then appear in your inbox. You can manage them in the same way that you would any other lead that you get in your inbox, by importing as a new shoot record.
A typical workflow you might add could include an email to remark on how nice it was to meet the contact and send them some information, then a follow-up phone call a few days later, and possibly a reminder text message to reach out to them as well.
Portrait studio leads
Whilst they may also attend fairs like school or summer fairs to get portrait leads, a lot of portrait studios need a way to handle large numbers of leads that they either purchase or gather through promotions.
With large quantities of portrait leads, we recommend importing these as contacts rather than shoots. These leads are often termed ‘warm’ or ‘cold’ and you won’t convert as many as you would a ‘hot’ lead that you have already spoken to. Rather than having lots of these leads as unconfirmed shoots, it’s easier to add them to Light Blue as contacts.
Quite often you’ll have these in a spreadsheet, and it’s really simple to import these into these straight into Light Blue. Make sure they’re saved as a .csv file then go to the Records menu and use the ‘Import Contacts From CSV’ command.
When importing contacts into Light Blue from a spreadsheet, it will automatically create a quick query that allows you to find the information. Quick queries are saved searches of your current data. You can create your own quick queries using the query dialog. To find out more about quick queries, have a look at this blog post:
Once you’ve imported your leads into Light Blue, you’ll want to call them to get them booked in for a shoot. You could use workflows to apply a series of tasks to a set of records.
First, make sure you have selected the saved query from your leads and then select ‘Add to Found Set’ from the Records menu. This gives you the option to add workflows, send text messages, or add tags to the set of leads. A typical workflow you might add could include a task to make an initial phone call to the lead, then a follow-up phone call a few days later, and possibly a text message to them as well.
When the contact gives some indication that they are interested in booking, then you could create a shoot record linked to the contact to help to convert that into a confirmed shoot and manage things as you normally would.
How are you using Light Blue to run your marketing promotions? We’d love to hear how you find Light Blue helps you to keep on top of successful promotions!
Based in the Highlands of Scotland, Margaret Soraya has run a wedding and commercial photography business for the last 15 years. She also has a love of landscape photography, with a passion for the beauty and wildness Scotland can offer and has recently begun a new business running landscape photography workshops in remote areas of Scotland.
As a Light Blue user for the past 9 years she freely admits that prior to that, her business organisation was mainly a collection of folders on her computer desktop, manual paper invoicing and booking forms.
We asked Margaret what her favourite Light Blue feature was:
“Being able to send out questionnaires at set dates before a wedding. I always send out a timings request form and a group shot request a few weeks before each wedding. The couple can easily and quickly fill these in online and send back. Having the ability to deal with this quickly has made the biggest impact on running each wedding smoothly without many individual emails going back and forth. I know a week before each wedding that I simply need to print out or refer to each group shot request list in preparation.”
She also sends out a questionnaire to each participant on a photography workshop so she can get to know a little about them and what they hope to achieve and says it has been incredibly useful.
Margaret’s passion is being outdoors in the landscape, photographing seascapes. Light Blue has made it much easier and quicker to run her wedding and commercial business.
The business is so streamlined now that booking, invoicing and sending out questionnaires is just a matter of a few clicks. This enables her to be out and about more.
“The income side of my business is the weddings and commercial work, and being able to handle this quickly and efficiently leaves me more time to be out shooting landscapes. If you are someone who prefers to be out shooting as opposed to behind a desk, then using Light Blue is a must.“
As someone who does not naturally enjoy working with software or spending time on computers, she likes to know that there is support on hand.
“One of the main attractions of Light Blue is the dedicated team behind it. I know for certain that if I have a problem, no matter how small and daft, I can ask and get help solving it very quickly. Knowing that someone will actually talk and walk me through any difficulties is something that is very important to me. Light Blue does support better than anyone else I have ever known.”
We know that a lot of photographers run multiple brands under one business. Maybe you shoot both weddings and newborn photography, or you have a separate website for corporate photography. With Light Blue you can run all these brands in a single account.*
This is really handy for a lot of people because, while they may have different websites and logos for the different types of shoots they are doing, they’re still running one business.
You can run as many different brands as you like with Light Blue. Our custom branding means that you can change the logos, colours, and fonts on the emails, forms, contracts, and online invoices that you send to customers.
Setting up your different brands is really easy. You have probably already set up your main brand already if you are using our online services. Log in to your account on the Light Blue website and select the client portal section. Got to the branding area, then run through each section to choose your fonts, header images, background colours and form styling for each of your brands.
You can also apply your branding to the invoices, quotes, and receipts that you print (or PDF) from Light Blue. As well as your main branding (which you set up in the “Printing” section of the Preferences window), you can use separate branding for any of your shoot types. To do that, go into the “Shoot Types” section of the Preferences window and upload a different background PDF.
*Important point: Light Blue is designed to run a single business, but you can use shoot types with their own branding to essentially split up your income into different categories. One of the big advantages of this approach is that you have a single client database, and everything is nice and simple to manage. However, when it comes to things like the built-in reports, we assume that you’re running a single legal entity (e.g. a single limited company) because that’s what the vast majority of our customers need.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.”
“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.”
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.
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:
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.
Random? Maybe. Useful? Definitely. Safety pins are your saviour for holding something in place, tidying loose fabric or mitigating a major wardrobe malfunction.
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.
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.
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 …
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.